Level's of Analysis James Roseau has a very good definition of Foreign Policy. He defines it in terms of states in the international system, that there is policy within and a policy without, and it is the boundary of the nation-state that determines what is domestic and what is foreign. Moreover, the right to make foreign policy has been reserved traditionally only to certain bureaucrats, agencies, and authorities representing the governments of states. It is the security of the nation-state that is brought into consideration when making foreign policy. But where does the underlying influence lay in the making of these decisions? There are three basic levels of analysis: the individual level, the state level, and the systems level.
The fundamental questions to consider when thinking upon what level to look are: the leader's psychological makeup, the decision-making system that is in place, the political system that is in place, the national system that is in place, and the international system that is in place. We want to know where the predominant influence was in the making of particular decisions. In the system level analysis it is a global scale influencing the decision. This can range from the global economy to terrorist activities. In the state level analysis it is domestic politics influencing the decision.
Who is in power, political parties, roles of people in power and the bureaucracy of the nation influence a state level decision. Finally, the individual level of analysis looks at the minds, alone or collectively, of decision makers, bureaucrats, and the public at large. This is where the civil society fits in to play. One cannot rely solely on the individual level of analysis, the domestic, the international system, or even on a combination of the three as adequate. What one might interpret as a clash of individual interests, could in reality be a "clash among values that are widely held in both society and the decision-makers' own minds" (Jervis).
Similarly, if domestic situations were the basis upon which politicians base their decisions then a change in leadership would not produce significant changes in foreign policy. For example, some might argue that the Cold War would not have occurred had President Franklin Delano Roosevelt not died; they suggest that his death altered American policy. Others contest that FDR would have acted similarly to Truman, as he too was coming to an anti-Soviet stance prior to his death. If the first is seen as accurate the domestic level of analysis is inadequate and not applicable, but in the second instance it could be viewed as a valid basis for judging decision-making.
In the third level of analysis there are even more discrepancies. In times of threat a country will know when it is in extreme danger and therefore will act in a manner of self-preservation, however, who is to say what constitutes an imminent threat and how to counter such a threat? It is also a rarity that a nation's officials agree that it is in an insecure position, what is actually threatening it, and how to deal with the threat. This can cause a lot of problems when trying to determine the motive for actions. In order to create a good interpretation of the motivations behind a political decision it is essential that one looks into the individual perceptions of decision makers, in addition to the bureaucratic, domestic, and international levels. I, however, find the state level to be the most persuasive.
The decision maker is influenced by popular opinion, social, and economic conditions, and many other factors. Assuming that he or she does not want to create turmoil within the nation they are likely to act in a manner that will improve the conditions for the people. The relationship between the Executive and Legislative branch will also play into the decisions made. Political parties play a role as well as with interest groups. In the state level analysis, states are relatively free to decide what policies to follow regardless of international system pressures. International events are influenced by how states build their policies.
This in turn leads to their reactions, or the systems level analysis. An example of a state level analysis could be President Bush's trip to Iraq. It is almost a Presidential election year and such an action would help his re-election..