The Behavioral Approach to Diplomatic History - Some behavioral findings




Turning to the third possible sector in which the behavioral science approach might enhance our comprehension of diplomatic history, let us consider briefly some of the findings that emerge from these disciplines. By findings, we mean either existential or correlational propositions that seem to enjoy some standing in their home disciplines, and on the basis of which explanatory theories might be articulated.

One can hardly exaggerate the importance of these findings for diplomatic historians, and, of course, for practitioners. That is, those interested in foreign policy rest many of their interpretations, analyses, and predictions on behavioral science propositions that may or may not be accurate. First, they often extrapolate from the individual to the group or national level of aggregation, assuming that what holds for the individual will also hold for the collectivity. This is for purposes of speculation and hypothesis only. That is, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it is probably economical to assume that if, for example, individuals tend to be more cooperative in the face of reward rather than in the face of punishment, so will corporations or nations.

On the other hand, there are some fundamental differences between individuals and collectivities. The primary difference, of course, is that individuals (or, more precisely, rational, intelligent, and informed ones) can be thought of as purposive, problem-solving entities, trying to maximize their particular values. Collectivities, on the other hand, exactly because they are made up of such individuals—each pursuing a mix of private and public goals—cannot be so conceived. The group or organization will, almost inevitably, pursue a range of goals reflecting a compromise and amalgam of the often incompatible goals of its more powerful individuals and subgroups. Thus, it is essential to be sufficiently familiar with the findings of such microsocial disciplines as psychology and the macrosocial ones of economics, sociology, and political science and to know something of the discontinuities between the individual and the collective levels of aggregation. The second way in which we rest analyses and predictions on behavioral science findings is more direct, with many models depending heavily upon the accuracy of assumptions about individual and collective behavior. This dependence is quite heavy, whether the focus is upon public opinion, elite recruitment, executive-legislative relationships, bureaucratic responsibility for policy execution, or the decision process itself. In each of these areas of activity, individuals and groups—with considerable propensities toward regular and consistent behavior—are playing key roles, and to the extent that there is an unawareness of the findings that reflect those regularities and consistencies, the accuracy and completeness of analyses is seriously limited.

Rather than select some limited number of existential and correlational propositions from the behavioral sciences and summarize the evidence in support or contravention, we can turn for a large number of these findings to the general source International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (Sills, 1979, which replaced the 1930–1935 and 1967 editions). Each section of the encyclopedia is written by a leading authority, and virtually all topics in the field are covered. Embracing nearly a dozen disciplines, however, rather than only part of one, it runs to sixteen volumes plus an index.

In the Encyclopedia , one finds summaries of the existential and correlational knowledge on such concepts as acculturation, aggression, anxiety, avoidance, business cycles, charisma, coalition formation, cognitive dissonance, mass communication, cybernetics, conformity, conditioning, conflict, cultural diffusion, decision making, defense mechanisms, demography, deviant behavior, diplomacy, disarmament, dominance, dreams, ecology, economic equilibrium, elites, ethnology, ethology, evolution, family structure, fatigue, fertility, forgetting, frustration, geopolitics, gestalt, motivation, homeostasis, identity, ideology, imperialism, income distribution, influence, inflation, interest groups, interpersonal interaction, kinship, land tenure, language, leadership, learning, legitimacy, loyalty, migration, social mobility, monopoly, norms, national character, neurosis, oligopoly, pacifism, paranoid reactions, perception (ten separate articles), personality, persuasion, pluralism, prejudice, prestige, propaganda, psychoanalysis, public opinion, punishment, race relations, reciprocity, reference groups, response set, roles, sanctions, self-image, sex differences, social stratification, stereotypes, stress, sympathy and empathy, thinking, traits, utilitarianism, utility, voluntary associations, voting, wages, war, and worship. (One also finds in the encyclopedia articles on such methodological matters as content analysis, contingency table analysis, curve-fitting, experimental design, multivariate analysis, statistical distributions, factor analysis, field work, forecasting, game theory, historiography, hypothesis testing, index construction, statistical inference, Markov chains, observation, panel studies, probability, rank correlation, scaling, simulation, spectral analysis, statistical inference, survey analysis, time series, typologies, and validity.)

Another very general source, although seriously outdated, is Human Behavior: An Inventory of Scientific Findings (Berelson and Steiner, 1964). After discussing the six most frequently cited procedures for generating the findings they report, the compilers go on to summarize what they consider to be the more interesting propositions to have emerged from research in the behavioral sciences. The substantive topics covered are behavioral development (meaning biological, emotional, and cognitive change as individuals mature); perceiving; learning and thinking; motivation; the family; small face-to-face groups; organizations; institutions; social stratification; ethnic relations; mass communications; opinions, attitudes, and beliefs; the society; and culture.

There are also collections of articles, summarizing the correlational and explanatory knowledge in the specific disciplines or problem areas. Among the more relevant are: Handbook of Developmental Psychology (Wolman, 1982); Handbook of Personality Theory and Research (Pervin, 1999); Handbook of Psychiatry (Solomon and Patch, 1974); Small Group Research: A Handbook (Hare, 1994); Handbook of Social Psychology (Gilbert, Fiske, and Lindzey, 1998); World Handbook of Political and Social Indicators (Taylor and Jodice, 1983).

There are two other—if dated—anthologies that not only summarize a good many concepts and findings from these related disciplines, but select and organize the articles on the basis of their applicability to specific topics in international affairs— Man and International Relations (Zawodny, 1966) and Human Behavior and International Politics (Singer, 1965).

Two collections that bring together the findings of research in foreign policy and international politics are Beyond Conjecture in International Politics: Abstracts of Data-Based Research (Jones and Singer, 1972) and Empirical Knowledge on World Politics (Gibbs and Singer, 1993). In these, the compilers attend only to published articles in English that generate, or rest upon, reproducible evidence. No effort is made to interpret, integrate, or evaluate the 300 or so studies that are covered, but they are very systematically arranged. Further, each is abstracted in accordance with a checklist that includes the following: query, spatial-temporal domain, outcome variable, predictor variable(s), data sources, data-making operations, data preparation and manipulation, data analysis procedure, findings, and related research. In addition, there is a recent compilation that brings together the ideas and research findings of both the behavioral scientists and the diplomatic historians in the very useful three-volume collection Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict (Kurtz, 1999).

When the first edition of the Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy was published in 1978, the behavioral movement was just getting under way in the foreign policy and world politics fields. There were relatively few data-based findings to report. Since then, the number of scholars working in the behavioral science mode has risen from a mere dozen or so to about two hundred worldwide; these scholars have written perhaps four hundred articles and books, almost exclusively in English and largely designed to help account for war. Most of these have been summarized, and modestly integrated, in Nations at War: A Scientific Study of International Conflict by Daniel S. Geller and J. David Singer (1998).

World War I and the Iraq-Iran War of 1980– 1988 are two examples to be used to ascertain and illustrate the extent to which such examples conform to the patterns that emerge from the many studies that have looked at the effects of only two or three variables at a time across many historical cases since 1916. In the case of the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1990), there are the following specific instances of the more general patterns found in the larger literature: geographical contiguity, the absence of joint democratic regimes, the absence of joint advanced economies, a rapid shift in the joint relative capabilities, and, finally, the existence of an enduring rivalry characterized by seventeen militarized disputes during the half century run-up to war. Similarly, the case of World War I is marked by quite a few of the more general statistical findings: major powers on both sides, contiguity, shifting capabilities and an unstable balance, highly autocratic regimes on both sides, and, again, the longstanding rivalries.

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