Hypotheses on Foreign Policy Change

Mircea Munteanu




Within the confines of unequal power relations, the International System is not anarchic. Great Powers set rules in the International System in such a way as to maximize their gains. While in the relationship between equal power actors, balance of power and anarchy are still the dominating paradigm, the relationships between actors of unequal power is dominated by top-down order.

In its relationship with an international actor, any greater power will have a set pattern of behavior. As such, for a greater power, failure in foreign policy leads to: (a) escalation or (b) change in policy. Often, change in policy is preceded by escalation as the greater power tries to achieve its goals through "other means". Then, foreign policy changes when, and only when, the projected costs for achieving the outcome are higher than the projected costs of the benefits gained from the outcomes. In the case of the US involvement in Serbia, the stated policy stability and peace has failed. This has led to escalation of the means by which those policy goals are to be achieved. If the costs of intervention may prove hard to bear it may yet lead to a change in policy.