Decision Making in U.S. Foreign Policy

Foreign-policy making is not always responsive, in which the process of finding solutions responds to the problems that arise. Rather, it can be proactive, in which solutions are devised first, to which new problems are attached in an effort to catapult these solutions onto the government decision agenda. This study argues that in the case of the decision to take military action against Iraq in 2003, conventional foreign-policy models, which subscribe to the responsive approach, do not reveal all aspects of the decision-making process. In this case the concept of “preexisting solutions” as devised by Kingdon’s multiple streams model (a conventional domestic-policy model) played a crucial role and rendered the process proactive. Applying this model suggests that a group of policy entrepreneurs had a preexisting solution (military action in Iraq) coupled with a problem that turned into a focusing event (9/11) and a receptive political climate, all of which landed the solution on the decision agenda. This information is crucial in attempting to better understand this case.This study compares the multiple streams model to four conventional models in foreign-policy analysis in an effort to test its viability in this arena. To reconcile the application of several analytical models simultaneously this study utilizes an integrated approach assuming that case studies may have multiple explanations at the same time, which when presented together provide a better understanding of the case. The findings indicate that the multiple streams model provides an analytical approach that is not provided by other conventional foreign-policy models, and that such an approach proves to be necessary to the understanding of the case. This indicates that Kingdon’s model is viable as a theoretical and explanatory model in this arena.

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