Coalition governments are observed frequently in parliamentary systems. Approximately 70% of all governments in postwar Europe have been one type of coalition or another. Israel has never been ruled by a single-party government in its history. Recently, majoritarian systems like Britain produced coalitions, taking many by surprise.
The prominence of coalitions in parliamentary democracies compels researchers to study them more closely. The Comparative Politics literature investigates, in particular, the dynamics of coalition formation and termination, as well as the domestic policy outputs of coalitions, especially compared to governments ruled by a single party.
Coalitions have generated interest on the International Relations front as well. One avenue of research transcends the “political party” as a building block and conceptualizes coalitions as a “decision unit” by focusing on the group of veto players in a regime’s foreign policy apparatus. Another line of scholarship, situated in the “Democratic Peace” framework, looks at coalitions as a domestic-institutional factor to observe their effects on the likelihood of international conflict.
Departing from the “Democratic Peace” tradition, more recent research in Foreign Policy Analysis rejuvenates the study of coalitions in international politics. This literature not only encourages theory development by scrutinizing why coalitions behave differently than single-parties in the international arena but also bridges the gap between International Relations and Comparative Politics. Emphasizing the organic relationship between domestic politics and foreign policy, foreign policy researchers dissect coalition governments to highlight the role political parties play on foreign policy formulation and implementation. This literature also illustrates the merits of methodological plurality in studying foreign policy. Using a combination of comparative case studies, process tracing, Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and regression modeling, it sheds light not only on the broader trends that characterize coalition foreign policy but also on the causal mechanisms and contextual factors which often go unaccounted for in purely statistical analyses. The recent advances in role and image theories in Foreign Policy Analysis are expected to influence the study of coalitions and their foreign policies, offering an interpretivist take alongside this positivist trajectory.
Cognitive theory encompasses mental activities such as the observation of different stimuli in an environment; the memorization and recall of information; pattern recognition and problem representation; and complex activities like social judgments, analytic reasoning, and learning. Cognitive psychology also highlights the constraints that prevent individuals from acting as utility-maximizing, fully rational decision-makers. These constraints lead people to rely on a regularly occurring set of cognitive mechanisms to simplify the decision-making process.
Scholars of foreign policy have drawn from several prominent areas of cognitive psychology to inform their research. One such area looks at the beliefs and belief systems that are the building blocks for most judgments. Researchers have also examined how actors use cognitive biases and heuristics to cope with uncertainty, which is abundant in foreign policy settings. An important set of cognitive mechanisms examined in Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA) relates to judgments about policy risks and costs. Factors that facilitate and inhibit learning are crucial for understanding the conditions under which such judgments may improve over time. No cognitive process operates in a vacuum; instead these processes are moderated by an individual’s group context and emotions.
There are several challenges in applying cognitive theory to FPA. Such theories are biased toward populations that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic. They are usually first tested using controlled experiments that measure group-level differences; whereas FPA scholars are often interested in the cognitive processes of individual leaders operating in chaotic environments. Individual-level psychological mechanisms may augment or offset one another, as well as interact with variables at the governmental, societal, and international levels of analysis in unpredictable ways. In light of these challenges, FPA scholars who employ cognitive psychology may wish to conceive of their enterprise as a historical science rather than a predictive one.
Hylke Dijkstra and Sophie Vanhoonacker
The member states of the European Union (EU) coordinate, define, and implement foreign policy in the context of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). This policy area, often referred to as EU foreign policy, has a broad scope covering all areas of foreign policy and all questions relating to security and defense. The CFSP is supported by a unique institutional framework, in which member states diplomats and officials from the EU institutions jointly make policy. It is led by the High Representative, who is the “face and voice” of EU foreign policy, and supported by the substantial European External Action Service and 140 EU delegations in other countries and international organizations.
Because foreign policy is normally the business of sovereign states, the exceptional nature of the CFSP has long been a subject of inquiry. The CFSP has particularly puzzled advocates of the traditional theories of European integration and international relations, who have failed to appreciate what the EU does in the field of high politics. Given the absence of formal diplomatic recognition and a strong reliance on the resources of the member states, the EU is still not a full-fledged actor, yet it has a strong international presence nonetheless. Its presence and the gradual increase in “actorness” have also raised questions about whether the EU presents a different type of actor, a civilian or normative power, which derives its influence from non-traditional sources of power.
Under the assumption that the EU has some actorness, the Europeanization of foreign policy has become an area of interest. Member states can act through the EU structure to achieve more impact internationally, can adjust national foreign policy on the basis of EU positions, and are socialized into greater European coordination. The relationship between national and EU foreign policy is thus a significant topic of debate. Finally, governance perspectives increasingly provide insight into the organization of the CFSP. How the member states and the EU institutions collectively coordinate, define, and implement EU foreign policy is not only an important question in itself but also matters for policy outcomes.
The European Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) is scarcely two decades old, yet a considerable and diverse body of literature has emerged during this time. CSDP can best be thought of as the functional crisis management end of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), of which it is an integral part. It covers both the military and civilian aspects of crisis management, with the majority of overseas missions being civilian in nature. Yet, it is the growth of the military dimension that has spurred extensive debate about the nature of the EU’s actorness and whether it can still be thought of as a civilian power par excellence. Much of the research has been driven by the application of the main theoretical approaches in international relations to CSDP. The result is an extensive, but occasionally cacophonous, body of literature. Given the relative youth of CSDP there are inevitably gaps in the literature, especially the question of how CSDP relates to other policy fields in the external relations of the EU and whether the “D” in CSDP will remain indefinitely silent.
Jeffrey S. Lantis and Ryan Beasley
Comparative foreign policy analysis (CFP) is a vibrant and dynamic subfield of international relations. It examines foreign policy decision making processes related to momentous events as well as patterns in day-to-day foreign interactions of nearly 200 different states (along with thousands of international and nongovernmental organizations). Scholars explore the causes of these behaviors as well as their implications by constructing, testing, and refining theories of foreign policy decision making in comparative perspective. In turn, CFP also offers valuable lessons to government leaders.
This article surveys the evolution of CFP as a subfield over time, with special attention to its contributions to academic understanding and policymaking. It begins with a review of the characteristics and contributions of CFP, followed by acknowledgment of early works that helped establish this area of study. The next section of the article reviews major thematic focuses of CFP, including theories of international pressures and factors that may drive state foreign policy as well as strong foundations in studies of domestic politics. Key internal actors and conditions that can influence state foreign policies include individual leaders, institutions and legislatures, bureaucratic organizations and government agencies, and public opinion and nongovernmental organizations. Following this survey of actors and contemporary theories of their role in foreign policy decision-making, the article develops two illustrations of new directions in CFP studies focused on political party factions and role theory in comparative perspective.
Carmela Lutmar and Cristiane L. Carneiro
States’ compliance with international law is a multicausal event, with variables operating at various levels of analysis, such as states’ incentives, regime type, issue area, strategic considerations, psychological perceptions, and level of enforcement. Recent scholarship on compliance with international law in general, and with international agreements in particular, has made great progress in uncovering some of the links between these factors, and in determining under what conditions we are more likely to see greater compliance, in what issue areas, and in explaining these variations.
Patrick M. Morgan
Deterrence is an old practice, readily defined and described, widely employed but unevenly effective and of questionable reliability. Elevated to prominence after World War II and the arrival of nuclear weapons, deterrence became the central recourse for sustaining international and internal security and stability among and within states in an era of serious conflict. With regard to the presence of nuclear weapons in particular but also to deal with non-nuclear violent conflict, deterrence has been employed to prevent (or at least limit) the destruction of states, societies, and ultimately humanity. The greatest success has been that no nuclear weapons have been used for destructive purposes since the end of World War II in 1945. Deterrence has been widely used below the nuclear level but with very uneven results.
Deterrence has been intensively studied and tested as to its use in terms of strategy in international relations, the maintenance of stability in international relations, the conduct of violence and warfare in both international and domestic contexts, and in political affairs. Since deterrence is the use of threats to block or reduce the inflicting of serious harm, the existence of capacities for inflicting harm are readily maintained and periodically applied, so available deterrence capabilities provide a degree of continuing concern and a regular desire to at least do away with nuclear weapons and threats. A brief period in the ending of the Cold War saw a serious effort to reduce the reliance on deterrence, particularly nuclear deterrence, in international politics but it was soon replaced by serious movement in the opposite direction. Yet efforts to reduce the need for and use of deterrence continue.
Extensive efforts have been applied in the development of theories of deterrence, particularly to generate empirical theory in order to better understand and apply deterrence but without arriving at widely accepted results. This is the result of the considerable complexity of the subject, the activity involved, and the behavior of the practitioners.
The conduct of deterrence is now broader and deeper than before. It is under greater pressure due to technological, political, and cultural developments, and operates in a much more elaborate overall environment including space, cyberspace, and oceanic environs. Thus the goal of developing effective empirical theory on deterrence remains, at various levels, still incompletely attained. The same is true of mastering deterrence in practice. Nevertheless, deterrence remains important and fascinating.
Krista E. Wiegand
Despite the decline in interstate wars, there remain dozens of interstate disputes that could erupt into diplomatic crises and evolve into military escalation. By far the most difficult interstate dispute that exists are territorial disputes, followed by maritime and river boundary disputes. These disputes are not only costly for the states involved, but also potentially dangerous for states in the region and allies of disputant states who could become entrapped in armed conflicts. Fortunately, though many disputes remain unresolved and some disputes endure for decades or more than a century, many other disputes are peacefully resolved through conflict management tools.
Understanding the factors that influence conflict management—the means by which governments decide their foreign policy strategies relating to interstate disputes and civil conflicts—is critical to policy makers and scholars interested in the peaceful resolution of such disputes. Though conflict management of territorial and maritime disputes can include a spectrum of management tools, including use of force, most conflict management tools are peaceful, involving direct bilateral negotiations between the disputant states, non-binding third party mediation, or binding legal dispute resolution. Governments most often attempt the most direct dispute resolution method, which is bilateral negotiations, but often, such negotiations break down due to uncompromising positions of the disputing states, leading governments to turn to other resolution methods. There are pros and cons of each of the dispute resolution methods and certain factors will influence the decisions that governments make about the management of their territorial and maritime disputes. Overall, the peaceful resolution of territorial and maritime disputes is an important but complicated issue for states both directly involved and indirectly affected by the persistence of such disputes.
Thomas J. Volgy, Kelly Marie Gordell, Paul Bezerra, and Jon Patrick Rhamey, Jr.
Despite decades of scholarly attention to conflict and cooperation processes in international politics, rigorous, comparative, large-N analyses of these questions at the region level are difficult to find in the literature. Although this relative absence may stem in part from the difficulties related to the theoretical conceptualization or methodological operationalization of regions, it certainly is not for lack of interesting variation in terms of conflict and cooperation processes across regions. Between this variation and recent contributions toward a dynamic identification of regions, comparative analysis of conflict and cooperation outcomes at the region level are primed for exploration and increasingly salient as recent political elections in the United States (Trump election) and the United Kingdom (Brexit) have demonstrated a willingness on the part of policymakers to scale back efforts toward global interdependence.
Turning attention to a region level unit of analysis, however, does not require abandoning decades of scholarship at the state or dyad levels. Indeed, much of this work may be viewed as informing or complementary to comparative regional analyses. In particular, regional propensity for cooperation or conflict is likely to be conditioned by a number of prominent explanations of these phenomena at state and dyad levels, which may usefully be conceived in their regional aggregates as so-called regional fault lines or baseline conditions. These include the presence of major and/or regional powers, interstate rivalries, unresolved territorial claims, civil wars, regime similarity, trade relationships, and common membership in intergovernmental organizations.
Of these baseline conditions, the impact of major and regional powers on regional patterns of cooperation and conflict is notable for both its theoretical and practical implications. Power transition theory, hegemonic stability theory, hierarchical theory, and long cycle theory all suggest major—and to a lesser extent regional—powers will seek to establish order within areas under their influence; alternatively, the overwhelming capabilities these states bring to a region arguably act as a deterrent inhibiting conflict. Empirical analysis reveals—irrespective of the causal mechanism at hand—regions characterized by the presence of a major or regional power experience less conflict. Moving forward, future research should work to test the two plausible causal mechanisms for this finding—order building versus deterrence—to determine the true nature of hierarchy’s pacifying influence.
Bryan W. Marshall
The U.S. Congress has broad constitutional powers to shape foreign policy. However, Congress rarely shapes foreign policy as an equal partner with the president. Politics has the potential to enhance or lessen Congress’s role. What explains changes over time in congressional power in foreign policy? Why does Congress assert itself on some issues but less so on others in U.S. foreign policy? What strategies or tools does Congress employ to shape the nation’s foreign policy? The lens of New Institutionalism, two presidencies, and presidential unilateralism connect in useful ways to help explain these kinds of key questions in foreign policy. They offer scholars a future framework to continue to enhance theories explaining variation in congressional assertiveness in foreign policy.