What Shapes Foreign Policy: The Turkish Paradox

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In the literature on foreign policy analysis there is an ongoing debate as to which particular variables determine foreign policy choices of states. On one hand are those who argue that leadership style and personal characteristics, world views, and belief systems of decision makers are the prime factors that need to be taken into account in this process. Both the ones who adopt the so-called rationalist analysis perspective and identify unitary nation states with the top decision maker and the cognitive scholars who underline the importance of cognition process in the limitation of full rationality and the psychological traits of decision makers happen to believe that individual level analysis would offer more satisfactory explanations of foreign policy decisions making process. Leaders are assumed to list preferences rationally (fully or in a bounded manner) and adopt the course which would yield the highest amount of payoff.

 

On the other hand lie those who argue that foreign policy is an outcome of a complicated and intricate process involving many different actors and factors at the state-society level. From this perspective states are not unitary actors but represent the combination of many different actors and constituencies. National images, societal values, role conceptualizations of decision makers, regime type, interests groups, public opinion and media are all potential variables at the state-society level that should be taken into consideration in the formulation of foreign policies.

 

Finally, what we have is the group of analysts who are predisposed to argue that the most satisfactory foreign policy explanations can only be provided at the systemic/international level. The systemic position of actors in relation to each other and their comparative power capabilities would offer the most reliable lenses through which analysts could make sense of foreign policy choices of actors. Here internal characteristics of states as well as the personalities of key decision makers would drop out from the analysis. From this perspective foreign policy would appear more as a response to external stimuli than well-crafted and well-articulated policy preferences reached at the state-society and individual levels.

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