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44 J. Conflict Resol. 3 (2000)

handle is hein.journals/jcfltr44 and id is 1 raw text is: 






The Investigation

of  Substitutability

in  Foreign Policy



GLENN PALMER
ARCHANA BHANDARI
Department of Political Science
Texas A&M University


More than   a decade ago, Benjamin Most and Harvey Starr argued that more attention
needed  to be paid to foreign policy substitutability and to domain specific laws
(Most and Starr 1984, 1989). Substitutability in foreign policy is the idea that similar
factors could plausibly be expected to trigger different foreign policy acts, while
domain  specific laws are the logical opposite ... and suggests that different processes
would  plausibly be expected to lead to similar results (Most and Starr 1989, 98).
Together, these ideas imply a fundamental challenge to much of the work in interna-
tional relations. Our field's research frequently analyzes specific policies (e.g., the ini-
tiation of conflict or the formation of alliances) as a function of specific factors, such as
power  transitions, or an increase in the capabilities of an adversary. We then see
whether  conflict is more likely when a power transition takes place or whether alli-
ances are more likely to be formed when the level of perceived threat is high. In other
words, we often see research that theoretically concludes that A leads to B and seeks to
find whether that conclusion is empirically correct. Most and Starr cautioned us that
there are many As that could lead to a given B and there are many Bs that may be cho-
sen by leaders in response to a specific A. A power transition may lead to a higher prob-
ability of war but it also may lead to a higher probability of accommodation; increased
international threat may similarly lead to accommodation  as well as new alliance
membership,  or even war. By focusing on single As and single Bs, we run the danger of
missing much  of how  international relations actually works.
   Nonetheless, work  in the field has been slow to accept the challenges of substitut-
 ability, even though failure to account fully (or partly) for substitutability creates a
 number of problems. Most notable is the problem caused by underidentification. That
 is, substitutability and domain-specificity require that researchers completely specify
 and identify the set of possible substitutable policies as well as the possible causes for a
 specific policy output and to do so for any model of international behavior. If alterna-

   AUTHORS'  NOTE: We would like to thank Will Moore, Tim Nordstrom, Pat Regan, and Harvey Starr
 for their helpful comments on this article. The assistance of the Department of Political Science at Texas
 A&M  University is appreciated.
 JOURNAL OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION, Vol. 44 No. 1, February 2000 3-10
 ( 2000 Sage Publications, Inc.


from the SAGE Social Science Collections. All Rights Reserved.

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