A Group-Thinking Analysis of Comparative Foreign Policy

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This week’s journal entry is asking us to evaluate the whole of Valerie M. Hudson’s’ Foreign Policy Analysis; Classic and Contemporary Theory. Hudson writes this book as an introduction to Foreign policy for academics. Hudson makes a claim that without human action/acting, there will be no policy; this is her way of emphasizing the need in Foreign Policy to consider the human aspect. She also sees a need, within the study of foreign policy, for a focus on the group and single factors which affect world decision making. Hudson also views some International relations ideology as being outdated. Neo-realism is one her outdated concepts. She sees Neo-realism as lacking in answering why states chose to behave in a particular manner and why a particular course of action is chosen. Another useless way of thinking, in the eyes of Hudson, is “black box” thinking. “Black Box” thinking doesn’t allow variables in the multitude of situations that arise thing foreign policy. Part is the failings within black box thinking is that the state if a construct and only humans can be seen as an actor. Hudson continues into mainstream constructivism of which she makes clear that she views as not being applicable to international relations. She bases her opinion on the teachings of Alexander Wendt, who she views as failing to answer who carries the ideas of international relations and who is responsible for articulating those ideas.

As Foreign Policy Analysis; Classic and Contemporary Theory progresses Hudson focuses on the establishment of comparative foreign policy. The issues found here are that it only allows for a narrow analysis of behaviorism, technical problems, and theoretical issues. She concludes that the tradeoff between theory and method is that comparative foreign policy demands parsimony in theory and that comparative foreign policy theory demands nuance and detail in methods while foreign policy analysis rejects the technical concept of comparative foreign policy.

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The five major levels of analysis that is addressed are culture, a leader-level, group thinking and bureaucracies. Leader-level makes use of psychology. Hudson see’s area of analysis as being useful. It is only complicated by the fact that world leaders refuse to accept psychological analysis as a being legitimate in relations to foreign policy analysis. This is in part because once accepted, world leaders will have to consider the physical and mental well-being of its leaders and their decisions. Because of its complexity and the multitude of variable attached, it has thus far scared away any true consideration. The next level of analysis is group-thinking. Here the author leans heavily on the work of Irving Janis, who see group-thinking as a more appropriate analysis of foreign policy and better than a “one man show”. Janis’s reasoning is that any foreign policy formulated in a group setting and that is dependent on group leadership is more likely to cover more scenarios with a positive outcome. Hudson does make a point to add that group thinking only works when the group cohesion becomes more important than problem solving. Next is Culture, Hudson states “In addition, other types of theory that have not been well developed in IR, such as the theory of how cultural factors and social constructions within a culture affect state behavior, can now be attempted with a greater probability of success” (Hudson, p. 3). Lastly, Bureaucracies and organization process are evidence of the “emergence of a strong research agenda that examined the influence of organizational process and bureaucratic politics of foreign policy decision making” (Hudson, p. 8).

A negative example of group-thinking is a general one. Group-thinking doesn’t explain how a researcher can separate differences that occur. Hudson also leaves out how the analysis is to gather general information from the inner circle. There are other issues that arise within Hudson work. Hudson doesn’t answer how a constant is able to explain variations, when related to culture (culture is a constant and if it changes, does not change quickly). Hudson closes out Foreign Policy Analysis; Classic and Contemporary Theory with her idea on how to combine all the variables with how they should be used together when she states “First, theories at different levels of analysis can finally be integrated in a meaningful fashion” (Hudson, p. 3). She does acknowledge that combining these variations has not been successfully done yet. In the end Hudson suggests that Foreign Policy and International relations should make use of neuroscience as a contributor to foreign policy analysis and development.

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