A domestic institutional approach to the study of foreign policy: Factors affecting dispute behavior


Traditional approaches to the study of international disputes and war have generally aimed at providing very simple and broad explanations. Dominant among theories has been the explanation that war is a result of power politics between states competing in the international system. This type of explanation though, overlooks the study of how states make choices and how the resulting actions influence international relations. In this dissertation, I take a different theoretical approach by considering the influence of domestic factors as an important component for understanding international relations. I contend it is important to understand how the domestic political process influence foreign policy choices to best understand international affairs. In particular, I focus on the influence of institutional relationships and the role of the stakeholders as they relate to foreign policy decision-making. I present a general theory of foreign policy development that addresses the specific role of domestic political institutions and selectoral constraints. I treat the foreign policy process as a modified principal-agent model where three important actors have an influence on the development of policy: the chief policy maker, the primary oversight institution, and the relevant stakeholders of a state. I consider policies to be the result of the interaction between these three actors. In empirical examinations, I find moderate support for the expectations drawn from the theory. I find that domestic institutional relationships have an influence on foreign policy behavior, however the scope and strength of the influence still warrant further investigation. My primary theoretical contribution is the notion that the key domestic political factors that affect policy are institutional relationships combined with leadership selection factors. The theory presented in this research fully specifies this relationship and sheds light on how domestic political relationships affect policy development, and how the resulting policies influence international dispute behavior

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Last time updated on 11/06/2012

This paper was published in DSpace at Rice University.

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