Foreign Policy Factors
Posted by dcollson on September 25, 2006
In this exam I am supposed to explain which factor is the most important in determining foreign policy. I have thought about this for some time now and I researched various factors that I think are important, but I couldn’t narrow it down to just one factor. The reason that I believe this is that there are three levels of factors that effect foreign policy; each level is (generally) independent of the others. I want to start by talking about the “Peace of Westphalia”, then I will talk about different factors that effect foreign policy (which I think are most important), lastly, I will talk about the future of foreign policy and what I believe should be done.The modern system of states started in 1648 after the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), with the Peace of Westphalia, which was a treaty between various European Countries. The reason that it is important is that there were four main ideas that formed, which didn’t officially exist before. They are as follows; (1) the principal of sovereignty of nation-states and the fundamental right of self-determination; (2) the principal of legal equality between nation-states; (3) the principal of internationally binding treaties between states; and (4) the principle of non-intervention of one state in the internal affairs of other states. This was the first time that state was given the notion of sovereignty, it was this treaty that established a system that respected peoples rights and that relied on international law, rather that the right of the strongest to regulate interactions between states. This is the inception of international relations in the modern world.I could not say that just one factor was the most important one in determining foreign policy. I actually have formed a theory, based on observation of history, on this matter. I think that most scholars would argue that the most important factor is the type of government in a state; this is based on the democratic peace theory. The first notion of the democratic peace theory came from Immanuel Kant, a great philosopher in the 18th century. The theory states that democracies never (or almost never) go to war with each other. I think that the foundation of this theory is right, but I think that the theory is a little flawed; it should state that governments of the same type don’t go to war with each other. The reason that I think this is if you look at any other government type, they don’t really go to war with the same type of government in a different state. I think that this theory is dangerous because it promotes world domination, there have been many wars in the name of democracy and peace, we say that we are “liberating” the people of the state that we go to war with, but are we really doing that, or are we just trying to make other states into the same type of state that we are? This is a question that I have asked my self my whole life. I am going to explain my theory in the next paragraph.I came up with this theory while I was in a movie theater, waiting for the movie to start, all of a sudden eureka phenomenon occurred, and my theory came to me. So, I would like to look at the “big picture” here. In political science, there are three “levels” of factors that effect foreign policy; the first is the “systemic” level (I call this the “International” level); second is the “state” level (domestic level); and finally, third is the individual level (the leader). Each of level is independent (mostly) of the other levels. I would like to bring one other factor into the equation, the factor is weather or not the state is a superpower, this might not sound very important, but I think that it is because it really determines what international and domestic policy will be made. This is my theory: If the state is a superpower then the domestic (state) source of foreign policy is most important; if the state is not a superpower then the most important source of foreign policy is international (systemic) source of foreign policy. The reason that I say this is, superpowers push their policy onto weaker states and try to make them have compatible or similar governments, if a weaker state rebels then the superpower will simply reprimand (overthrow, invade, or instill trade embargos) the weaker state. Also, a non super power must make it’s foreign policy based on what the superpower wants otherwise it will not prosper, and will actually start to decline (I believe that this is a remote cause of poverty in most poor states). The irony is that the thing created to control strong nations and help weak nations (the united nations) actually works the opposite way, it empowers the strong even more and limits the weak. The individual level is also important because the leader of a state makes most of the important decisions, and therefore forms actual policies, making the leader the “trigger” or actor in the equation. I good leader will know their state’s place in the hierarchy of states, and will act accordingly. The future of the world will be made by the decisions and policies of today.I believe that peace can be achieved if the world’s superpowers invest in it. They must not use violence in order to make weaker countries succumb to their policies, the old saying is “violence begets violence”, so in order to have peace, things must be done in a peaceful manner. That means no more waging wars against “ideas” (i.e. war on terrorism), no more invading states if you don’t like their policies, and create a truly free market between all states. I like to say that they [superpower’s] should lead by example, and then others will take note and follow. I think of my self as a realist, although I recognize that this is quite an idealistic idea, I think that this is a way to “regulate” the world (per se) without the “illusion” of [unenforceable] international law, therefore there is true [actual] freedom through out the world.