Saturday, April 29, 2006

Foreign Policy Conception: A Strategic Thinking

By Perry PADA

I assume that strategic thinking is one of the most difficult areas in the International Relations. This is because of the obscure understanding of the strategic thinking conception itself and also because there is little study of this area. Strategic thinking can be focused on military aspects, which covered some issues like military doctrine, military science, or strategy. Anatol Rapport in “critique of strategic thinking” does not give a clear understanding of the concept of strategic thinking. According to Rapport, Strategic thinking is a variant of rational thinking and he also argued that strategic thinking usually can be seen as a theory of rational decision making through game theory calculation.

For the purpose of this study, the concept of strategic thinking, as the main concept, can be interpreted as “the ability and methodology of a nation to control its international environment’s aspects”. With this definition, strategic thinking not only encompasses ideas and values as the result of the interaction of history, ideology and culture of a nation, but it also entails a formulation concerning its relevancy toward strategy, doctrine, policy and action.

Through the above loose concept of strategic thinking, the analytical framework used by this study can be divided into four segments. They are : (1) Identification of “World view “ and definition of situation (2) formulation of national strategy (3) strategic doctrine and security policy and (4) military policy.

As a concept world view means specifically a nation ’s image of the universe and its role in it , its recorded history and recollection of past experience , its long range goals or sense of purpose , and whatever values and beliefs it hold about human relations. According to Robert North this world view is significantly determined by the aspects of their history, culture, ideology, and special principles and objectives.In other words, we also can interpret this image as a “belief system“. In the work of Herman there are 4 (four) personal characteristics relate to foreign policy making. Namely beliefs, motives, decision style, and interpersonal style. In the context of the study foreign policy, “belief” represents the leader’s fundamental assumptions about the world or his international environment. Such belief can be very general, as, for example, a political leader’s notions about his ability to control events in his life, or they can be more specific, as, for example, political leader’s notions about their ability to shape political events of his nation.

Image obtained from a world view may serve as (1) a lens through which we view the outside world or reality, and also as a filter through which the message from the outside world is processed -that is, accepted or rejected with or without modification. (2). a scale of evaluation whereby policy makers interpret the meaning of the message received. (3). to prescribe a proper line of action to be followed based on (1) and (2). In short, it performs cognitive, evaluative and receptive functions. Thus, every nation has an image of its friends and its foes. Every nation has an image of the outside world or the international system; this is called its definition situation. Every nation has an image of how world affairs should be managed and what issues should take precedence. To understand and explain why a nation behaves the way it often does , therefore, we need to take a close look at that nation’s image of itself and of the world that we called world view.

The world view will lead a nation to determine three things, namely: 1. recognition of a stimulus, 2. a perception of the need and 3. Definition of situation. According to Brady these three things have to occur before situation exists for foreign policy decision makers. When a stimulus is perceived to precipitate a problem, there is an occasion for decision. Interpretation of the problem involves the decision maker in ascertaining a definition of the situation.

The definition of situation is on how a nation makes a projection of the international system. Hence it is a process in which a nation interprets events and problems. The problems are placed into certain categories and select the most important problems to respond to. In order to analyze the definition of situation, we may concentrate on how decision makers seek out a description of the problem or stimulus and put in perspective. In general, decision makers will tend to seek the sources of problems. Thus, the definition situation becomes a conceptual structure which premises the formulation of foreign policy.

At the level of the formulation of foreign policy, the decision maker must (1) select the purpose to be achieved, (2) mobilize the resources which will be used to achieve the goal and (3) the policy implementation.

A Security policy can be assumed as a part of foreign policy of a nation. The purpose of the policy is to create a condition of national politics and international which can protect the national goal. The security policy has three dimensions, they are: economic policy, military policy and diplomatic policy. Economic policy focuses on resources allocation within the society and economic relationships with other nations.

The military security consist of policies related to armed force, and how a nation use this force and the diplomatic policy focus on diplomatic relationship among nations.

Nation, at the certain point, will have a characteristic along with the different history, culture, and ideology among nations.

Therefore, as mentioned earlier the study of strategic thinking is difficult because of the range of aspects contributed to it. However, one can start understanding the underlying of strategic thinking from historical and cultural aspects, because I believe, in some extend, through this starting point, we are able to analyze what the underlying belief and values are which lead decision makers to formulate a certain policy


1. George Tan Eng Bok, “Strategic Doctrine” in Geral Segald and William T.Tow, ed., Chinese Defense Policy (London:MacMillan,1984),p.3-17.

2 . Anatol Rapport, “Critique of Strategic Thinking,” in Naomi Resenbaum,ed., Readings on the International Political System (New Jersey;Prantice Hall,1970),201-228.

3. Robert C.North, The Foreign Relations of China (Massachusetts; Duxburry Press,1978),p.7

4. Margaret G.Herman In Maurice A, East ,et.all, “Why Nation Acts:Theoritical Perspective for comparative Foreign Policy Studies (Baverly Hills:Sage Publication,1978),p.59.

5. Samuel S.Kim, China, the United Nations, and World Order (New Jersey:Princeton University Press, 1979).P.13-14.

6. See, Linda P. Brady,?The situation and Foreign Policy in East, etall, “Why Nations Act”, p.175-176.

7. See, Howard H. Tanter, Foreign Policy Analysis: A Comperative and Conceptual Approach (Columbus: Charles A. Merill, 1974),p.3.

8. See for example, Daniel J. Kaufmann et.all., US National Security (Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books, 1985),p.4.

No comments: