Foreign policy analysis (FPA) is a subfield of the IR theory. As with IR, FPA is about understanding the input and output of state behaviour with the ambition of finding explanations or even making predictions of how states will act on the international scene, taking in aspects of underlying motives that have/could influence the behaviour of states. (Smith, Hadfield and Dunne, 2016:4-5). FPA is about policy making and unit behaviour involved in interstate relations. According to a definition given by Christoper Hill, foreign policy is “the sum of official external relations conducted by an independent actor (usually a state) in international relations”. (Hill 2003:3 see Smith, Hadfield and Dunne, 2016:3). FPA is in this way about the analysis of the behaviour and practice of relationship between various actors in the international system, with a great focus on the process and the actors’ motivations. It is about scrutiny of the process, the structure of decision making, the environment and context which foreign policy is formulated within, and with a focus on the actors’ motivations and behaviour. (Alden and Aran, 2017:3).
Despite decades of globalisation and increasing interdependence, the state-unit is even more central than ever due to the ever-increasing range of policy-making which has made the practice of statecraft more complicated, with more actors involved. FPA considers that there are more actors, other than the state, that are involved in policy making and decision making of states, giving way for an understanding that the behaviour of international and domestic actors have effect on the foreign policies. However, even though states find themselves in a context in which their actions are deeply affected by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other interests on the political agenda, the state is still the central foreign policy actor in the theory of FPA. Nevertheless, special attention is required to look at the role of individuals and groups in terms of winners and losers of foreign policy decisions. (Smith, Hadfield and Dunne, 2016:3, 6).
The development of the first generation of FPA-theory with work from 1954 to 1973 was built up around three paradigmatic works. Firstly, the work of Richard Snyder in the 1950s, with emphasis on the process of decision making as central, which inspired researchers to look below the nation-state level of analysis of the actors involved. Secondly, the work of James Rosenau who in the 1960s developed an actor-specific theory that would lead to the development of generalisable propositions at the level of middle range-theory. Thirdly, the work of Harold and Margaret Sprout in the 1950s that put focus on the psychological aspects of foreign policy and the psycho-milieu of individuals and groups making foreign policy decisions, i.e. the international and operational context as it is perceived and interpreted by these decision makers. (Hudson, 2016:13-17). The work of the Sprouts posed an explicit challenge to the dominance of the realist assumptions in the field of IR at that time, and switched focus from the outcomes of foreign policy decision making to the process and to investigate the role of individual decision makers and their influence on foreign policy decision making. In this way the Sprouts introduced a behaviouristic approach into the field of FPA. (Alden and Aran, 2017:6).
The second generation of FPA, with work from 1974 to 1993 put focus on small-group decision making, which refers to the process and structure of foreign policy making by groups and how group thinking makes influence. Focus was also on the organisational process and on bureaucratic politics, as well as on comparative foreign policy. This second generation of FPA also gave increased attention to psychological influences on foreign policy decision making, which put considerations on the mind of the decision makers and the individual characteristics that could affect how decision are made. Another area that was put in focus was the societal milieu and context affecting the decision making such as national characteristics, geography, economics culture, history, etc. as well as the type of regime the state belongs to. (Hudson, 2016:18-19). An effect of the globalising world was the establishment of a pluralist approach on foreign policy. The pluralists see an increased linkage between a variety of state actors, sub-state actors, and non-state actors, which are all influencing the foreign policy decision making process. The pluralist approach sees the transnational context as a mixed-actor setting, where the state and non-state actors either coexist or compete. This pluralist context of multifaceted interdependency reduces the extent of state action in foreign policy making, to that of management of a variety of forces, both within the domestic domain, and outside the domain of the state. (Alden and Aran, 2017:9). The ending of the Cold War gave a further commitment to look below the nation-state level of analysis to actor specific information and to utilise theory and findings from across the spectrum of social science in the course of finding multi causal explanations for analysis. (Hudson, 2016:30).
In this way, FPA moves around in the boundaries between the internal and the external spheres of the state. Examining the internal and international environments, collecting information on active actors and groups situated both on the inside and outside of the state boundaries. FPA is about how both domestic and international politics affect the foreign policies, how interests of both domestic and international groupings make influence. (Carlsnaes, 2016:113). The ambition in FPA is to find answers to what foreign policy decision makers are thinking and doing. To find such answers FPA must consist of analysis of the purposive behaviour. Furthermore, the context and dynamic process of decision making on foreign policies on behalf of the state need to be examined. It is the process as a whole that needs to be scrutinised and analysed. (Carlsnaes, 2016:116).
States in FPA are not to be considered as unitary actors as in the traditional view of realism. Instead states shall be seen as consisting of institutional structures, with individual decision makers who act on behalf of the state. FPA is in this way explicitly actor-specific, with specific individual decision makers. The appropriate approach to examine what roles individual actors and structures play is to use the framework of level of analysis. This is done by analysing the causal effects on decision-making process of actors and structures at one level at a time, at the individual level, the state level, and the international level, as well as at group decision making level which include cultural and national identity factors. Through this we get actors dominating the lower levels of analysis such as the individual- and group decision level while structure has more influence at the more general and abstract levels such as the state-, international-, and cultural levels. (Carlsnaes, 2016:117).
Depending on using a structural perspective or a actor-based perspective there are different approaches to use. From a structural perspective we have the various strands of realism. The realist approach gives a structural orientation due to its central core in the notion of state power with the state as the main player. The capability of the state in the realist view is determined by material factors. In the view of neoliberal institutionalism, the state is a main player in the international system and is acting in an egoistic value-maximizing way, in an international system that is fundamentally anarchic. The neoliberal institutionalists see the institutions as a decisive factor for successful behaviour of states and its international politics. At the structural perspective we also have the social constructivist approach with its fundamental assumption that reality is socially constructed, i.e. how we perceive the world and ourselves as well as how we behave are constructions formed by social rules and inter-subjected meanings that affect our knowledge. The social constructionism consists of a normative and ideational strand, taking impact from the social structures emerging from the purposive behaviour of actors in specific communities. The constructionists’ opinions about suitable state behaviour have great influence on the nature and functioning of world politics. (Carlsnaes, 2016:119-121).
From an actor-based perspective we have the cognitive and psychological approach, which does not really see the individuals as rational beings. The assumption is instead that individuals are to a considerable degree driven by their under