Waltz: International Relations Theory Not Foreign Policy
Telhami/Waltz: Neorealism and Foriegn Policy
Putname: Two-Level Games
Walt: Realtion Between International Relations Theory and Policy
Burgos: An N of 1
Part I: Summary
The main point of the Waltz article is that international relations (IR) theory cannot explain foreign policy (p. 54) because international relations theory must be at the system level and a theory that would explain foreign policy must take into account the state-level concerns of the performance of governments (p. 54-55). Waltz points out that the question when analyzing an IR theory should not be what variables should be excluded from the theory that might affect outcomes, but that what variables should be included in order to make it a true IR theory (P. 56). Waltz re-emphasizes that the point of a theory is to explain, not to predict, and therefore a theory of IR necessarily leaves variables out (p.57).
The Telhami article's main point is that although neorealism has much to say about foreign policy, through its analysis of IR theory, it is not a theory of foreign policy because neorealism doesn't explain the motives of states including the component parts (p.170). Telhami states that insights derived from neorealism provide a framework for further inquiry into foreign policy (p. 159). This is because the goals of security and power (p. 160-161) which are so essential for neorealism theory provide an important insight into state behavior some of the time. However, they don't explain the varied motives of states when they create foreign policy (p.163 -164). This is because if a state were to act in a way other than to pursue security and power, that state wouldn't be acting in accord with the neorealist theory (p.164). Therefore, while neorealist theory is an IR theory, it is not a theory of foreign policy (p.170).
The main point of the Burgos article is that IR theory, specifically relating to war, is too narrow and simple to be of any use to policy makers (p. 555). He states the realism doesn't seem to fit into the Iraq conflict, because the conflict has moral and ethical terms rather than power and security terms (p. 552). Also, IR theory treats was as a "costly lottery," so that states tend not to engage in war (p.552). However, that also does not explain the current state of the world (p. 553). Burgos also points out that the composition of an institution changes the behavior of that institution, and so theories dealing with war need to be able to take into account the composition of the Army (p.553). Lastly, current IR theory, and realism in particular, doesn't deal with the power of symbols and the various types of power (p. 554-555). All of these things are lacking from theories, but are important in practice. Therefore, Burgos states that it makes sense that policy makers, who have to deal with reality, don't pay attention to theory (p. 555).
The main point of the Walt article is that there is a gap between theory and policy because the work being done in the theory world isn't relevant to the policy world (p. 25). However, good theory (p. 26-28) can help policy makers because: (1) it can help them diagnose the problem they are facing (p.29-30); (2) it can help them anticipate events (p.31); (3) it can help them by providing a possible remedy (p.32-33); and (4) theory can provide benchmarks to enable an evaluation of success and failure (p.33-34). Current IR theory is too abstract (p.34) and too varied (p.35) to aid in any of these goals because the academic norms of the discipline prevent IR theorists from linking theory to policy (p.37-38). In order to make theory accessible and relevant to policy makers, the academic norms must change (p.40).
The Putnam article provides a possible framework for analysis of national and international affairs (p.427). The domestic and international affairs are tangled together because the state must be concerned about both (p.431) and therefore an analysis must take both levels into account (p.433). The solution, according to Putnam, is to use game theory to construct a two-level game where the national political leader appears at both boards (p.435) – domestic and international (p.434) and that one board can influence the other (p.434). He splits the game into two levels, bargaining which leads to a tentative agreement (level 1) and ratification (level 2) (p.436). The variable in the game is "win-sets" which are the variety of possibilities that will be agreed to at level 1 and ratified at level 2 (p.437). The variable of win-sets can take into account domestic variables such as public opinion, interest groups, and agencies (p.436) and international factors such as defection and reputation of countries (p.438). This framework accounts for the entanglement between domestic politics and international relations (p.460).
Part II: Analysis
Waltz states that his theory of neorealism is not a theory of foreign policy, nor is it meant to be (p.54). However Telhami seems to spend an extraordinary amount of effort proving that it is not a foreign policy theory (p.163). Telhami looks at the basics of neorealism – power (p. 160-161) and the balancing effects (p. 162) – and discounts them as not accounting for enough of foreign policy behavior to be a theory (p. 163). I think that some bigger concepts are missing in the analysis – namely that it's not a foreign policy theory because it wasn't designed to do anything except explain an international system (Waltz, p.54). Trying to salvage neorealism as a foreign policy theory by ignoring variables and outcomes (Waltz, p.55) or adding variables (Waltz, p.56), creates a new theory and doesn't salvage realism as a foreign policy theory, which it wasn't meant to be.
Rather, a new system for understanding multiple variables must come into play. The two-level game system presented in the Putnam article seems to be a start. It can take into account the variables that the Burgos article identified: morality (p.552), distribution of war-making power among branches of government (p.553), partisanship of the institutions (p.553), symbols (p.554) and different types of power (p.555). Under the two-level game, these variables would expand or contract the win-set by driving the domestic game (Putnam p.434) and shaping international opinion of the country (p.444). However, it seems as if every variable can be taken into account, somewhere, in the two-level game. This makes a theory – or game - bulky, hard to understand, and hard to use.
Walt makes the point that a good theory is logically consistent and empirically valid (p.26), complete, predictive (p.27) and simple (p.28). The simple part is especially important for policy usage because policy makers aren't selected for their jobs on the basis of theoretical knowledge (p.24) and so they need to be able to understand a theory to use it (p. 25). I am not sue that the two-level game is simple enough, or predictive enough, to be of use to a policy maker. It is not a simple concept. It involves many game-theory models that a policy maker might not understand (p.447). It is also not terribly predictive if the information is incomplete. In order to determine if your win-set overlaps with another win-set, you have to have complete knowledge about the other player (p. 460). This is not practical in a policy setting where reality and the short time those decisions must be made within. Therefore, I am not sure that the two-game theory model, while interesting, is the right model for use with policy makers.