SUMMARY AND COMMENTARIES ON ‘LEVELS OF ANALYSIS AND FOREIGN POLICY’ From the book “International Politics on the World

Stage, 12e, John T. Rourke”1

SUMMARY This chapter is divided into three major parts; each discusses a level of analysis regarding a state’s foreign policy.

A. Individual-Level Analysis This level of analysis looks at the people who make the policy. This level of analysis involves understanding on how is the process of policy making. The basic question regarding this level of analysis is on how do basic human traits influence policy, which is a discussion on human as a species. There are clearly several factors that determine how a human being takes a certain policy. Among them: 1. Cognitive factors. Human beings are bounded by a certain limitation cognitively in making certain decision. There are external boundaries, which include missing or unknown information; and internal boundaries, that include human physical frailties. In coping with this problem decision makers tend to seek cognitive consistency by discounting ideas that contradict their existing views. Another way is self-justification or conviction that the choice will eventually succeed, or known as wishful thinking. The third way is to use what is known as heuristic device, which allows us to avoid gathering considerable information and thorough analysis. Some examples of these heuristic devices would be stereotypes and analogies (a certain comparison between new situations and an earlier situations someone had experienced). 2. Emotional factors. This is one factor that determines the condition of the decision maker in making decision. While it is easy to imagine that the decision maker would be rational enough in taking the decision, in reality decision maker will find him/herself under pressure, sad, angry, or depressed. 3. Psychological factors. There are psychological traits shared by humans that explain why their feelings and decisions are usually less than fully rational.
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John T. Rourke, International Politics on the World Stage, 12th Edition (New York City, New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2008).

Others and we tend to have similar images of one another.One of the approaches is frustration-aggression theory. 2. mistrust.” The difference may also be caused by gender2 differences. We tend to see the behavior of others as more planned and coordinated than our own. Human beings play a variety of roles based on attitude about the status we have and the behaviors we adopt in them. Another common characteristic of human is that human beings tend to think and act differently in collective settings than they do as individuals. One of them is biopolitics. We tend to see opponents as more threatening than they may actually be (e. While controversial. and fear us. One example of this ethology is as mentioned by Ardrey (pp. The comparison between animal and human behavior that often used in explaining the way humans act is ethology. how the United States are really alarmed by North Korean nuclear threat). there are various theories that explain how human decisions are often not fully rational. There are four common characteristics of perceptions: 1.g. 3. which states that aggressive behavior is closely related to sex. 5. Biological factors. This is the discussion of organizational behavior. See Rourke. The script for a role is derived from a combination of self-expectation (how we expect ourselves to act) and external expectations (how others expect us to behave). in which sex is biological. and defend the exclusive right to a piece of property – is an animal instinct. . 69. The ancient debate on perceptions is philosophical. and gender is behavioral. to determine whether there is an objective world or whether everything is only what we perceive to be. p. 12-14). which tries to explain the relations between physical nature and political behavior of human. that “territoriality – the drive to gain. 2 The author has managed to distinct the idea of sex and gender. maintain. 4. which argues that individuals and societies that are frustrated sometimes become aggressive. 4. We find it hard to understand why others dislike. The issue of this gender differences have created the gender opinion gap that political scientists are just beginning to examine. Perceptions. This gender problem has derived manliness.

Personality. 2. This is the discussion of leaders and their individual traits. who was ill from hypertension while was at the office of the presidency. by political criticism. . 4. 3. behavioral patterns. yet negative personalities are prone to assume that opponents are enemies). Decision makers are also affected by their personal experiences. in part because those who take this approach get forced out. while passive leaders are reactors. A leader’s ego and personal ambitions can also influence policy. There are five of many possible factors to consider: 1. How psychological problems proved to be important was as the example of Adolf Hitler. Positive personalities enjoy the contentious political environment. The worst combination is said to be the active-negative combination (since active leaders receive more criticism. The most well known scheme will place political personality along an active-passive scale and a positivenegative scale. who was arguably suffer from ailments from a mixture of illness and medications. Active leaders are innovators. and attitudes about such politically relevant concepts as authority. Perceptions and operational reality. Under this factor scholars examine a leader’s basic orientations toward self and toward others. whether they are accurate or not. Political history and personal experiences. The third approach to individual-level analysis focuses on idiosyncratic analysis. while negative personalities are apt to feel burdened. that studies how each leader’s personal characteristics help shape his or her decisions. D. even abused. The calculation tends to promote groupthink.When people give advices and make decisions within an organization. How physical health proved to be important was as the example of F. 5. policy makers tend to act based on perceptions. Decision maker’s images of reality constitute a fifth idiosyncratic element that influences their approach to foreign policy. that is. the image of a devil’s advocate is a rarity. Ego and ambition. Physical and mental health. A leader’s physical and mental health can be important factors in decision making. Perceptions form an operational reality. they not only have to consider that they think but also how others will view their opinions and decisions in the organization. Roosevelt. In groups as such.

3. Each country’s foreign policy tends to reflect its political culture. the media. in which countries are the most important. informal powers. the more likely it is that foreign policy will be centered in a narrow segment of the government. State-Level Analysis Policymaking is significantly influenced by the fact that it occurs within the context of a political structure. realpolitik considerations. Heads of government and other political executives. The type of government and the foreign policy process. The more authoritarian a government is. the use of shortcuts to eliminate unacceptable policy options. . This view of how individuals and groups make policy choices is called poliheuristic theory. and opposition parties. and the type of policy determines making foreign policy. Type of policy and the foreign policy process. Culture also determines the foreign policy making. Policy is made differently during crisis and non-crisis situation. Foreign policy making in democracies is much more open with inputs from legislators. Some important factors regarding to the political executives are chief executive’s formal powers (grants of authority given by constitution and laws). This theory depicts decision making as a two-stage process. This underlines how policies are actually mixtures of rational and irrational factors. 1. How foreign policy is decided also varies according to the nature of the issue area involved. By contrast. traditional values and its fundamental practices that are slow to change (Paquette. This concept represents a society’s widely held. The type of situation and the foreign policy process. 2003. There are some policy-making actors: 1. and then setting aside domestic politics and personal factors and concentrate on strategic. 2. Jung. foreign policy that has an immediate and obvious domestic impact on citizens of a certain country is called intermestic policy. The type of government. 2002). Crisis policy making is likely to be dominated by the political leader and a small group of advisers. Issues that have little immediate or obvious impact on citizens of a certain country can be termed pure foreign policy. B. public opinion.Human decisions are mixtures of rational and irrational inputs. the situation.

and legislators tend to focus on domestic policy. the scope. However. tradition. and intensity of interactions. Two of particular relevance to this analysis is on the organization of authority and the scope and level of interaction among the actors in the system. level. bureaucrats often do not agree with the country’s foreign policy.and leadership capabilities. Every system has its own structural characteristics. There are several kinds of interest groups. in which there is no higher authority than the states. The public plays a highly variable role in foreign policy. 2. the belief that a unified national voice is important to a successful foreign policy. and for conducting other authoritative tasks in a system can range from hierarchical (vertical) to anarchical (horizontal). the foreign policy role of legislatures play a lesser role compared to the executive branch. Thus. The organization of authority. issue-oriented groups. Legislatures play a larger foreign policy role in democracies. Interest groups are private associations of people who have similar policy views and who pressure the government to adopt those views as policy. Yet it does not mean that all legislatures are powerless. and intensity (level) of interactions among the actors. Yet. 4. C. economic groups. yet it still constrained by several factors: extensive legal powers. among them: cultural groups. 3. Public opinion is a marginal factor in authoritarian regimes. They try to influence the policy themselves by filtering information. System-Level Analysis While countries are free to make any foreign policy decision they want. Scope. practically they have to make choices that are reasonable within the context of the realities of the international system. and implementation. Another structural characteristic of any political system is the scope (range). In all countries. giving recommendations. The structure of authority for making and enforcing rules. yet the role is more complex in democracies. 2. and transnational interest groups. . In the international system. for allocating assets. Interest groups. 1. the international system is largely anarchic. the international system is mostly horizontal. The people. Most systems tend to be hierarchical. Legislatures. frequency.

The international system has been defined in part by how many powerful actors each has (Wilkinson. System-level analysis contends that the economic realities of the international system help shape the choices that countries make. The individual level. International Relations. this is the same in systems from the global to local level. 3. and the others will try to block such effort. Natural resource production and consumption patterns also influence the operation of the system. Norms influence the actions within the international system. These poles are particularly important to the realists in relations with the balance of power. or regional IGOs. The global level. global IGOs. It is hard to accept that norms exist in a world in which horrendous things sometimes happen. and level of interaction among the actors have grown extensively during the last half-century. It underlines the theory that all states are power seeking. 2. Commentaries This elaboration on levels of analysis should have been elaborated more with some other levels of analysis. Again. The second factor that determines the policy making under this analysis is the power relationships. Another book. Goldstein and Jon C. and actions of individual human beings. Power relationships are also determined by the context of power. concerns the perceptions. Such an actors can be a single country or empire. The interstate (or international or systemic) level. Eighth Edition (Joshua S. . yet it would be far to say that there is anything near a universal standard of behavior. Interdependence is one of the economic facts of life that influences states’ behavior. 2004). 17-19) added some levels of analysis: 1. Countries are restrained by the realities of power in the international system. mainly due to economic interdependence.frequency. concerns the influence of the international system upon outcomes. The domestic (or state or societal) level. seeks to explain international outcomes in terms of global trends and forces that transcend the interaction between states itself. the states/blocs will seek to become hegemonic. choices. concerns the aggregations of individuals within states that influence state actions in the international arena. 2009: pp. 4. The conduct of the international system is heavily influenced by power considerations such as the number of powerful actors and the context of power. Pevehouse.

Matthew Hanzel Department of International Relations. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s attitude on politics which created quite a weak stance on dealing with interstate conflict. I personally see that Indonesian politics is mostly related to leaders’ individual traits. To say the least. Indonesian leaders can be judged by many of their individual traits. And to compare.Among many other level of analysis. as in the 2010 conflict with Malaysia. the individual-level analysis could be one of the most interesting. or how the current president. how the charismatic Soekarno ignited the spirit of Indonesians on the international politics of Konfrontasi. 2009 043 2009 0015 . For example.

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