Foreign Policy Decision-Making

The concept of democracy and how its influence on the foreign policy decision making has been widely discussed by a number of scholars, policy makers, and commentators, who have fully accepted and embraced democracy, as well as the opponents. This paper gives a summary of benefits of democracy to a country and its people in terms of foreign policy decisions and promotion of international peace throughout other countries. After the definition of democracy and foreign policy, the paper will look at two countries –the United States and China – and compare foreign policy decision making in a democratic and non-democratic country.

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Democracy and Accountability of Foreign Policy Decision-making

A democratic state usually uses public opinion in its policy decisions, which implies that views of all citizens of the country are accounted. Such practice is the case in the United States, wherein the leader cannot make any individual decision concerning the country unless he is authorised by the Senate or Congress representing the people of America. China, on the other hand, is a non-democratic country. Country’s leaders take the decisions in China, and they do not seek the approval of the citizens. In the long term, this has affected China’s international relations with other foreign countries, since the country only takes into account its own interests without counting in the interests of its people. Such arrangement may end up damaging the country’s relationships with other nations in the international society.

Democracy brings many advantages for a country and enables its prosperity in the international society. This is because democratic countries always ally with each other when it comes to foreign policies concerning international trade, economics, and peace agreements. Furthermore, these countries can cooperate with each other more favourable conditions since policy decisions are determined by the majority of people, not only the leaders. This means that people’s opinions determine foreign policy decisions adopted by the leaders of the country. This is the case with the United States, which acts in the people’s interests, contrary to China, which is a non-democratic country.

In countries that practice democracy, state voters have a power to remove government leaders, who are considered unsatisfactory. This is due to the traditional democratic government theory, which assumes policies that are in the best interest to the nation (Kaarbo, 2003: 156). Decision making process in foreign policy has been one of the most complex concepts in recent years. This is because one of the major themes in analysing foreign policy decisions is the ability to distinguish between crisis and non-crisis decisions. Thereby, a crisis is deemed an independent variable.

This essay argues that countries like the United States of America should try to advance ways of democracy promotion as one of its principal foreign policy goals. This is because through the spread of democracy in the country, it would be easier to spread global interests throughout countries that practice democracy. It is extremely difficult for the United States to help other countries start practicing democracy. However, significant international efforts can help make changes in these countries. The main goal of the paper is to offer an answer to the question: “In what ways, if any, does democracy improve the accountability of foreign policy decision-making?”

Arguments for the promotion of democracy are developed in this essay. The paper comprises of three main parts. First, the concepts of democracy and liberalism, which are closely related, are examined in details. It is essential to distinguish between government’s democratic procedures and political liberalism philosophy, as well as explain links and differences between them. Further, the main arguments concerning the reasons to spread democracy in other countries are considered. The paper also analyses how spread of democracy would benefit all citizens of the states, which are still adopting democracy. This section provides evidence, which shows that democracy is crucial for improving the accountability of foreign policy decision-making. The section also discusses freedoms that an individual has, i.e., freedom from political oppression, protection against hunger and deadly violence. In this section, the importance of democracy in democratic countries is pinpointed. The section also discusses how democracy promotes international stability and peace and whether it ensures prosperity and security in the United States of America. Finally, it discusses arguments, which emphasize the importance of democracy in foreign policy decision making in democratic countries.

International Relations Theories and the Public Opinion

Realism emphasizes that necessity, survival, and power are paramount in international relations. The international system is usually an unstable sphere and, in most cases, is characterised by a number of uncertainties. Apart from internal forces, which are considered the main foreign policy determinants, state behaviour is also examined with the view of its external background. Democracy helps in the accountability of foreign policy decision making. This is because a democratic state emphasises and promotes public opinion in its decision making process and pursues the best interest of people.

According to scholars of international relations, core elements of democracy can be used to help explain the absenteeism in militarized encounters between democratized states and resolve domestic interest conflicts. It is only at the domestic level where citizens of a country can rely on courts and legislatures in resolving interpersonal disputes. This is different for disputes concerning political power, whereas democratic political elites resolve conflicts by reaching mutual understanding. For example, in democracies foreign policy strategies are less coercive in nature than in countries, which are not democratic (Rhodes, 1994: 14). Therefore, a democratic culture can often help in the creation of an unexpected mutual respect and furnish a non-violent resolution of a conflict.

Foreign Policy

Foreign policy includes all the scope of external relations, which are conducted in the international area by a state. Foreign policy of a country, which is also called the international relations policy of the country, is made up of strategies, which are conceived and chosen by policy makers of the country to safeguard its national interests. It can enable the country to achieve its international relations goals. Factors, which influence foreign policy in countries, differ from one state to another since they are mainly determined by the political system of the country (Cavert, 1986: 72). This is because in a democratic country like the United States public opinion is an extremely fundamental aspect in the decision making process; while a socialist country like China does not consider public opinions when making its foreign policy decisions. This makes the country take harsh decisions, which are not always serving the best interest of people of China.

Foreign policy expands not only to military action, but also humanitarian and trade interactions, which make the role of government in foreign policy decision making extremely powerful. It can depend on the political system of the state, whereby the factors, which affect this decision making process, vary from one country to the other. Democratic countries, like the United States, count in the opinion of its citizens, and this factor plays a crucial role as far as the decision-making processes in concerned, in the country. Non-democratic countries like China, which is a socialist state, usually make decisions that do not elicit consensus among the public and, in most cases, feature a long-term national agenda.

The Domestic Political Environment and Foreign Policy

Political environment in any country includes all the variety of country’s laws, government agencies, and all lobbying groups, which influence decisions in the country. My argument in this case is that foreign policy decisions are influenced by a domestic political environment. This essay examines the impact of the political environment on the decision making process by the leaders of a country taking into consideration political systems in two countries: the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China. United States is a democratic country and China is a non-democratic state with a socialist government at power. This paper analyses factors like power, which have been vested with government leaders of these countries, the impact of interest groups, and foreign decision- making process in each country. No country can isolate itself entirely from the international society. This explains why countries need to make foreign policy decisions on a regular basis.

National leaders who are the heads of government in a country often play a pivotal role in domestic and international politics. Political system is strongly believed to determine the power of government leaders when it comes to foreign policy decision making. This is because the political system can be described as a range of categories, including democracy, which is the rule by the majority of the population, and the republic, which is the rule by law. In a democratic country, leaders cannot make any decisions without the majority of people supporting the idea. This is the case in the USA. On the other hand, law governs republics like China, where the leader of the country is entitled to make any foreign policy decisions without having to consult with the public opinion. This practice is considered particularly harsh because of its impact on citizens.

Democracy and Liberalism

Democracy is a representation of people in a country where each citizen has a right to participate in a government system. In most cases, the majority of the population practices it through the election of the people’s representatives. Democratic government is the system, which is usually based on the principle of the majority in the decision-making. Democracy is a set of political procedures, which usually involves competition, participation, and liberalism, i.e., the political philosophy purely based on an individual freedom.

Foreign policy includes all of the nation’s interactions with other nations. In the 21st century in the wake of the globalization process, it has become indispensable for independent states to consider the implications of globalization, its effect on the foreign policy of each nation, and the depth of the effect. Foreign policy is usually not limited to a certain social science school. Foreign policy is crucial in international relations since it guides interactions among different states.

In this case, a democratic country has to have policy makers who are responsible for the decision-making processes in the country. Democracy in a country helps serve the country’s interests. Promotion of democracy can enhance the bonds of the international relations. This means that a country like the United States will have the indirect stake, since all developments happening overseas will have consequences that are usually predictable for the United States. In this case, I would argue that there is the need that the United States considers spreading democracy throughout non-democratic nations. This will be for the interest of the individual country, and it can improve foreign policy decision-making.

Democracy promotes individual liberty, freedom of conscience, freedom of private property ownership, and also freedom of expression. Freedom of liberty is a democratic feature which is usually based on electoral competition. This, in turn, involves freedom of expression, whereby voters have the freedom to voice their own political views and state what they want from the electoral process.

Liberal democracy, which is commonly called constitutional democracy, is a representative form of democracy. According to the general principles of liberal democracy, all elections in a country should be fair, and the process should be competitive and encourage political pluralism, which is the presence of a number of political processes. Liberal democracy, in most cases, is used to describe political philosophy and principles of the United States of America. This is because liberalism is the social status quo which is used to foster the development of the individual well-being.

Liberal democratic countries are not likely to use violence of any form against their own citizens. Democratic countries also would not support any terrorist acts or other criminal activities against fellow democratic nations. For example, the United States would have fewer enemies if the number of democratic countries increased. Democratic countries are unlikely to collide with each other through militarized disputes and other crises. It shows that there would be promotion of national security in democratized states, since all military threats would be eliminated. If countries like China and Russia had stable democracies, the world security would enhance, and the cases of terrorism and other criminal activities would decrease. This will generate a peaceful environment in these countries and allow for making foreign policy decisions without any disruptions.

Democracy emphasizes that policy makers of a country should be able to reflect informed decisions and opinions of all citizens of the country. Public opinion often reflects all views of the citizens and is expressed through voting, whereby the opinion of the majority is adopted. This is a principle practice in the policy of the United States of America and other countries which are democratic (Dixon, 2000: 101). Policymakers may not take into account the differences which exist between leaders’ and citizens’ opinions, because some of the citizens in these democratic states may have the opinions which are uninformed. The Congress of the United States has, on a majority of occasions, ignored the polls and then responded to the public majority, which allowed the US political system carry out an effective foreign policy.

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