Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Intermestic Affairs: A Theoretical Approach

By Perry Pada


Although it remains a debatable argument, it is essential to offer a series of assumptions resulting from global phenomenon such as – the internationalizing of domestic issues which blurs the distinction between domestic and international affairs; the consolidating process of democratization erodes government’s authority while strengthening the principles of governance; the emerging significant role of non-state actors, including mafia and terrorists, and their world-wide networking in reshaping public affairs and attitudes to foreign relations; the growing presence and involvement of ‘foreign institutions’ within the regional domain creating a new track of foreign relations within the provincial level-- all of these in the broadest sense, unless responded to carefully and managed properly, will erode government’s role as the (key) player of governance. To this end, it is then obvious that domestic and international phenomenon is dynamically interactive.

Conceiving that above phenomenon as a series of problems identified in the field of foreign affairs, hence, Indonesia’s foreign affairs approaches indeed require adjustments. This paper puts forward two basic arguments to be considered. First, the era of good governance demands foreign policy should be based upon as wide of a consensus as possible. This means that diplomacy will be effective if only backed by significant sectors of society in its broadest meaning, while retaining for government the role of key player. Hence, it is important to create potential constituencies and social networks associated with specific issues. Second, the working of foreign relations should reflect the dynamic domestic needs and preferences of the nation. Therefore the ability to comprehend the important link between domestic issues and international affairs is very important in order to generate compatible policy and effective diplomacy particularly in this age of globalization. Making domestic policy compatible with international affairs should be the central issue of foreign policy making. In term of terminology used, the linkage or the entanglement of domestic and international affairs caused by globalization is referred to as “intermestic affairs”.

Due to many constraints, this short paper is not attempting to discuss a wide-ranged analysis of an optimum foreign policy determination, that of course needs in-depth and lengthy research in terms of regime and capacity through systemic level analysis. The purpose of this presentation is attempting to expose while analyzing the significant entanglement of Indonesian domestic and international affairs while discussing a brief conceptual framework - the so called “intermestic affairs approach”. It is to find the missing bridge link between domestic and international affairs. At the concluding part of discussion, some preliminary thoughts are offered for further discussion and a clear cut list identifying the strengths and weakness, opportunities and challenges of the intermestic concept.

familiarization with the intermestic foreign affairs approaches

The term intermestic is an abbreviation standing for international and domestic and it is not part of a school of thought but rather it is a kind of strategic management approach in the field of foreign affairs that views the relatively equal important spheres of domestic and international affairs. It is, however, one of many ways of thinking and understanding the work of foreign policy in dealing with domestic issues or the reverse. In the USA, for example, the so called intermestic affairs had been long well acknowledged as a relation between the proper role of Congress and the President in determining policies in the field of foreign affairs. The dynamic pull and push both spheres of concerned issues presented by parliament and the government lead politicians to think in intermestic way. In Europe, UK Minister for EU, Dennis MacShane, deliberately stated that Europe now governed by intermestic politics and define intermestic politic as the era when government policy which was neatly divided into domestic and international politics is over. In his words:

Europe is now governed by intermestic politics…..Foreign or European Ministers like myself now have to think in intermestic terms …. The new intermestic politics demands a new sense of explanation and discourse to lead citizens away from a narrow defensive, trench-like position on political decision”.

In Indonesia, the terminology and its meaning is first introduced in January 2002 by Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr. Hassan Wirajuda and further gradually bringing it into public policy and gaining of popular support through his various initiatives and activities conducted through the Department of Foreign Affairs. For him, Intermestic affairs is an idea of how to develop a closer linkage issues between international and domestic factors in responding to the global challenges, while simultaneously making use of global opportunities for national benefit; Furthermore, it is an effort to synergize all sectors of society in comprehending substantial issues internally and externally through an integrated diplomatic approach. Therefore, foreign policy actually consists of ideas and views from all sectors of society. The intermestic approach is a part of total diplomacy which was in fact already envisioned since 1945 by the late Dr. Moh Hatta, Indonesian first Vice President, when he clearly stated that foreign policy should be in line with Indonesian domestic politics. In this connection, Harry S. Truman, the US President, ever defined total diplomacy as a diplomacy that views domestic and foreign issues as inseparable.

In this regard, total diplomacy itself, according to Minister Hassan, means the involvement of the entire society – including civil society, the business sector, the NGOs, the mass media, the academe, and indeed the grassroots in conducting diplomacy. All should become involved in a broad-based process. Thus in essence the basic idea of total diplomacy is to shift a monopolistic approach to a pluralistic one through togetherness – a nation-wide foreign policy consensus. In short, ‘intermestic’ can be also interpreted as a dispersion of foreign policy making process and foreign policy open to the public scrutinizing or public transparency and public accountability.

The basic puzzle is to determine to what extent public involvement into the process is able to enhance Indonesian foreign policy and how to bring it about. There is also the question of the central role of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia in conducting initiatives to give meaning to the intermestic affairs concept while reshaping foreign policy. Prior to responding to the question first of all, it is necessary that we understand the concept itself.

The entanglement of Domestic Politics and International Affairs

Theoretically, the entanglement of domestic factors and international factors is well elaborated by James Rosenau’s theory and further developed by Robert Putnam’s theory. How domestic factors influence foreign policy making and vice versa and how to develop a linkage between national and international affairs is an intermestic affairs and approach. The puzzle, then, is how to converge these two spheres national and international in formulating foreign policy. To begin with, in order to initiate our understanding, it is important to have Putnam’s basic idea of two level games theory, He stated that:

“The politics of many international negotiations is conceived as a two-level game. At the International level, domestic groups pursue their interest by pressuring the government to adopt favorable policies, and politicians seek power by constructing coalition among those groups. At the international level, national governments seek to maximize their own ability to satisfy domestic pressures, while minimizing the adverse consequences of foreign development. Neither of the two games can be ignored by central decision makers, so long as their countries remain interdependent, yet sovereign.”

Putnam’s theory clearly indicates some difficulties of performing diplomacy since first it entails two level spheres of analysis; domestic and international spheres. How to meet these two levels is a puzzle. Therefore, the immediate strategy is to seek a solution based on a consensus. The effort is to formulate a foreign policy which is able to play within two spheres simultaneously. Moreover, foreign policy of a country should be able to address domestic issue while adjusting them to the international forum with the clear goal that foreign policy can be advantageous to domestic interests. As it is elaborated previously, this last part, in the field of foreign affairs is called as “intermestic affairs”.

It is however still debatable whether domestic politics really determine foreign policy or its international relations, or the reverse. The answer is not a simple one, it is depending on accurate calculation and its orientation since some times the answer is both. One among other arguments, the answer is likely to lead to the role of government itself. The important point is to what extend the central decision maker in this case the state itself is able to cope with the domestic and international pressure and come up with a certain strategic foreign policy. To satisfy both spheres, domestic and international, requires a strong state and leadership. However, the analysis of regime and characteristic leadership (Idiosyncratic), which are important, would not be elaborated widely as it is not my intention to do so but rather to identify as the dynamic of domestic politics that support the intermestic affairs idea.

Democracy and Foreign Policy’s Actors

One of the fundamental consequences of democracy is the proliferation of non-state actors which comprise, among others, civil society groups, business circles, academicians. In conjunction with the unfolding of the democratic processes, those non-state actors become more exposed to issues under the domain of foreign policy. As their interests and knowledge of foreign policy-related issues increase, they give more attention to those issues and to persons and institutions involved in foreign policy making.

Democracies recognize the contribution of the non-state actors to the formulation and implementation of national policies, including foreign policy. Under a framework for constructive participation, they contribute to the consensual definition of foreign policy goals. The state listens to their wishes, and on the other hand, the non-state actors are to be supportive of constructive criticism of the state’s policies. Thus, Indonesian foreign policy is to be formulated and implemented under democratic dynamics which is within the frame governance landscape.

From a theoretical perspective, Robert Millner comes up with the important argument to respond the question why domestic politics is important to foreign policy. First, domestic politics tell us how preferences are aggregated and national interest constructed and the second is that domestic politics can help explaining the strategies states adopt to realize their goals. Therefore, domestic level of analysis is significant since the focus will be how to shape national interest. This is important to understand how the state constructs its interest because the state interest subsequently transform to foreign policy. The question is how to meet the above two requirements in order to develop a popular foreign policy, a foreign policy supported by domestic politics since domestic public may be unaware of significant external developments.

To this point, in the democratic sense, given the wide range of non state actors involved in domestic politics, in, central executives through its bureaucratic government or agencies having a special role in mediating domestic and international pressures precisely because they are directly exposed to both spheres, not because they are united on all issues nor because they are insulted from domestic politics. Therefore the role of bureaucratic government is significant in terms of its function as preferences or interests aggregator particularly in policy making process such as policy initiation, policy formulation, policy implementation and policy dissemination and evaluation.

Jakarta, Juni 2005

Dr. Luhulima’s presentation paper title “What is Good Governance?” before participants of Sesdilu Batch XXXIV, Department of Foreign Affairs. His presentation was given a best insight for the participants to understand the governance concepts

Bayless Manning: The Congress, the Executive and Intermestic Affairs. Foreign Affairs, January 1977.

Dennis MacShane, UK Minister for Europe. His speech before the Apeldoorn Conference. Amsterdam 29-30 June 2003.

Anne Cullen: Diplomatic Adventurism in Indonesia. The Culture Mandala, 5 No.1 2002

Seminar on “Diplomasi Total di Era Informasi”. A Keynote Speech on Public Relations Seminar delivered by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Hassan Wirajuda. Hotel mandarin Oriental, Jakarta, 20 February 2003. See also a Keynot Speech of the Minister before CSIS. Seminar on “Design Baru Politik Luar negeri IndonesiaJakarta , 10 August 2005.

Statement by Dr. N. Hassan Wirajuda, Minister for Foreign Affairs before the Indonesian Council on World Affairs (ICWA) & Financial Club of Jakarta. 18 August 2005.

James Rosenou, “Toward the study of National and International Linkages”, in his Linkage Politics: Essays in the Convergence of National and International System. (New York, Free Press, 1969)

Robert D. Putnam., Diplomacy and Domestic Politics. The Logic of Two Level Games. International Organizations Journal. P. 427-460.

DR. Sam Noumoff, Political Science Dept - McGill University. An Interactive E-Mail Discussion.

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