Impact of Domestic Winners and Losers on International Relations

Essay 2010 4 Pages

Politics - International Politics - General and Theories


Section 2, Question 2: Impact of Domestic Winners and Losers on International Relations


In the analysis of international relations, states are often described as single actors cooperating and/or bargaining with each other. However, a closer look at domestic forces reveals their impact on a country’s leadership to act on the international level in a certain way. In the following essay, I will explain what impact domestic winners and losers can have on making cooperation or conflict between states more likely. I will show that narrow interests of (prospective) winners or losers are hardly able to influence a country’s general interest for national security or economic progress, but can make themselves heard in particular policy fields. By structuring the discussion along the issue areas of war, globalization, and environment, I will explain the relevance of power structures as well as political systems for domestic winners and losers’ potential to influence international interactions.

War: special interests versus the public

Military missions of a (democratic) country are often perceived as unpopular by its public because of possible financial and human costs. However, war can also create winners who have an interest in pushing their states further to the brink when bargaining with other states. Special interests might benefit from war for which they do not have to bear (all) the costs. Those “winners of war” have the resources (such as companies’ time, money, and expertise), organizational advantage (such as the structure and policy input of the bureaucracy and the military), and the access to politicians in charge (such as ethnic lobbies with their ideological clout and electoral impact) to make states more belligerent, thereby causing a smaller bargaining range between actors, but not directly causing war.

The Iraq War (2003), the failed invasion of Cuba (1961), and the covert mission in Chile (1973) are often quoted as example for narrow interests being the skipping stone for military actions after having increased the US administration’s aggressiveness or ambition in a conflict. On the other side, there are industries which benefit from peaceful and open relations between nations (such as the financial sector). Similarly, some ethnic lobbies are not as effectively organized and well-structured as their opposite ethnic lobby to equal its impact (for instance: “Arab lobby” versus “Israel lobby”).



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University of California, San Diego – Department of Political Science
national security war cooperation conflict economic progress globalization special interests iraq war lobby interest group election ricardo viner stolper samuelson trade liberalization barrier import export




Title: Impact of Domestic Winners and Losers on International Relations