What is Foreign Policy and Why is it Important?
Foreign policy is a subject many people have heard of but few pay close attention to. With the upcoming election many are arguing the United States’ stance with other nations has been too soft or that we need to get so-called better deals with them. Yet many of these voices are informed by small news segments that simply report notable current events. The problem is that they often fail to explain why governments may take certain stances or how that affects the daily lives of the citizens. Although knowing global current events may be enough for many, the prevailing sense of apathy for the international realm is what divides the population into two groups: those who can utilize and prosper from this unprecedented era of globalization and those who are simply subjected to its effects.
So then what is foreign policy and how do we begin to understand it? Put simply, it is how governments set and pursue their national interests in the international arena – material or idealogical. This can be over such matters as energy, food security, or even the importance of the rule of law. So then how do we begin to analyze foreign policy and understand how and why governments take certain policy courses? Crediting the government with every great or poor decision is too easy and largely inaccurate. The first step then is looking through different levels of analysis — perspectives that help us understand the motivations behind particular actors. We start with the individual, single characters who exert great power or influence but are largely governed by their personal operational code and own anecdotal histories. Next is the domestic level, a broader category involving the government and all those they are held accountable to — constituents in democracies and elites in oligarchies. Third is the system, the general set of norms and institutions used to operate in as consistent manner as possible to create a sense of trust and predictability like international law and the UN. Finally, the global level, whereby matters supersede any one group of nations’ interests due to their global nature (e.g. pandemics). Only by starting with these four basic levels can we begin to understand such complex events as last year’s controversial US-Iran Nuclear Deal…
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