Decision Making - Conclusion

The decision-making approaches and theories associated with the subfield of foreign policy analysis are unique in international relations for their attention to the specific human agents behind every foreign policy choice. Rather than agent-general deductive systems, such as found in game theory, a more detailed and particularistic account of human agency is sought. In addition to this agential focus, a decision-making approach mandates that information from multiple levels of analysis be collected and synthesized in a parallel fashion as the actual decision makers collect and synthesize such information. FPA thus becomes a profoundly integrative theoretical enterprise as well.

This type of approach is noteworthy for its potential not only to integrate disparate variables from distinct levels of analysis but also to integrate currently disconnected domains of human knowledge and activity concerning international affairs. Two notable examples are the disconnect between international relations and comparative politics within the discipline of political science, and the disconnect between international relations and comparative politics as found in the academy on the one hand and the foreign policymaking establishment of the government on the other.

Decision-making approaches and foreign policy analysis can provide some needed connections here. By integrating variables at the supernational and national levels of analysis (the traditional purview of international relations) with variables at subnational levels of analysis (the traditional realm of comparative politics), FPA provides theoretical and empirical linkages that demonstrate how each subfield could usefully inform the other. By emphasizing the decision maker and the decision-making process, by exploring the agency inherent in foreign policy making, by pointing out useful lessons from the study of past foreign policy decision making's successes and failures, FPA has the potential to render the knowledge of the academy useful to real practitioners. Given the immense destructive power that can be unleashed at the international level, it is surely incumbent upon the academy to "bridge the gap" and offer its best insights as a contribution to the peace and safety of the world.

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