Le’ Notes #44: Foreign policy analysis – the individual level

This is the second post in the Foreign Policy Analysis miniseries which discusses the role of cognition and belief sets in influencing foreign policy decisions.

Remember President Truman and his “The buck stops here” sign? The function of the sign was to remind him that he was the one who would make the final call on a policy decision. Not his Vice President. Though Barkley could chip in his two cents, by virtue of structural authority, Barkley did not have any power to execute a policy decision.

Margaret Hermann and Joe Hagan (1998) [paywall] wrote:

We grade Bill Clinton’s performance abroad; argue about why Benjamin Netanyahu is or is not stalling the Middle East peace process; debate Mohammed Khatami’s intentions regarding Iranian relations with the United States; and ponder what will happen in South Africa or Russia when Nelson Mandela or Boris Yeltsin leaves office.

What Hermann and Hagan observed was the importance of a state leader as an important decision unit in foreign policy analysis. They are the ones who perceive the international system and domestic political landscape, interpret signals and conditions, and then act upon they believe to be the best course of action. So the question now is, how do we analyse these individuals and understand their way of thinking?

Continue reading “Le’ Notes #44: Foreign policy analysis – the individual level”

Le’ Notes #43: Foreign policy analysis – an introduction

This post marks the start of my Foreign Policy Analysis mini-series.

Index of posts in this mini-series:
1. Le’Notes #44: The individual level – cognition and belief sets

In 2014, President Joko Widodo announced his vision of a “global maritime fulcrum”. Indonesia would be a center of activity in Asia, maximizing its geographical position between the Indian and Pacific Ocean. This vision would form the basis of Joko Widodo’s foreign policy.

By now you may be wondering, what is foreign policy? It is a phrase thrown out there by politicians and IR scholars all the time: “U.S. foreign policy in Asia”, “Japan’s foreign policy in Northeast Asia”, “China’s foreign policy”… what does it mean?

Continue reading “Le’ Notes #43: Foreign policy analysis – an introduction”

Le’ Notes #42: What’s the buzz behind the Indo-Pacific?

This post covers the debate about the “Indo-Pacific” geopolitical construct. How do states understand it? What is its significance?

In the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (S.2736; or often abbreviated as ARIA) passed by Congress in 2018, the term “Indo-Pacific” appears 80 times. The bill affirms U.S. commitment to secure its national interests, promote American prosperity, advance U.S. influence, support regional architecture, and support international law and norms in the Indo-Pacific. It also makes mention of numerous U.S. security arrangements in the region, most notably the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad, for short), a controversial four-country—U.S., Japan, India, and Australia—security “club” intended to counter Chinese influence in the region. All in all, it looks like the U.S. has a new geopolitical focus: the Indo-Pacific.

But wait a minute, what is the Indo-Pacific? Who’s in it? Why are we just talking about it now? And how is it different from the “Asia-Pacific”? Answering those questions is the point of this post. Now, since I cannot cover everything in around 1,000-2,000 words, I’ll only go through the essentials. For further reading, just click the hyperlinks.

Continue reading “Le’ Notes #42: What’s the buzz behind the Indo-Pacific?”

Le’ Notes #41: Foreign policy as a socialization act

This post covers some basic ideas of foreign policy as a socialization act under the framework of the socialization game.

In Note #40, the construction of a role is dependent on the level of contestation within its domestic setting. However, another body of literature on role theory suggests this may not be the case. State roles are defined by their interactions with the “alter” or environment. This interaction is a cognitive process, an active act of “learning” and then situating oneself within a specific social structure. This process is known as role location, or the act of locating a specific role.

Continue reading “Le’ Notes #41: Foreign policy as a socialization act”

Le’ Notes #40: Role contestation in foreign policy

This post covers the idea of role contestation in foreign policy analysis.

In Note #39, I covered the basis of role theory as described by Holsti in his seminal work on national role conception. Since 1970, role theory has been refined many times over by IR scholars. However, the subject of this post is not a comprehensive review of the development of role theory. Instead, I’ll be explaining an influential dynamic in role theory: role contestation.

Continue reading “Le’ Notes #40: Role contestation in foreign policy”

Semtext #7: Disinformation and Indonesia’s 2019 Election

This SemText summarises the real and perceived challenges in Indonesia’s upcoming 2019 election, particularly regarding disinformation and candidate electability.

Throughout 2018 and early 2019, the Presidential Race was a doozy to follow. Political allegiances, according to the media and some observers, have shown to break up families and disharmonize supposedly “neutral” places like schools and places of worship. The stakes in this election are high, as some may put: continue with economic development or risk returning to New Order practices?

One thorny issue that has piqued the interest of the public is the widespread use of disinformation by both sides. How is disinformation used? What are the effects? These are some the questions that the panel addressed.

One note on format. In this SemText, I’ll move in and out from summary to commentary. While this may be confusing, I’ll do my best to denote which is the speaker’s voice and which is mine.

Continue reading “Semtext #7: Disinformation and Indonesia’s 2019 Election”

Le Notes #39: Role theory in International Relations – Holsti’s national role conception

This post summarizes K. J. Holsti’s attempt to systematically construct role theory in International Relations.

In Note #38, I’ve discussed ontological security theory, which extends the argument that states do not only seek physical security, but also security of the “self”. However, an interesting question pops up: How do states create the “self”? In the previous post, I’ve presented two viewpoints. Mitzen puts an emphasis on how other states view the state in question, which means a state’s relations often defines its role. It’s like that popular piece of self-help wisdom, “You are who you hang out with.” On the other hand, Steele argues for a more self-driven approach: the self is defined by the state by reflecting on what it is. To draw an analogy to daily life, this is like what we hear among more liberal circles, “You are you and nobody can change that except you.”

Role theory, which has been developed in social psychology and anthropology, serves as a useful tool to understand how the “self” comes into being. To do this, I go back to the seminal text of the application of role theory in International Relations, K. J. Holsti’s National Role Conception in Foreign Policy [paywall].

Continue reading “Le Notes #39: Role theory in International Relations – Holsti’s national role conception”

Le Notes #38: Ontological security theory in International Relations

This post serves as an introduction to the emerging canon of ontological security theory in International Relations.

Have you ever noticed why some states supposedly act “irrationally”? North Korea has long been touted as an example of an irrational actor. Despite having been punished multiple times by the international community for violating non-nuclear proliferation and being a general threat to both South Korea and Japan, it doesn’t seem like Kim Jong-un will relent anytime soon.

Or how about the United States, who despite having agreed to international conventions regarding the prohibition of torture and has long been seen as a champion for democratic values, suddenly allowed the use of torture in interrogating terrorists? Why do states contribute to humanitarian operations if it actually costs them?

Continue reading “Le Notes #38: Ontological security theory in International Relations”

Le’ Notes #37: A very short introduction to Clausewitz

This post briefly covers Clausewitz’s main ideas on war, with specific reference to Books 1 and 2.

If you have (or are) studying war, the name Clausewitz will always pop up, and for good reason too. His treatise, On War, is one of the foundational texts in the study of war. In it, Clausewitz tries to create a sort of grand theory of war. So, what’s his theory of war? In this post, I’ll go through Clausewitz’s main ideas that make up his (unfinished) theory of war.

Before we go further, I’ll be taking most of the quotations from the Howard and Paret translation, as this is considered the academic standard of all On War translations. There are two versions of the Howard-Paret translation: the first being the original version (1976) and the second being the Everyman’s Library version (1993). Since I have the 1993 version, I’ll be using that as a reference. Note that the major difference is just the page numbering.

On War consists of eight books; however, for those who aren’t studying to become military commanders, you mostly need to be acquainted with Books I and II. These contain the essence of Clausewitz’s thoughts on war. However, if you have the time or are planning to further your understanding on Clausewitz, I suggest you read Bernard Brodie’s guide on how to read On War, present in the Everyman’s edition on page 775. It’s a really nifty study guide.

Continue reading “Le’ Notes #37: A very short introduction to Clausewitz”

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑