Why do international actors, including powerful states, often fail to develop clear foreign policies and instead adopt indecisive, ‘muddling-through’ approaches?
This book develops a concept and a theory of reluctance in world politics. Applying it to the study of regional crisis management by leading powers, it finds that reluctance emerges when governments fail to devise clear foreign policy preferences and face competing international pressures.
The study of reluctance in world politics sheds new light on some of the most pressing problems of our time, from weak crisis management to cooperation deficits in global governance.
This chapter focuses on Germany’s approach to the management of crises in Europe’s extended neighbourhood since 2009, that is, since the moment when the Eurozone crisis catapulted Germany back into the centre of European politics. The analysis addresses Germany’s role in the Libya crisis (2011) and the Ukraine crisis (2014–15). It finds that Germany was clearly reluctant concerning military intervention in Libya, which was mainly driven by difficulties in domestic preference formation related to normative tensions. In the case of the Ukraine crisis of 2014–15, the German government displayed a very different approach, showing an entirely new determination and willingness to shed its foreign policy reluctance. It was able to do so because the government articulated clear domestic preferences and could overcome competing international expectations by crafting a common European position on sanctions against Russia.
This chapter takes a concept-building approach to introduce ‘reluctance’ into the fields of International Relations (IR) and Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA). It conceptualizes reluctance as entailing the two constitutive dimensions of hesitation and recalcitrance, which will serve as analytical categories for the analysis that follows. It also provides a detailed operationalization of those categories.
This chapter addresses regional crisis management by Brazil under President ‘Lula’ da Silva’s first presidency (2003–11). It focuses on Brazil’s extended neighbourhood, and in particular on its engagement in Haiti (with a focus on the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, from 2004) and on its approach to the civil war in Colombia. The analysis reveals that in both cases Brazil was not reluctant: in MINUSTAH, it shed its initial reluctance and pursued a determined and responsive policy, taking over leadership of the mission. In Colombia, Brazil was less proactive, but pursued a consistent (not hesitant and therefore non-reluctant) approach to crisis management, focusing on low-key offers of support and mediation. By applying the theory of reluctance, this chapter shows that the Brazilian government was able to adopt non-reluctant policies by allaying domestic concerns and by fostering an alignment of international expectations in the case of Haiti. In the case of Colombia, a consistent and responsive policy was the result of clear domestic preferences and a lack of competing international pressures.
This chapter assesses the explanatory power of the theory of reluctance to other cases, beyond the study of the foreign policy of powerful regional countries in crisis management. It therefore focuses on (1) different types of crisis; (2) different countries such as small states and great powers, with reluctance being particularly puzzling for the latter; and (3) different types of actors beyond the nation-state. It finds that, overall, the explanations for reluctance developed in this book are also helpful to make sense of reluctant policies in those very different contexts.
This chapter summarizes the key findings of the book. It highlights the relevance of the study of reluctance for the fields of International Relations (IR) and Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA), and discusses some of the potential consequences of reluctance. It also outlines a number of fields in which further research is needed.
This chapter outlines India’s approach to crisis management in South Asia under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi (2014–21). It focuses on two important crises (to which India was not itself a conflict party) during that period: the conflict in Afghanistan (2014–21) and a serious domestic political crisis related to the introduction of a new constitution in Nepal (2015–17). The application of the theory of reluctance reveals that, in the case of Afghanistan, India’s reluctance was mainly driven by a combination of diametrically opposed expectations by international and regional actors concerning India’s engagement, and domestic normative debates and corresponding difficulties in devising clear preferences. In the case of Nepal, reluctance resulted from competing expectations by different actors in Nepal, combined with coordination problems among different political actors close to specific sections of Nepalese society as well as normative disagreement within India over the course to follow.
Chapter 3 develops a theory of reluctance in world politics. The theory combines approaches from International Relations (IR), Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA), Social Psychology and related fields. It argues that reluctance emerges if states face competing international expectations and are unable to form clear domestic preferences on foreign policy due to political weakness, limited capacity, cognitive problems or normative struggles.
The Introduction outlines the relevance of the phenomenon of ‘reluctance’ in world politics. It introduces the main puzzle of the book, which is: why are international actors, including powerful states, often reluctant in their foreign policies? It discusses existing research in related fields and shows the substantial gap in the existing literature in International Relations (IR) and Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA), which have not addressed the phenomenon of reluctance so far. Finally, it provides an outline of the book.