Frank A. Stengel and Rainer Baumann
The rise of non-state (international, private, and transnational) actors in global politics has far-reaching consequences for foreign policy theory and practice. In order to be able to explain foreign policy in the 21st century, foreign policy research needs to take into account the growing importance of nonstate actorss. A good way to do this would be to engage the literature on globalization and global governance. Both fields would benefit from such an exchange of ideas because their respective strengths could cancel out each other’s weaknesses. Foreign policy research, on the one hand, has a strong track record explaining foreign policy outcomes, using a broad range of theoretical concepts, but almost completely ignores non-state actors. This is highly problematic for at least two reasons: first, foreign policy is increasingly made in international organizations and intergovernmental and transnational governance networks instead of national institutions like foreign ministries. Second, the latter increasingly open up to, and involve, non-state actors in their policymaking procedures. Thus, if foreign policy research wants to avoid becoming marginalized in the future, it needs to take into account this change. However, systemic approaches like neorealism or constructivism have difficulties adapting to the new reality of foreign policy. They stress the importance of states at the expense of non-state actors, which are only of marginal interest to them, as is global governance. Moreover, they also conceptualize states as unitary actors, which forecloses the possibility of examining the involvement of non-state actors in states’ decision-making processes. Agency-based approaches such as foreign policy analysis (FPA) fare much better, at least in principle. FPA scholars stress the importance of disaggregating the state and looking at the individuals and group dynamics that influence their decision-making. However, while this commitment to opening up the state allows for a great deal more flexibility vis-à-vis different types of actors, FPA research has so far remained state-centric and only very recently turned to non-state actors. On the other hand, non-state actors’ involvement in policymaking is the strong suit of the literature on globalization and global governance, which has spent a lot of time and effort analyzing various forms of “hybrid” governance. At the same time, however, this literature has been rather descriptive, so far mainly systematizing different governance arrangements and the conditions under which non-state actors are included in governance arrangements. This literature could profit from foreign policy research’s rich theoretical knowledge in explaining policy outcomes in hybrid governance networks and international organizations (IOs).
Foreign policy researchers should take non-state actors seriously. In this regard, three avenues in particular are relevant for future research: (1) comparative empirical research to establish the extent of non-state actors’ participation in foreign policymaking across different countries and governance arrangements; (2) explanatory studies that analyze the conditions under which non-state actors are involved in states’ foreign policymaking processes; and (3) the normative implications of increased hybrid foreign policymaking for democratic legitimacy.
Daniel S. Geller
The balance of conventional military capabilities is intrinsic to understanding patterns of war among nations. However, cumulative knowledge relating to the effects of nuclear weapons possession on conflict interaction is largely absent. Framework is provided for analyzing the results of quantitative empirical research on this question and to identify any extant strong and consistent patterns in the interactions of states that can be associated with the possession of nuclear weapons.
Since 1945, a vast, sophisticated, and contradictory literature has developed on the implications of nuclear weaponry for patterns of international conflict and war. This theoretical and empirical work has principally focused on the conflict effects of these weapons for the interaction of nuclear-armed states, although a growing number of studies have explored the impact of a state’s possession of nuclear weapons on the behavior of nonnuclear opponents. Given the destructive capacity of these weapons and their questionable value for battlefield use, most of this work has concentrated on the requirements for successful deterrence. In categorizing the studies, some scholars note that “classical deterrence theory” derives from the Realist paradigm of international politics and subdivide this theory into two complementary strands: structural (or neorealist) deterrence theory and decision-theoretic deterrence theory. In contrast, other analysts choose to classify work on nuclear deterrence into three schools of thought: nuclear irrelevance; risk manipulation, escalation, and limited war; and the nuclear revolution. The essence of these divisions involves a debate about what the possession of nuclear weapons does for a state that controls them. Does the possession of these weapons affect the behavior of nuclear and non-nuclear opponents in disputes over contested values? Do the weapons impart political influence and hold military utility, or are they useless as tools for deterrence, compellence, or war?
Molly Berkemeier and Matthew Fuhrmann
This essay reviews academic research on the role of nuclear weapons in foreign policy. It begins by discussing the “Theory of the Nuclear Revolution,” which holds that nuclear weapons revolutionized world politics due to their overwhelming destructive capacity. The article then identifies several ways in which this theory has been challenged in scholarship. The article focuses in particular on four big debates in the literature on nuclear weapons and foreign policy: Does nuclear proliferation promote international peace and stability? Are nuclear weapons useful for coercive diplomacy? Do nuclear weapons make countries more assertive? How does nuclear strategy influence deterrence and security? After discussing these debates, the article concludes by calling for more research on the implications of dual-use nuclear technology for foreign policy and international security.
Jennifer Mitzen and Kyle Larson
In the early 21st century, a stream of international relations (IR) scholarship has emerged that interprets states’ foreign policy processes, decisions, and international outcomes through the lens of a distinctive type of security, ontological as opposed to “physical” or “material” security. It is a concept that helps us think about how the ability to make choices and take action depends critically on our sense of self, which is itself produced in our actions, albeit often at the level of routines and background narratives. Bringing ontological security into the study of foreign policy in some cases points to different explanations for choices, while in others it adds causal depth and generates new implications. This article reviews the literature that treats foreign policy as an outgrowth of the pursuit of a multifaceted understanding of security, ontological and physical, and raises questions for further research.
Opportunity and Willingness: From “Ordering Concepts” to an Analytical Perspective for the Study of Politics
The opportunity/willingness framework (O/W) is presented as an agent-structure approach to the understanding of international relations (IR) and international conflict, with deep roots in the “ecological triad” of Harold and Margaret Sprout. While originally developed to organize thinking about international politics, this article describes how it has evolved into a guide for generating IR theory, developing research designs to study IR, and ways to evaluate those theories. It does this by showing how to synthesize what we know and bring together apparently disparate hypotheses and evidence to bear—crossing a variety of analytic boundaries—and by pulling together what we know across levels of analysis, academic disciplines, and the sub-disciplines of political science. O/W compels scholars to cross, link, and synthesize levels of analysis—complementing theories built around levels of analysis, while at the same time moving them forward in order to deal with the complex causation they have to confront. This complex causation derives from the logical features of O/W, which regards opportunity and willingness as jointly necessary conditions for the occurrence of any event. A discussion of the characteristics of necessity and sufficiency as causal processes leads to the conclusion that not only does this joint necessity distinguish O/W from theoretical approaches that are deterministic, monocausal, or are concerned only with either opportunity or willingness, but is the beginning of a logical story that demonstrates how this framework can deal with causal complexity. The joint necessity of opportunity and willingness, along with its two corollaries of “substitutability” and “nice laws,” forces a researcher to more fully specify the logical and substantive structure of the theoretical statements under investigation, and to ensure the research design is relevant to the theory and set of research hypotheses—such that there is a coherent relationship among the components of logic, theory, and method. At the end of the logical story developed in the article, it can be seen that O/W has moved well beyond an organizing principle and is a model of causal complexity of great potential.
Niklas Swanström and Christina Wenngren
Transnational organized crime is part and parcel of the modern, globalized economy. The black market has irrefutable influence over both economic and political structures. It corrodes, corrupts, and coopts the institutions with which it comes into contact. Features that arise as a side effect of organized criminal activity also impact economic, social, and political developments. Isolated approaches aimed at counteracting criminal networks have proved ineffective, necessitating a fresh perspective on foreign policy-based solutions.
A central difficulty of researching organized crime is the opaque nature of criminal networks, whose members prefer to operate in the shadows. The underworld does not owe accountability to any outsiders, nor do crime syndicates generally file tax returns. International bodies like the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime are forced to rely on the reports of member states, which are often subject to distortion. This makes accurate assessment of the extent and impact of organized crime difficult, to say the least.
Part of what makes the black market difficult to combat is the malleable approach of criminal networks. They employ a variety of strategies to pursue their illicit activity and will quickly adapt to the given strength or weakness of their host state. These strategies manifest themselves as either evasion, confrontation, or infiltration of state institutions. All of these strategies undermine legitimate sociopolitical structures, making it imperative to implement effective foreign policy initiatives that fight the trade as a whole.
Parliaments differ enormously in their foreign policy competences. This is best documented in the area of “war powers,” understood as decision-making on the use of force. In other issue areas, such as treaty-making, defense budgets, sanctions, or arms exports, differences across countries are far less researched. The available data, however, suggests that differences in those areas are no smaller than in the area of war powers. What is more, the data also show that parliamentary competences across issue areas within particular countries also differ a lot. Parliaments are not strong or weak across the full spectrum of foreign policy competences. Instead, parliamentary competences are country, as well as issue specific. A general trend toward a parliamentarization or deparliamentarization of foreign affairs is not discernible.
Partly inspired by institutionalist versions of Democratic Peace Theory, numerous studies have examined whether parliamentary powers have any effect on countries’ propensity to use armed force. Case-study research tends to find that variation in parliamentary powers impacts on decision-making on the use of force but also emphasizes that the effects of institutional constraints need to be understood in conjunction with the preferences of the public, parliament, and government. Statistical studies have found some evidence for a “parliamentary peace,” but because of problematic indicators and a lack of controls, doubts remain as to robustness and significance of this effect. In any case, theories of legislative-executive relations in parliamentary systems suggest that open confrontations between parliament and government are exceptional. Instead of an institutional constraint in a system of checks and balances, parliamentary war powers can be understood as an additional reassurance against unpopular decisions to use force.
Most studies of parliaments in foreign affairs are characterized by “methodological nationalism”—that is, the assumption that nation-states are the natural units of analysis. However, parliaments’ activities in foreign affairs are not exhausted by their monitoring and scrutiny of national executives. In addition, there is a long tradition of “parliamentary diplomacy” and engagement in interparliamentary institutions. The most powerful parliamentary actor beyond the nation-state is the European Parliament. Although its formal competences are limited, it has been very effective in using its powers to influence European foreign policy.
Anika C. Leithner and Kyle M. Libby
Path dependence has been employed more frequently in the field of foreign policy analysis, though it is still an emerging framework. The roots of path dependence are traced from the physical sciences and economics to the social sciences, and finally, foreign policy. The basic assumptions of path dependence are summarized, including the role of critical junctures, increased returns, and policy legacies that are produced and reproduced by a variety of causal mechanisms. The preferred methods employed by path dependence scholars are briefly outlined; framework’s applicability to the study of politics is addressed, and the major critiques of path dependence are reviewed. This leads to the general conclusion that despite conceptual and methodological challenges in the area of foreign policy, there is definite “value added” in path-dependent approaches.
Maline Meiske and Andrea Ruggeri
Peacekeeping is one of the principal activities and foreign policy tools implemented by the international community to create and “maintain international peace and security.” Peacekeeping operations have grown in size and scope since the late 1980s and have included traditional peacekeeping, multidimensional peacekeeping, and peace enforcement. Peacekeeping operations pursue far-reaching objectives ranging from humanitarian assistance and the repatriation of refugees, over the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants, to liberal democratic assistance policies. The proliferation and increased scope of peacekeeping operations imply greater significance of peacekeeping as a tool of foreign policy. As such, peacekeeping operations are not deployed solely according to matters of global peace and security, but the deployment of and contribution to peacekeeping operations is increasingly shaped by individual state’s foreign and security policy considerations. An increasing literature studying the supply side of peacekeeping offers a broad range of arguments for why countries contribute to peacekeeping operations referring to realism, liberalism, alliance politics, or domestic politics. Foreign and security policy goals that states try to attain by participating in peacekeeping operations include status enhancement and influence in the international system, the reduction of the threat of conflict diffusion into its own territory and of a potential influx of refugees, or the stabilization of political relations, international trade, and alliance politics. The existing literature leaves some lingering questions and methodological challenges that require further attention. Of particular importance are questions related to the politics of tool choice and the effectiveness of peacekeeping as a tool of foreign policy. Methodological challenges exist regarding data availability and collection as well as the appropriate modelling of cooperation between different organizations conducting peacekeeping operations and the interdependence of countries’ decisions regarding their choice of peacekeeping as a tool of foreign policy.
Benjamin E. Goldsmith
Historically one of the world’s most conflict-prone regions, since the Sino-Vietnamese war of 1979, East Asia has enjoyed a relative interstate peace. Implications of some of the relevant “East Asian peace” literature for theories of international relations need assessment. The central conclusion is that, contrary to often expressed dissatisfaction with the state of IR theory, it is possible to identify a core of theoretical knowledge that has considerable explanatory power for war and peace in East Asia, and is also based on general theory with considerable support across global regions. This diverges somewhat from the well-known argument of Lake in 2011: It is not the “-isms” that lead us astray, but how we use them. Unlike Lake, but consistent with Legro and Moravcsik (1999), it is argued that broad theoretical constructs are needed, and indeed useful ones exist, while mid-level or problem-focused analysis is no substitute for a theory-based research program. What is often lacking is an effort by empirical researchers to clearly and coherently tie their research design to theoretically important claims.
Empirical political science as a whole is becoming more sophisticated in its methods and capabilities for causal inference, and it is also becoming more relevant and useful for policy makers. We should devote as much attention to the theoretical contributions of our research. The article addresses the role of theory in IR, the ways that empirical analysis of East Asia (and other regions) can contribute to theory building and theory testing, the existing literature on East Asian peace, some informed speculation about how the potential for mid-term military conflict between the United States and China might be assessed, and thoughts about current and potential contributions to IR theory based on the study of the East Asian peace.
Theorizing in social science is hard, and any scholar’s dissatisfaction with existing theory should be heavily tempered with acknowledgment that s/he has not proposed a more powerful one. Regional analysis, and comparative regional analysis, can provide important potential gains by challenging current theory with hard tests. East Asia not only is a crucially important part of the world for the future of interstate peace, it also presents challenging and useful empirical puzzles for our theories.