As one of the International Relation case of study, foreign policy has many definitions and there isn’t any precise interpretation of this terminology as it opens for multiple meaning and interpretation. The problem is we must be familiar with one of the characteristic. First, it is conducted to regain national interest in another state. (Holsti, 1987).

Regarding foreign policy serves and reflects national interests, we must understand that foreign policy is also a continuation of domestic policy as Rosenau narrated. The second character of foreign policy is that only a state who remains as the main actor to foreign policy because of its sovereignty thus differentiates from non-actors including non-governmental entities. The literature that has burgeoned on foreign policy since 1960 provides us with the means to understand both the underlying forces which shape a country’s foreign policy and the evolution of the phenomenon itself.

At the heart of the study of foreign policy is the desire to understand countries’ actions and behaviors towards other countries and the international environment generally. Foreign policy is defined as the totality of a country’s policies toward and interactions with the environment beyond its borders. This definition is quite broad and encompasses a variety of issue domains or issue areas, which are defined as a set of interrelated concerns in policy making that are, however, more loosely tied to other sets of interrelated concerns. Traditionally, the study of foreign policy has focused primarily on the quest to maintain and enhance a country’s power and security. It centered on questions of averting war when possible, deciding to fight if necessary, and—first and foremost— ensuring the integrity of the country’s borders. Increasingly, economic relations between countries have gained attention. Since the end of the Cold War, globalization has become an important process that highlights the interconnectedness of the world’s economies. This has had a greater impact on countries with economies that, in earlier eras, were less connected to the international economy. For those countries that traditionally have depended greatly on international trade, economic issues have had a higher priority on the foreign policy agenda much longer. The foreign policy agenda does not stop with security and economic issues: in recent decades, environmental issues have increasingly gained attention; so have issues such as human rights, population growth and migration, food and energy policies, as well as foreign aid, development, and the relations between richer and poorer countries. In addition to the increased diversity of issues on the foreign policy agenda, there is also an increasing variety in the actors who engage in foreign policymaking.

Foreign Policy as a complex phenomenon

For modern observers, foreign policy is at once a phenomenon, a concept, and a major area of study. No definition can do full justice to all three of these aspects of the term, but it is still possible to establish a starting point from which the arguments about interpretation can develop. For there are almost as many views of foreign policy as there are different schools of thought on international relations, or types of political ideology in the world.

To claim that a particular foreign policy is in the national interest imparts a degree of authority and legitimacy to that policy (Griffiths and O’Callaghan, 2005). Foreign policy becomes a complex phenomenon since it is also influenced by the national interest of a state. Besides, the national interest itself also a complex phenomenon because national interest consists of any element of a state life. In addition to Rosenau, foreign policy is a complex study because not only consists of the external aspect, but also an internal aspect of a state. External aspect is important since the policy is implemented “across border”. As the matter of fact, the internal aspect could give some choices to the policymaker to make and determine the policy. There is one statement states that foreign policy begins when the domestic policy ends (Kissinger, 1971). This suggests that the internal condition state will also give effects to the creation of foreign policy and thoughts to a foreign policy decision maker. It is quite challenging to determine whether state foreign policy success in international relations. Furthermore, according to Nicholas, foreign policy quality and success will not merely depend on the vague objective. But it will have to require the real diplomacy through various methods.

Who or what influences foreign policy? Although leaders are quick to take credit for foreign policy successes and the public is often quick to blame them for failures, leaders rarely make foreign policy alone. Advisory systems and government bureaucracies may be organized differently in different countries, but they always play some role in foreign policy decision making and implementation. Domestic constituencies may vary in influence, depending on the attentiveness of a public to foreign affairs or the structure of government in a specific country. Finally, the world beyond the borders affects the possibilities for foreign policy action. It may present opportunities, but it also presents constraints.

With so many factors affecting foreign policy, it’s quite essential how do we unravel the contributions each of these multiple factors make. First, we will not consider all of these factors at once. Although foreign policy behavior is rarely caused by one person or one thing alone, it makes sense to investigate various factors separately before thinking about their interaction. It is simpler to focus on one explanatory factor at a time. After analyzing various factors separately, we can then assess their relative contributions to foreign policy behavior, taking into account also the possible interactions among these different explanatory factors. The strategy is to initially analyze different factors that influence foreign policy making in isolation and to subsequently attempt to integrate these into a comprehensive explanation, assuming that foreign policy is generally purposive or goal-directed behavior.


Generally speaking, foreign policy is actions by a nation dedicated beyond its border. It combines set of principles, norms, behaviors, plans, and strategy determining state engagement into such various international issues. It has also been a platform to conduct set of actions to attain the objectives each nation might pursue. The study of the foreign policy includes more than mere leaders and decision-making process. It’s a study of the quest to maintain and enhance power and security as well as a strategy to analyze different attempt to integrate those factors within broad explanation to define a national foreign policy.


James N. Rosenau, The Scientific Study of Foreign Policy, 2d ed. (London, 1980).

Yaacov Y. I. Vertzberger, The World in Their Minds: Information Processing, Cognition and Perception in Foreign Policy Decision Making (Stanford, Calif., 1990).

Alexander George, Bridging the Gap: Theory and Practice in Foreign Policy (Washington, D.C., 1993).

David Campbell, Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity, rev. ed. (Minneapolis, 1998).

Christopher Hill “Foreign Policy” The Oxford Companion to the Politics of the World, 2e. Joel Krieger, ed. Oxford University Press Inc. 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.


About Renny Candradewi Puspitarini

Lecturer at Panca Marga University Faculty of Social Science and Political Science Department of Public Administration

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