Making Sense of Great Power Foreign Policy in 2015

Prof. Dr. Tarık OĞUZLU
12 January 2015
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Analyzing foreign policy behaviors of states requires an in-depth examination of the motivations that influence state leaders in their external entanglements. In the academic literature on Foreign Policy Analysis, scholars seem to be divided into two main groups, one arguing that foreign policy behaviors are mainly a function of intangible factors of material power capabilities, geographical locations, and external developments, whereas another group contending that intangible factors of personality traits, belief systems, world views, ideologies and cultures play a more decisive role in this regard.


This discussion can also be boiled down to the debate whether foreign policy is a function of interests or values. In case interests dominate foreign policy choices and behaviors of actors, the argument is that states are mainly motivated in their external relations by the concern of maximizing their material power capabilities as well as ensuring their long-term survival. Here, neither the internal characteristics at home nor the way how others are ruled in their domestic affairs would have a role in shaping foreign policy. It is the logic of consequences/instrumentality that shapes foreign policy. Engaging others and responding to external stimuli would basically be a function of the instrumental calculation of how much benefit one could extract from such exercises. Foreign policy would mainly consist of attempts at managing the process of responding to external developments. Values, norms and ideologies would play a minimum role in foreign policy making process. On the other hand, in case values and norms shape foreign policy one can talk about the existence of the logic of appropriateness, according to which the question of ‘who’ states are would significantly shape the questions of what they want and how they behave. In this configuration, foreign policy cannot be easily dissociated from domestic policy in which values, norms, ideologies and world views weigh predominantly. Looking to foreign policy from this perspective, state leaders would bother to ask how others are ruled in their internal affairs and which values they embrace domestically. From this perspective, foreign policy would also target the internal transformation of others in the image of the values and norms that one holds. Transformative foreign policy would embrace normative aspirations in that the way one state defines itself would decisively shape its dealings with others.


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