Explaining Foreign Policy: U.S. Decision-Making and the Persian Gulf War

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9780801878114: Explaining Foreign Policy: U.S. Decision-Making and the Persian Gulf War

Scholars of international relations tend to prefer one model or another in explaining the foreign policy behavior of governments. Steve Yetiv, however, advocates an approach that applies five familiar models: rational actor, cognitive, domestic politics, groupthink, and bureaucratic politics.

Drawing on the widest set of primary sources and interviews with key actors to date, he applies each of these models to the 1990-91 Persian Gulf crisis and to the U.S. decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003. Probing the strengths and shortcomings of each model in explaining how and why the United States decided to proceed with the Persian Gulf War, he shows that all models (with the exception of the government politics model) contribute in some way to our understanding of the event. No one model provides the best explanation, but when all five are used, a fuller and more complete understanding emerges.

In the case of the Gulf War, Yetiv demonstrates the limits of models that presume rational decision-making as well as the crucial importance of using various perspectives. Drawing partly on the Gulf War case, he also develops innovative theories about when groupthink can actually produce a positive outcome and about the conditions under which government politics will likely be avoided. He shows that the best explanations for government behavior ultimately integrate empirical insights yielded from both international and domestic theory, which scholars have often seen as analytically separate. With its use of the Persian Gulf crisis as a teachable case study and coverage of the more recent Iraq war, Explaining Foreign Policy will be of interest to students and scholars of foreign policy, international relations, and related fields.

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About the Author:

Steve A. Yetiv is an associate professor of political science at Old Dominion University.

Review:

Rarely does one find a book that both thoroughly presents a theoretical framework and then actually tests that framework against reality by the vigorous use of history. Steve Yetiv... has done a remarkably good job of balancing both elements in a new study of US decision-making in the first Persian Gulf War... An important and timely contribution.

(Douglas A. Borer Perspectives on Political Science)

He has developed an important approach to analyzing complex foreign policy decision-making.

(Mark N. Katz Comparative Strategy)

Using the Persian Gulf crisis of 1991 as a case study, Steve Yetiv examines how important foreign policy decisions are made. His fresh and interesting contribution brings together competing decision-making theories―rational choice, cognitive, domestic policy, organization, and groupthink―to produce a rich interpretation of the event. It is also novel in considering both U.S. and Iraqi decision-making processes. Intriguing, accessible, and useful, this book will appeal to students, experts, and general readers.

(Richard Herrmann, Director of the Mershon Center at the Ohio State University)

An impressive foreign-policy analysis of US decision-making in the Persian Gulf War... A well-researched and highly readable book.

(Lee Marsden Political Studies Review)

Whether or not Explaining Foreign Policy ultimately takes its place beside Essence of Decision as a seminal work in the field, the book serves the same function in challenging analysts to question conventional models and accommodate complexity in the scholarly study of foreign policy.

(Steven W. Hook Perspectives on Politics)

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