I The Implementation of Foreign Policy
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I The Implementation of Foreign Policy book
What does it mean in analytical terms to move from the study of foreign policy making (FPM) to the study of its implementation? As we have seen in Chapter 3, the study of FPM implies a focus on the nature of decision making and the nature of decision makers, within a context of transformation. Many studies of foreign policy have tended to assume that once decisions are made, they are almost automatically translated into action, and that the results of those actions are easy to discern (Clarke and Smith, 1989: 182). But it is apparent even from a cursory study of foreign policy mistakes, failures and disasters that decisions about the broad aims or the general direction of foreign policy do not lead inevitably to effective implementation. More than this, even where implementation of a policy takes
80 I Chapter 4 The Implementation of Foreign Policy place as planned, it may well not lead to the predicted or anticipated results. One major study of American foreign policy in the Vietnam War concluded that while military means were efficiently implemented, these tools were put in service of a misguided set of foreign policy objectives. Military intervention could not, in other words, compensate for the political mistake of executing a prolonged military campaign in a region of marginal American interest, or overcome the seemingly unbreakable resolve of the Vietcong. The military instrument was efficiently applied in the sense of the numbers of service personnel mobilised and of military material committed, but ineffective in that the ultimate objective of military victory could not be achieved (Gelb and Betts, 1979)
To focus on implementation, then, is not to focus on a purely mechanical or automatic seeing through of agreed foreign policy objectives. Rather, it is to focus on actions and behaviours and the obstacles which face them. It is these actions and behaviours, and the reactions to them, which constitute the 'flow' and the substance of policy itself. Implementation also forms an obvious and important link with decisions. Just how important can be seen if we consider a counter-factual example. If a set of policy makers agreed to invade their neighbour's territory but then took no subsequent action, it is in some ways as if the original decision had never been made at all. Clearly the decision has to be implemented (i.e., an invasion has to take place) before we can talk of foreign policy being 'live'. Implementation is thus crucial to an understanding of the direction, the efficiency and the effectiveness of policy. The actions encapsulated in the process of implementation have to be chosen, they often have to be combined and coordinated in uncertain circumstances, and they require monitoring and evaluation by the policy makers as the basis for subsequent decisions and actions. This means that the implementation of foreign policy, like the making of policy, demands decisions and choices and the matching of commitments to capabilities. As such, implementation is clearly not just the residue after the policy has been made; it is subject to many of the same pressures and problems that were identified in Chapter 3, and thus to at least some of the same analytical investigations.