When conviction trumps domestic politics: Tony Blair and the Second Lebanon War

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Abstract

It has been argued that domestic political survival is key to political decision making, including in foreign policy. Poliheuristic decision theory claims that “Politicians will not shoot themselves in the foot by selecting alternatives that are likely to have a negative effect on them politically.” How then does one explain a foreign policy decision which causes grievous harm to the political position of the decision maker? The paper reviews existing research on personality and environmental factors which may reduce the significance of domestic political constraints on foreign policy decisions. It then examines Blair’s response to the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah conflict, in which his support for Israel triggered a backbench revolt forcing him to announce he would step down within 12 months. The account demonstrates that Blair was aware of the potential political costs of his position, but stuck to it regardless. By seeking to explain why this case diverges from theoretical expectations, the paper generates new hypotheses about how personality and environmental factors may lead to leadership convictions, and not domestic political survival, being the ‘essence of decision’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-64
Number of pages22
JournalForeign Policy Analysis
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author (2017).

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