Assess the significance of bureaucratic politics in foreign policymaking. Whose argument do you find more convincing, Allison’s or Krasner’s? Why? (Note: don’t let your answer depend on what we discussed in class – or any positions taken by the instructor!)
When a foreign policy is finally passed, it is presented as the policy of a nation. However, when the policy is being made, the nation can be fractured by various interests. Certain departments or agencies will have entirely different goals with their foreign policy suggestions. Not all interests are necessarily aligned. What this means, then, is that the politics of the different agencies can come into play when trying to pass a policy. The various agencies will all fight it out to see whose interests are going to be given the most respect and which will not. The work of Allison is more convincing on these points. Krasner’s argument assumes that the president possesses a power that he does not, and that the other elements of the political process are not influencing the president in his behavior. Even though the president may have significant autonomy in foreign affairs decision-making, the other elements of the political process still put immense pressure on the president, and this can constrain his decision making ability.

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Briefly discuss two of the hypotheses concerning misperception posited by Jervis that you find most compelling and provide a contemporary or historical example that illustrates each of them.

Jervis’s hypothesis that decision makers take information and process it through their existing worldview is a compelling point in my view. Lawmakers are almost always working with the constraint of human bias. In addition, they are somewhat constrained by their existing political positions, so much so that it would be politically difficult to switch course, even with new information. Rather, they try to fit new information into an old worldview. Looking at the Iraq War, one can see this. The decision-makers had good information that Hussein did not have WMDs, but they chose to take a different course anyway. Another of the hypotheses is that states tend to see other states as being more hostile than they are. This has played itself out in history. The US saw the Soviet Union as being more hostile than it was, particularly during the Cuban missile crisis.

To what extent is determining whether a leader has undergone a “simple” or “complex” learning on a particular foreign policy issue important. Think of an example, other than those in Ziv’s article, which illustrates your argument.

The simple versus complex learning debate is very important on foreign policy issues. With simple learning, one gets new facts, new information. This can help to bring about some change on the surface. It might be superficial change in some instances. Complex learning means learning about the values and conflicts that exist. One does not just get information. Rather, he gets a full-on understanding of the values conflicts that cause a problem to go on and on into perpetuity. When a leader understands this complex system, he is more likely to deal with the root of the problem. When it’s just simple learning, something different happens. He just deals with the symptoms rather than the roots of the problem. One might think of the conflict in Israel and Palestine to understand this. Getting information about what is happening now would lead to one result. Getting information on the roots of the conflict could lead to another solution.

Which are the most important factors contributing to groupthink? What specific steps can be taken to counter this phenomenon?

One of the most important factors contributing to groupthink is the fact that media is largely controlled by a small group of people. There is little ability to influence the public through independent media, so the public only receives a limited view of the news. This can cause people to think about issues in a way that feels much like how their friends view the issue. In addition to that, groupthink is caused by a natural, psychological need to feel safe in one’s opinions. People feel safe and protected when they are with the herd, rather than when they are out on their own. More independent media could help to cure this. There are some things, like the human psyche, that cannot be cured though, so this is an uphill battle that will always be fought.