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Explaining Foreign Policy

, 336 pages

1 line drawing

January 2011



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Explaining Foreign Policy

U.S. Decision-Making in the Gulf Wars

second edition

Steve A. Yetiv has developed an interdisciplinary, integrated approach to studying foreign policy decisions, which he applies here to understand better how and why the United States went to war in the Persian Gulf in 1991 and 2003.

Yetiv’s innovative method employs the rational actor, cognitive, domestic politics, groupthink, and bureaucratic politics models to explain the foreign policy behavior of governments. Drawing on the widest set of primary sources to date—including a trove of recently declassified documents—and on interviews with key actors, he applies these models to illuminate the decision-making process in the two Gulf Wars and to develop theoretical notions about foreign policy. What Yetiv discovers, in addition to empirical evidence about the Persian Gulf and Iraq wars, is that no one approach provides the best explanation, but when all five are used, a fuller and more complete understanding emerges.

Thoroughly updated with a new preface and a chapter on the 2003 Iraq War, Explaining Foreign Policy, already widely used in courses, will continue to be of interest to students and scholars of foreign policy, international relations, and related fields.

Steve A. Yetiv is a university professor of political science at Old Dominion University and author of The Absence of Grand Strategy: The United States in the Persian Gulf, 1972–2005, also published by Johns Hopkins.

"Rarely does one find a book that both thoroughly presents a theoretical framework and then actually tests that framework against reality by the rigorous use of history. Steve Yetiv... has done a remarkably good job of balancing both elements in a new study of U.S. decision-making in the first Persian Gulf War."

"Whether or not Explaining Foreign Policy ultimately takes its place beside Essence of Decision as a seminal work in the field, the book serves the same function in challenging analysts to question conventional models and accommodate complexity in the scholarly study of foreign policy."

"An important approach to analyzing complex foreign policy decision-making."

"An impressive foreign-policy analysis of U.S. decision-making in the Persian Gulf War... A well-researched and highly readable book."

"Using the Persian Gulf crisis of 1991 as a case study, Steve Yetiv examines how important foreign policy decisions are made. His fresh and interesting contribution brings together competing decision-making theories to produce a rich interpretation of the event. It is also novel in considering both U.S. and Iraqi decision-making processes. Intriguing, accessible, and useful, this book will appeal to students, experts, and general readers."

"Provides a multiperspective approach that can enrich and enlighten readers' knowledge of foreign policy decisions."

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