Foreign policy and diplomacy

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A strategic approach to foreign policy analysis

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Aims and scope: 

This course presents the strategic approach to the study of foreign policy and diplomacy. The course provides a comprehensive review of important tools and fundamentals of foreign policy anaysis, such as rational choice and game theory, conflict and war, co-operation and trade, development and democratisation. The course is divided in three parts. The first part of the course lays the foundations, offering highly accessible coverage of key concepts, introducing students to different ways to think about the national interest and showing them how to use the strategic perspective to better understand what happens in all aspects of foreign policy. Also covered is a basic, intuitive introduction to game theory and other evidence- and logic-based tools for analyzing international relations. The next topic focuses on war, and provides a more thorough evaluation of how domestic political incentives and the domestic institutions of governance shape choices about conflict initiation, escalation, and termination. This is followed by a topic focusing on peace, which builds on the logic of collective action to help students see why it is so difficult to get national governments to do what is right even when they can agree on what is right, with an evaluation of the effectiveness of international organizations and international law in areas such as the environment, human rights, or trade.

The second part of the course focuses on foreign policy instruments, with four topics that analise military, economic, diplomatic, and propaganda instruments, respectively. The topic about military instruments deals with important issues such as the electoral effect of wars, the role of the military industry, the selection of military targets, and military alliances. The topic about economic instruments deals with trade conflicts, trade agreements, development aid, and economic sanctions. The next topic focuses on the general importance of information and communication for foreign policy. This is followed by specific topics on diplomacy and propaganda. Finaly, the third part focuses on contemporary issues in foreign policy, and applies the tools and concepts presented in the first and second parts of the course to highly relevant cases of contemporary foreign policy. The particular case studies analised vary from year to year depending on current international affairs, but can include issues such as Brexit, the US-China trade war, the EU-Mercosur trade deal, the Covid pandemic recovery, the EU and US migration crises, or global warming.

This course consists of a combination of weekly lectures, seminars, and written exercises. By working on contemporary cases, students learn how to research an analyse an issue and present and discuss their findings with their classmates. They also get familiar with peer review by exchanging critical feedback with their colleagues on their respective contributions to these weekly exercises. The student assessment is continuous on the basis of participation in the lectures, seminars and written exercises.
1. Overview of the course. Course structure and organisation. Basic requirements and assessment methods. TOOLS AND FUNDAMENTALS FOR FOREIGN POLICY ANALYSIS: 2. Evaluating arguments about international politics. The scientific method in foreign policy analysis. The ideal experiment. 3. The strategic perspective: when foreign policy collides with domestic politics. Is there a national interest? Introduction to selectorate theory. The importance of targeting leaders in foreign policy. 4. Tools for analyzing foreign policy. An introduction to game theory. Negotiation basics: dimensions of conflict and co-operation. Incomplete and imperfect information. Beliefs and focal points. 5. Why war: the big picture. Domestic theories of war. 6. Why do international organisations work, or don't work? Why is international co-operation so difficult? Global warming. Human rights. Free trade or fair. FOREIGN POLICY INSTRUMENTS: 7. Military instruments. Military actions and public opinion. The military-industrial complex. Military targeting. Military alliances. 8. Economic instruments. Trade agreements. Development aid. Economic sanctions. Why is is difficult to find and keep allies for economic sanctions? Do economic sanctions work? 9. Why diplomacy? Transaction costs and rational ignorance. Diplomacy as two-way strategic communication. 10. Diplomacy: communicating with foreign leaders. Reducing transaction costs for avoiding war and fostering co-operation. 11. Propaganda: communicating with foreign leaders (potential) supporters. CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN FOREIGN POLICY AND DIPLOMACY: 12. Case study number one. 13. Case study number two. 14. Closing lecture.
Indicative reading: 

Bueno de Mesquita, B. (2013). Principles of international politics (5th edition). CQ Press; Morrow, J. D. (1994). Game theory for political scientists. Princeton University Press; Alden, C., & Aran, A. (2017). Foreign policy analysis: new approaches, 2nd ed. Routledge; Bayne, N., & Woolcock, S. (eds.) (2017). The new economic diplomacy: decision-making and negotiation in international economic relations, 4th ed. Routledge; Hudson, V.M. (2019). Foreign policy analysis; classic and contemporary theory. Rowman & Littlefield; Morin, J.F. & Paquin, J. (2018). Foreign Policy Analysis: A Toolbox. Springer; Smith, Steve, Hadfield, A. & Dunne, T. (eds.). (2016). Foreign policy: theory, actors, cases. Oxford University Press.

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