Does politics stop at the water's edge? The state as a unitary actor in international relations and the effect of presidential transitions on selected foreign policy behaviors
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Structural realists argue the nation-state is a unitary actor that conducts foreign policy without regard to domestic politics. Anarchy, the lack of any controlling authority, is the dominant fact of life for states within the international system. Operating within this selfhelp situation, each state continually weighs the balance of power between itself and others. Foreign policy is principally a reaction to the changes of relative capabilities of other states. Preservation of national security consisting of territorial integrity and unadulterated sovereignty is the ultimate goal of any state action. Territorial integrity is the preservation of the national government's control of territory and unadulterated sovereignty is understood as complete freedom of action. Leaders reserve to themselves the decision as to what constitutes the national interest and pursue this interest without regard for domestic political pressures. The realist concept of the unitary state has been applied principally to matters of national security. In Defending the National Interest, Raw Material Investments and U.S. Foreign Policy Stephen Krasner produces a fully realized demonstration of the unitary actor thesis in a matter of national security. This study will test the “unitary actor” contention by examining the effect of seven presidential transitions between competing political parties since the end of World War II on American policy towards nuclear weapons and oil. An examination of the continuity or change in policy from one administration to its successor will illuminate the degree to which foreign policy is a reaction to the international situation without regard to domestic political considerations. The military issue examined is nuclear arms control between the United States and the Soviet Union and its successor the Russian Federation. The economic issue considered is access to and the price of crude oil from Saudi Arabia. First, the study will review the policy of each outgoing President. Next, the study will review the policy choices of each incoming President. Differences or similarities in policy choices will be established and a conclusion will become visible which reflects either the accuracy or folly of the structural realist description of the state as a unitary actor in international relations.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Literature review -- Nuclear weapons and the Soviet Union, oil and Saudi Arabia -- Examination by transition -- Analysis, recommendations and conclusion -- Appendices