Realist and Idealist Belief Systems in Foreign Policy
Smith, Hayden Josiah
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Realism has most commonly been treated as a systemic theory in International Relations since the late 1970s and systemic theory has remained separate from theories of foreign policy and decision-making at the individual level of analysis. Returning to classical realism, I bridge the levels of analysis by utilizing assumptions from the philosophical traditions of realism and idealism to create a categorical typology of four belief systems: offensive realists, defensive realists, expansionist idealists, and non-expansionist idealists. The typology builds on the foundational works of operational code. In addition, I incorporate image theory to the analysis, to provide a more nuanced perception of specific actors, which is lost in the generality of the modern VICS operational code. The case studies of presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter provide a depiction of the realist and idealist belief systems respectively.