Rationality in International Foreign Policy Management


The debate around the application of rationality in international foreign policy management by different political sovereign entities cannot be considered to have achieved any successful resolution. The opposing schools of thought in this context could be identified as considering of rationality as indispensible in foreign relations management as opposed to considering such applications to be simplistic in form and execution. Alden and Aran (2016) have argued in favour of the irrefutability of the persistence as well as pervasiveness of rationality as a method in the core political science disciplines on which the foreign as well as international relationship management discourses are based. However, the crux of the dispute regarding application of rationality in foreign relationship management is much more varied and complicated which had been previously presumed

because the current international dimensions of power have become institutionally varied since the dissolution of the USSR and the culmination of the Cold War which brought in the concept of multi-polar power centres into actuality. In spite of the acclaimed stature of irationality in global foreign policy management discourses, the limitations and caveats in the application of rationality ubiquitously in the foreign relations management process have consistently predominated. This has been specifically explained by Hill (2017) to be a Sisyphean task since asserting the limitation of rationality employment in the development of concrete solutions to the existing foreign and national security based challenges in the global scenario has gained incremental traction in the contemporary world. In this context, the corresponding study would be evaluating the contradicting opinions and suggestions involving the practices associated with employment of rationality in the foreign policy management discourses in the current global political conditions and regarding the malpractices of rational consultations which have rendered the foreign policy initiatives of major political actors in the global arena ineffectual concerning the attainment of their foreign policy objectives.



Smith, Hadfield and Dunne (2016) have determined that the roles of rationality and reason in general, within the international relationship management discourses, have been the points of contention and inflection since the 18th century. This has been further elaborated by the research of Hill (2003) from the perspectives that formulation of a definite sphere of calculated influence only on the basis of political and administrative interest which could contravene the notions of justice, honesty or reason, alternatively identified as raison d'état, has often been the first priority of any influential power in the global political jostling ground. To this effect, Carlsnaes (1992) has outlined that the historic image of the maintenance of the balance of power and influence through an enlightened equilibrium on the basis of rational interpretation and executive policies could be compared to the perceived symmetry of clockwork. However, the obsession and more often than not self-defeating war mongering policies of Frederick the Great and Louis XIV were enough to demonstrate the irrationality of the 18th century European political domain and the associated collective outcomes. According to Jensen (1982), such historical precedents are enough to establish the prevalence of irrational political motives over those of the self-imposed limitations which had put political decisions into perspective in that era which is still generally considered to be a world which was governed through raison d'état.

The research of Thomas (2009), furthermore, has established the arguments that during the 19th century, the advancement of industrial capitalism influenced the overcoming of the passions which signified the interests related to human progression. These were supplanted by the notion that individual political calculations and long term economic interests based speculative executive policies could lead to the most beneficial outcomes in terms of the social consequences of political endeavours, both at the national as well as at the international context. Juetersonke (2006) has further stated that modern political economic considerations constituted the partial capture of the international political discourses by the discipline of Rationality. From the perspectives of Rosenau (1980), it could be observed that the Rational Actor Model,in close conjunction with those of the bureaucratic and organisational models, could be posited as the key lense through which the most significant national security based international policies could be defined. The Rational Actor Model (RAM), in this context, has been determined by Alden (2017) to be the baseline on which the alternative models could be developed so as to expand the theoretical perspectives related to International Relationship management discourses.

In this context, it is first necessary to idenifty the perceived and tangible benefits which could be derived from application of Rationality. This is directly related to the explication of different states regarding foregin policy decisions. The Foreign Policy Apprisal (FPA)process generally is required to be based on the accurate knowledge of the significance of the utilisations of rationality in such policy decisions. The concomitant limitations must be considered also. However, Rosenau (1984) has signified the essential contested nature of rationality which further complicates the task of rationality based foreign policy formulation process. The significance of this process has been extensively recognised by Dyson (2006) through the demonstration of the omnipresence of the related disputes which plague the rationality application processes. According to Singer and Hudson (2020), there are four contours of rationality application in international relationship management by different sovereign actors. The initial one is the functionality or purpose of ascribing the contexts of rationality in the forms of either descriptive, subjunctive or prescriptive rational approaches. The second one has been the subject of rationality which could be applied in the measure of the actualities, the choices, the actions and the policy selection modes. The third front, according to Kaarbo (2017), is the Cognition factor which pertains to the quality of the processes of a cognitive decision formulation framework. This could be further explained as the constitutents of calculated intention which is utilised by the states for the application of minimal rationality and the expected utility based decisions which are closely associated with those of the optimal application of rationality based approaches while formulating foreign policy decisions. Finally, the fourth front based contour has been outlined by Moens (2017) to be the rationale which underscores policy perspectives. This element of rationality could be further analysed to be the agnosticism related to the logic of executive actions and the underlying motivations and the influence of substantive rationality on such decisions as well as actions. Li (2013) has shown the contentions and controversies associated with such fronts to determine the contours of foreign policy based perspectives formulated on the basis of differing aspects of rationality. These are as the following:

Contested Contours Of Rationality Application In International Relationship Management

Figure 1: Contested Contours Of Rationality Application In International Relationship Management

According to Dunne, Hadfield and Smith (2012), Rationality, in the context of international relations, has been turned into an appraisive context and is, thus, not limited to only political or economic discourses anymore. Rationality has been infused with normative connotations so that it could be employed to denote the above demonstrated State Actors, whom, the people may either trust (optimal expected utility aspect) or may predict their behaviour (minimal calculative intentionality). This measure of prediction could be contrasted with the erratic and unreliable irrationality of individuals or non-sate actors. Furthermore, Hill (2017) has opined that rationality occassionally gets reflected within the international political discourses, though in an unwitting manner. This could be described as an

ureflective habitus in foreign policy relationship management.According to George (1969), the RAM propounds the assumption that people in general are logical and rational in their thought processes by default. Thus, the ranking of choices involves a process which could be considered to be logical in structure. This could be outlined through the hypothetical sequence that if one could favour X over Y and could favour Y over Z, then it is only rational for the person to favour or select X over Z in a logical manner. This could be explained in the form that the political actor could only select any course of action commensurate as well as consistent with the objectives of the political discourse which the actor could subscribe to. This course of action generally has to help for such a person or political entity to achieve their coveted goals. Frankel (1963) has specified this format of reasoning as Instrumental Rationality.

Furthermore, the decision formulation process in RAM generally pertains to several steps through which the decision formulation process could be finalised in terms of foreign policy based imperatives. The steps involved have been identified by Houghton (2007) to be the following:

1: Searching for the objectives.

2:Ranking these as per the existing priorities.

3: Identification of the available options through which such objectives could be fulfilled.

4: Predicting and evaluation of the possible consequences of the formulated and implemented policies.

The fundamental orientation of such a sequential process in terms of the application of the RAM could be contemplated as maximisation of utility of such a method.

However, Hudson (2005) has opined that in case of application of RAM in the context of FPA, the detrimental nature of this method could be realised through the multiplicity of limitations which RAM highlights. Furthermore, the RAM also does not assist in the application of realistic view of any existing international relationship based complication such as identification of any national interest which could not be considered to be a self-evident one. Thus, the subsequent pursuit of the formulated objectives regarding such national interests could be at best, misguided from the initial phase of policy parameter formulation. Furthermore, Janis (1982) has stated that the assumptions as well as characteristics integral to the RAM could also become problematic in terms of contemplating the subtleties and actualities pertaining to any situation. This problem highlights, from a realistic perspective, the limitations of such characteristics of RAM such as the Rational Unitary Actor. In spite of this observation, the general notion about the implications of rationality in the international relations management process is positive especially in the context of the Rational Choice Theory (RCT).

Jervis (2017) has argued that RCT could be considered to be amongst the alternative approaches involving international relations based decision formulation processes. The conventional scholarly perspectives generally observe that cognitive characteristics such as political acumen, personality, experiences, emotions and inherited political ideation affect the predisposition in the minds of

political executives. Such predispositions also influence the particular courses of decisions which ultimately culminate in the final policy . Such psychological factors are directly considered within the structural framework of RCT. From the perspective of Putnam (1993), it could be determined that the previously highlighted element of cognition is considered with extensive significance within the RCT based frameworks since this has been determined to have substantial impact on foreign policy decisions. The methods of information analysis by individuals could be seen as the core essential of the process of cognition. This process involves an integral similarity with that of the rational decision model.

Neack, Hey and Haney (1995) have investigated the concept of Leon Festinger involving the influence of cognitive dissonance regarding the process of decision making from the perspective of actual deliberations associated with the RCT.The concept propounded by Festinger subscribes to the notion that decision making political and administrative executives, in charge of the international relationship management responsibilities of any nation, always tend to deliberately exclude or remove certain information which could be considered to be either contradictory or non-conformatory to the ideas or political objectives harboured by such decision formulators (Morcillo Laiz and Schlichte, 2016). The process of cognition could be associated with making rational choices in this context since the merit of such excluded information does not play any significant role in making such information acceptable to policy formulators. This selective cognition orientation has been further observed by Dunne, Hadfield and Smith (2012) to be the factor which reinforces the initial beliefs of the decision makers whenever they are provided with information which could be contradictory to their perceptions.

This notion of cognitive dissonance has been similarly referred to by Allison and Halperin (1972) in terms of highlighting the biases which could be considered to be innate within foreign policy decision making executives. Such biases generally pertain to the mental schemas, predisposed notions and prejudices which could substantially affect the measure to which assessment of any situation or problem

could be performed to develop the most prudent policy responses. From a critical perspective, the research of Freedman (1976) suggests that a considerable difference exists between objective and subjective realities in terms of the rational choices and cognitive dissonance based influences on the minds of foreign/international policy formulators. This difference emerges through an extensive range of combinations of various factors pertaining to both cognitive and psychological factors and the previously mentioned realities could be found to be contradictory to each other on a frequent basis.

Weldes (1998) has researched about the peculiarities of the bureaucratic politics which influences the UK foreign policy decisions and the associated measure of rationality with such decisions. Such research delineates that, in many of the cases, foreign policy related decisions were arrived at through irrational and deviant peculiarities such as bargaining, conflict and politicking in place of scientific or rational processes. One particular example, which could be highlighted, is the development of strategic operational capabilities in the missile defence sector by the Royal Navy which culminated in the purchase of Polaris submarine forces from the USA. This development had been resisted by the RAF in the context of exerting control over the strategic missile capabilities of the UK. The Royal Air Force had become apprehensive concerning the perceived threat to the sole dominance of the RAF over such missile force as the Navy was about to introduce a parallel system of deployment of such weapons through the Polaris purchase.

The RAF attempts to resist such a purchase did not materialise into success at the end. However, Katzenstein (1976) has outlined that such interference and resistance from the RAF was one of the primary reasons that the Army of UK did not manage to develop such specific systems through a similar trajectory with that of the Navy programmes. This historical development has been determined by Hill (2007) to be the prime example that organisational and bureaucratic interests could often counterpoise the national interests of any nation.

Risse-Kappen (2016), regarding the above mentioned context, stated that by virtue of the numbers of different bureaucratic units which a country, such as the UK, could have, the objectives and aims of these organisations could become at odds with one another. Another factor could become influential regarding such contentions since many of the bureaucratic units are established to be counterbalances to other organisations of similar configuration. To this effect, Knecht and Weatherford (2006) have further evaluated another historical instance related to the UK involving the proposal of anti-ballistic forces deployment. Concerning this proposal, the Budget Bureau had persistently highlighted apprehensions concerning the cost forecasts and the probability of the military budget spiralling to an unmanageable level. However, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the UK Government had been explicitly concerned regarding the impact on the relationships with the allies of UK as well as the former USSR. This instance could be acknowledged to be a definite example of the discord and divergence of interests in between bureaucratic organisations. Such complications prevent them from coming to any effective decision on actual national interest perspectives. The narrow interests of the institutions/organisations achieve precedence in this context over national interest.

In case of the foreign policy based rational approaches, such divergence of interests and the deadlock which emerges as a direct consequence of such bureaucratic impasse and conflict of interests, have the most detrimental effect on the efforts to establish the RAM which emphasises on the selection of the most suitable alternative to ensure the national interest. Thus, the national interest could not be considered to be the bedrock of decision formulation regarding foreign affairs when the element of meaningfulness. This observation could be drawn from the particular realisation that in case of determination of the national and international policies, for every nation, the reaching of any decision pertaining to such policy is incumbent upon an aggregation of multiple interests of different organisations of bureaucratic nature and operations.

Thus, Russett (1994) has expressed the conviction that universally agreed upon and self-evident national interest could not relied upon when it comes to foreign policy determination. However, this could not be an all pervasive opinion since, by the dint of common sense, one could not conclude that parochial bureaucratic interests would always supplant or supersede national interests in matters of foreign affairs. The probability of certain actors attempting to caution against such endeavours from within the bureaucratic organisations of such nature and influence could be substantial enough. However, Mann (2012) has concluded that by virtue of the elemental characteristics of any bureaucratic organisational structure, such prudent attempts and views could be marginalised or sidelined in the process of arriving on any definite conclusion regarding such policies.

Furthermore, Kinne (2005) has outlined that intra-organisational competitive rivalry also influences decision formulation and policy determination as well as implementation measures which could best be acknowledged to be less than ideal in their impact. This notion has been further stressed by Baylis (2020) through the discernment that whenever such actors of conscience take a stand on specific issues pertaining to foreign policy initiatives, the primary negation of such standpoints emerges as a necessity to preserve organisational interests. Such factors are dominant in terms of driving the considerations, debates and negotiations in terms of foreign policy related decisional mechanisms. Such factors also determine the ultimate positions of individuals in terms of resisting or supporting the formulated international relationship management policies and their subsequent implementation.


The considerations and implications of foreign policy formulation processes observed so far could be appraised to have particular measures of rationality from the perspectives of involved bureaucratic organisations. However, whenever these are analysed from a holistic and deductive research perspective, the fact that incoherent and often irrational methods are involved in the formulation of foreign policies and associated decision making processes could be empirically identified. The examined examples have demonstrated that on many occasions, the decisions on foreign policy initiatives are not formulated by singular or unitary actors such as the sovereign states. On the contrary, such decisions are the outcomes of collective modes of bargaining, jostling for influence between multiple units of governance, contestations and negotiations undertaken in between several sub-actors of an overall administrative architecture such as that of a country. Thus, the study brings into focus the realisation that the multiplicity of influences and varying as well as often contrasting interests of involved bureaucracies substantially shape the foreign policy decisions as well as their implementation. Such procedures are not necessary to be acknowledged as rational from the perspective of classical characteristics of reason.

Order Now

Reference List

Alden, C. and Aran, A., 2016. Foreign policy analysis: new approaches. Taylor & Francis.

Alden, C., 2017. Critiques of the rational actor model and foreign policy decision making. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics.

Allison, G.T. and Halperin, M.H., 1972. Bureaucratic politics: A paradigm and some policy implications. World politics, 24(S1), pp.40-79.

Baylis, J., 2020. The globalization of world politics: An introduction to international relations. Oxford University Press.

Carlsnaes, W., 1992. The agency-structure problem in foreign policy analysis. International studies quarterly, 36(3), pp.245-270.

Dunne, T., Hadfield, A. and Smith, S.A. eds., 2012. Foreign Policy: Theories, Actors, Cases. Oxford University Press.

Dyson, S.B., 2006. Personality and foreign policy: Tony Blair's Iraq decisions. Foreign Policy Analysis, 2(3), pp.289-306. Singer, E. and Hudson, V.M., 2020. Political psychology and foreign policy. Routledge.

Frankel, J., 1963. The making of foreign policy: an analysis of decisionmaking. Oxford University Press.

Freedman, L., 1976. Logic, politics and foreign policy processes: a critique of the bureaucratic politics model. International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), 52(3), pp.434-449.

George, A.L., 1969. The" operational code": A neglected approach to the study of political leaders and decision-making. International studies quarterly, 13(2), pp.190-222.

Hill, C., 2003. The changing politics of foreign policy. Palgrave.

Hill, C., 2007. Bringing war home: Foreign policy-making in multicultural societies. International Relations, 21(3), pp.259-283.

Hill, C., 2017. Foreign Policy in Multicultural Societies. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics.

Houghton, D.P., 2007. Reinvigorating the study of foreign policy decision making: Toward a constructivist approach. Foreign policy analysis, 3(1), pp.24-45.

Hudson, V.M., 2005. Foreign policy analysis: Actor-specific theory and the ground of international relations. Foreign policy analysis, pp.1-30.

Janis, I.L., 1982. Groupthink: Psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascoes.

Jensen, L., 1982. Explaining foreign policy. Prentice Hall.

Jervis, R., 2017. Perception and misperception in international politics: New edition. Princeton University Press.

Juetersonke, O., 2006. Politics among nations: The struggle for power and peace.

Kaarbo, J., 2017. Personality and International Politics: Insights from Existing Research and Directions for the Future. European Review of International Studies, 4(2-3), pp.20-38.

Katzenstein, P.J., 1976. International relations and domestic structures: Foreign economic policies of advanced industrial states. International Organization, 30(1), pp.1-45.

Kinne, B.J., 2005. Decision making in autocratic regimes: A poliheuristic perspective. International Studies Perspectives, 6(1), pp.114-128.

Knecht, T. and Weatherford, M.S., 2006. Public opinion and foreign policy: The stages of presidential decision making. International Studies Quarterly, 50(3), pp.705-727.

Li, X., 2013. The Taming of The Red Dragon: The Militarized Worldview and China's Use of Force, 1949–2001. Foreign Policy Analysis, 9(4), pp.387-407.

Mann, M., 2012. The sources of social power: Volume 2, The rise of classes and nation-states, 1760-1914 (Vol. 2). Cambridge University Press.

Moens, A., 2017. The foreign policy of George W. Bush: Values, strategy, and loyalty. Routledge.

Morcillo Laiz, Á. and Schlichte, K., 2016. Rationality and international domination: revisiting Max Weber. International Political Sociology, 10(2), pp.168-184.

Neack, L., Hey, J.A. and Haney, P.J. eds., 1995. Foreign policy analysis: Continuity and change in its second generation. Prentice Hall.

Putnam, R.D., 1993. Diplomacy and Domestic Politics. The logic of theTwo-Level Games. International Organization, 42(3), p.1.s

Risse-Kappen, T., 2016. Democratic 3 peace–warlike democracies?. Domestic Politics and Norm Diffusion in International Relations: Ideas do not float freely, p.55.

Rosenau, J.N., 1980. The scientific study of foreign policy. Frances Pinter:.

Rosenau, J.N., 1984. A pre-theory revisited: World politics in an era of cascading interdependence. International Studies Quarterly, 28(3), pp.245-305.

Russett, B., 1994. Grasping the democratic peace: Principles for a post-Cold War world. Princeton university press.

Singer, E. and Hudson, V.M., 2020. Political psychology and foreign policy. Routledge.

Smith, S., Hadfield, A. and Dunne, T. eds., 2016. Foreign policy: theories, actors, cases. Oxford University Press.

Thomas, D.C., 2009. Explaining the negotiation of EU foreign policy: Normative institutionalism and alternative approaches.

Weldes, J., 1998. Bureaucratic politics: A critical constructivist assessment. Mershon International Studies Review, 42(2), pp.216-225.

Google Review

What Makes Us Unique

  • 24/7 Customer Support
  • 100% Customer Satisfaction
  • No Privacy Violation
  • Quick Services
  • Subject Experts

Research Proposal Samples

It is observed that students take pressure to complete their assignments, so in that case, they seek help from Assignment Help, who provides the best and highest-quality Dissertation Help along with the Thesis Help. All the Assignment Help Samples available are accessible to the students quickly and at a minimal cost. You can place your order and experience amazing services.

DISCLAIMER : The assignment help samples available on website are for review and are representative of the exceptional work provided by our assignment writers. These samples are intended to highlight and demonstrate the high level of proficiency and expertise exhibited by our assignment writers in crafting quality assignments. Feel free to use our assignment samples as a guiding resource to enhance your learning.

Live Chat with Humans
Dissertation Help Writing Service