ELITES AND FOREIGN POLICY IN THE AMERICAN DEMOCRACY
Conventional wisdom holds that today elites inside and outside of government will play a much more circumscribed role in shaping U.S. foreign policy than they have in the last half-century. Two contextual changes are cited as reasons for their diminished role. First, the end of the Cold War era has removed the special imperative for a foreign policy establishment to oversee a concerted strategy for competing with a rival superpower. Second, proliferating channels of communication in the so-called information age - informing the public about international issues and transmitting the public will about those issues to leaders - allegedly democratize foreign policy.
Through deductive reasoning and an empirical effort to compare the relative impact of mass and elite attitudes on policy outcomes, this article demonstrates that "influentials" remain as important to shaping foreign policy as they were during the Cold War and are perhaps more so.
Having established some evidence of just how influential the "influentials" still are in foreign policy, it will be useful to identify the ideological groupings among elites after the Cold War that transcend traditional Left-Right, Hawk-Dove dichotomies of the recent past. This taxonomy will account for the migration of American presidential doctrines for statecraft since the Reagan administration and the current trajectory of elite opinion about foreign policy in an era characterized by the ascendant power of the Congress.
Elites: Who and What Are They?
Elites are experts and self-appointed experts inside and outside of government. The governmental and extragovernmental spheres of foreign policy specialists form an interlocking nexus. Periodically, the government absorbs academics, quasiacademics, journalists, and polemicists, and it disgorges political appointees and career bureaucrats - to become academics, quasiacademics, journalists, and polemicists. The circulation of elites ties the spheres inside and outside of government together. The elite media play a particularly crucial role in tying these spheres together by providing a forum for elites to communicate with one another and for agenda-setting (see Brody 1991; Genest 1995). To distinguish elites as a more inclusive array of leaders rather than authoritative decisionmakers, and to highlight their peculiar influence in pluralistic societies, it is helpful to think of elites as opinion leaders (see Weimann 1991).
Elites are the arbiters of the national interest. This is an alternative view of the national interest from that offered by exponents of the realist paradigm of international relations. Instead of seeing the national interest as an objective category driving the behavior of states as actors in the international system, this study assumes that national interest is a subjective category. Foreign policy emerges in the process of elites' defining the national interest in specific terms. I have taken up this subject in a case study of the Reagan years (Lagon 1994b) but do not intend to examine the rich debate between realism and its critics here, given the finite scope of this article.
The relationship between elites and the general public in a democracy's foreign policymaking is one between "mobilizers" and "ratifiers." Elites set out a course for American foreign policy. They seek to mobilize public support for the policies they desire to implement. and hence try to shape opinions of the general public. Alexander George (1980) has called this process "policy legitimation" by leaders.
An analogy can be drawn from management theory. The model of "total quality management" (TQM) is very much in vogue in the business world. A colleague who teaches management suggested that a major tenet of TQM theory can be summarized as, "The customer rules." But the customer needs to know what he or she wants. A product has to be presented to customers first. Then the customer rules.(1)
Similarly, the public rules in a democracy. But public attitudes are diffuse regarding foreign policy issues. The role of elites is to present the product to the customer. Only then does the public weigh in on foreign policy - to ratify it or reject it. While public opinion polls are taken constantly in the modern democracy, it is only in elections that the public can thoroughly reject a foreign policy program - after a certain time lag.
There is no one elite, as radical or revisionist critics of American society, such as C. Wright Mills (1956), might suggest. There are, more accurately, elites and counterelites, each of which is defined by a common set of values or a world view. They compete in an effort to sway public attitudes toward their vision of American foreign policy. It is more helpful to look at elites as competing groups based on shared values than as segregated into groups at the peaks of particular professions, as a major Times-Mirror study did ("America's Place in the New World" 1993). The question to ask is, therefore, not "Where are they?" but "What do they think?"
Three "Generations" of Literature
Three generations of scholarly literature in the last century have a special bearing on the discussion of U.S. foreign policy elites in a post-Cold War information age. The first generation of literature consists of the writing of the turn-of-the-century giants in political sociology, Gaetano Mosca, Vilfredo Pareto, and Robert Michels. Mosca contributed the concept of the "political class" that steers policy in democracies. This is a different conception of the ruling class from that of Marxist sociology, in which it is seen as an economic stratum controlling both the means of production and the state as its "executive committee."
Vilfredo Pareto suggested that "residues," or ideological linkages, define an elite's enduring identity by providing a shared set of values. These residual links help bind an elite together over time and help it regenerate itself in successor generations (Bottomore 1993, 37-38). Pareto also studied the circulation of elites, whereby an elite sharing a world view or vision of the public good replaces another at certain crucial junctures in a democracy's history. Circulation of elites remains an important concept in contemporary literature on democracies (see Czudnowski 1982).
Robert Michels had a subtly different view of elites in democracies. He suggests in Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy that "Pareto's theorie de la circulation des elites must ... be accepted with considerable reserve, for in most cases there is not a simple replacement of one group of elites by another, but a continuous process of intermixture, the old elements incessantly attracting, absorbing, and assimilating the new" (Michels 1962, 343).
This view of elite regeneration is a critical aspect of Michels's "iron law of oligarchy." All political leaders of movements end up looking more to peers in their ideological elite, and even in competing elite groups, as their brethren than the mass public. He writes,
History seems to teach us that no popular movement, however energetic and vigorous, is capable of producing profound and permanent changes in the social organism of the civilized world. The preponderant elements of the movement, the men who lead and nourish it, end by undergoing a gradual detachment from the masses, and are attracted within the orbit of the "political class." They perhaps contribute to this class a certain number of "new ideas," but they also endow it with more creative energy and practical intelligence, thus providing for the ruling class an ever-renewed youth. (355)
While this article will not share this cynical view of democracy as an immutable oligarchy, it will rely on Pareto's and Michels's insights to explore how American foreign policy elites will continue to regenerate themselves and indeed their influence.
A transitional figure who ties the first generation of elite theorists with the second is Joseph Schumpeter. Schumpeter offered an explanation of imperialism that differed from those of Marxists and other economic reductionists. He attributed the second major wave of European colonialism in modern history (in the nineteenth century) to the atavistic values of elites. They looked back to images of their nations' heroic purposes in the past and sought to recreate them. These atavistic values are an excellent example of the "residues" that define elites and make them cohere (Schumpeter 1955). This theory was based on the premise that social classes are defined by something more than their place in an economic hierarchy and relationship to the means of production. According to Schumpeter, ideas motivate the behavior of elites.
Schumpeter also characterized modern elites as symbols specialists, the central concept of the second generation of elite theorists. This second cluster of scholarship is more directly pertinent to contemporary foreign policymaking than the first, especially in the context of an information revolution. Like Schumpeter, Harold Lasswell and a number of social scientists influenced by his thinking have described elites as manipulators of symbols.
In the postindustrial era, a new social class defined by a unique talent for manipulating words and images has emerged. The relevance of this talent in modern democracy is enormous. In Lasswell's formulation, political leaders mobilize masses with two instruments: coercion and persuasion. Coercion is the instrument of choice in autocracies.(2) In democracies the cultural norms of consensus and mutually beneficial cooperation make persuasion the chief tool of political elites.
It is important to distinguish this difference in the use of tools, and to acknowledge the much larger influence of elites in closed societies than in democracies. Yet Lasswell and his followers suggested that the study of elites in democracies is not only relevant but crucial.
Lasswell and Daniel Lerner wrote in World Revolutionary Elites (1980, 5):
Elite analysis distinguishes between members and nonmembers of a group in the context under study. The former are self-identified, or identified by knowledgeable observers, as participants in the formation and execution of policy. Influence on group policy is also exercised by nonmembers.
This statement reflects Lasswell's emphasis on roles in a particular context; in the case of foreign policy, the relevant elite group varies from issue to issue. For instance, on a policy question involving Central America, appointed and career government officials make up the formal group of authoritative decisionmakers. Journalists, academics, and pressure-group activists specializing in Central America would be the relevant nonmembers to which Lasswell and Lerner refer. The pertinent members and nonmembers would be different for another issue area. Lasswell and Lerner also suggest that elites' prioritization of values is especially significant to foreign policy outcomes:
It is often possible to discover which values are close to the core of the value system of an individual or group. This particularly is important in the study of international politics, for instance, since a major question is: Under what circumstances will a nation believe that it is in serious danger? (49-50)
Therefore, it is very important to examine the core values informing the foreign policy that elites seek to implement and animating the persuasive symbols they use as opinion shapers.
The third generation of relevant literature consists of very recent work on international relations that does not explicitly portray itself as elite analysis. It focuses on two themes.
The first theme is the role of ideas in foreign policy. This emerging theme was explored in a roundtable at the American Political Science Association meeting two years ago (Garrett et al. 1993). But the leading work in the area is the volume Ideas and Foreign Policy, edited by Judith Goldstein and Robert Keohane (1993). Goldstein has emerged as a leading student of how ideas, embedded in institutions, have effected U.S. trade policy. Work on interdependence and regime maintenance without hegemonic guarantors has led Keohane to formulate "reflectivist" theory on norms of cooperation. Their collection of essays on the role of beliefs in foreign policy explores "world views" defining which policies are possible, normative "principled beliefs," and "causal beliefs" about how to achieve objectives.
The bulk of the book is devoted to ideas used as "road maps," such as American and British leaders' beliefs shaping the post - World War II economic order, and cultural values shaping Western nations' human rights policies. Other essays treat ideas as focal points in the absence of existing norms, as in the case of uncharted territory in European Union institution building.
The second theme in this recent literature is the notion of "epistemic communities." Epistemic communities are groups of experts who share a technical specialty, a vocabulary, and a set of common premises and goals. They share an epistemology - hence the term "epistemic." A splendid example of such a community is arms control experts. Their area of knowledge is highly specialized; their acronyms and jargon exclude outsiders; and their priorities in policymaking - whether they are officials in government or experts outside of government - are unique to their community. As Patrick Glynn (1987) has written, arms controllers share a set of assumptions, above all fixating on the historical analogy of 1914. The lesson of 1914 is that escalation driven by the mere existence of destructive capabilities (rather than the intent of leaders) is the primary source of instability in world politics.
The chief exponent of epistemic communities' salience is Peter Haas, who edited a special issue of International Organization on the subject (see Haas 1992; Adler and Haas 1992). The fact that Haas was also a participant in the 1993 APSA roundtable demonstrates how these two areas of research - ideas and epistemic communities - are intimately tied together.
These three generations of literature are also tied together. Mosca, Pareto, and Michels, in studying European political parties, offer the insight that a political class is surprisingly powerful in democracies. Via Schumpeter, the second generation emphasizes how a new class influences political outcomes through skills in the art of persuasion applied to spoken and written words, and indeed visual images. Finally, recent literature has sought to resuscitate the importance of ideas at a time when so many political scientists are emphasizing "structural" constraints, such as the international distribution of power, or economic classes to which the state is beholden. This literature ultimately pinpoints the importance of communities of experts crossing the boundary between government and civil society. These generations of literature will help reveal why the end of the Cold War and a quantum leap in communications technology will not eviscerate the "chattering classes" as arbiters of the national interest.
APPLYING DEDUCTIVE REASONING
Why Influentials Are Supposed to Matter Less
The assertion that elites have become less important in determining American foreign policy in the last few years is based on two theses. The first thesis is that the end of the Cold War will not only dissolve the foreign policy establishment associated with that era, but it will markedly decrease the importance of any elites in foreign policymaking. The Cold War created a unique apparatus, the "national security state" and a broader epistemic community of specialists in "security" affairs. One even reads of the "security community." A major Times-Mirror study, for instance, explores the attitudes of this epistemic community compared with those of eight other groups of elites ("America's Place in the World" 1993). A prominent member of that "security community" has written (Kirkpatrick 1990, 42):
In the long years of World War II and the Cold War, the United States developed a foreign-policy elite based in the bureaucracy, academic institutions, and heavily associated with nonprofit institutions. Members of this foreign-policy elite grew accustomed to thinking of the United States as having boundless resources and purposes which transcended the preferences of voters and apparent American interests - expansive, expensive, global purposes.
Some allege that the need for the "national security state" and security experts outside of government disappeared with the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union. Hence, they argue, elites will no longer be as important in determining foreign policy in the American democracy. It will later be instructive to ask whether it is really new foreign policy elites who will emerge rather than foreign policy elites' becoming obsolete altogether.
The second thesis as to why influentials will be less influential is that the information age is inherently more democratic. Michael Clough (1994, 2) has argued that this democratization of foreign policy is in part due to the evolution of information technology:
[T]he American people are in the process of reclaiming foreign policy from the "Wise Men" who have so assiduously guarded it for the past 50 years.... A communications revolution has rewired the nation's nerve system with computers, faxes and fiber-optic cables.(3)
The media - print, radio, broadcast television, cable television, satellite television, and computer networks - will allow the public to become more aware of issues at stake in the foreign policy debates in the government. A better-informed public will be able to more effectively assert its will in the democratic process. Furthermore, a new abundance of channels of communication and polling techniques makes it easier for the public to articulate its preferences to its leaders in a more immediate fashion than in the voting booth.
The combination of these two democratizing aspects of the information age yields what the speaker of the House of Representatives and some less-controversial figures have called "information empowerment." This is part of the body of scholarship on the politics of the advanced industrial democracies that are becoming more participatory. Baker, Dalton, and Hildebrandt (1981) have, for instance, argued that the "new politics" of the Federal Republic of Germany has engaged the public more in shaping policy, asserting their "post-materialist views" on such concerns as the environment and quality of life through single-issue interest groups.
Why the Conventional Wisdom Is Illogical
Before examining the empirical validity of these two theses, let me cast doubt upon their validity on a conceptual level. First, the end of the Cold War might sustain the influence of foreign policy elites as the public turns its attention more and more to domestic and economic matters. Arguably, the mass public will be even more disinclined to focus on foreign policy than under the circumstances of a clear threat from the Soviet bloc. Instead of enforcing a new insularity in American foreign policy, that mass-level shift in priorities might cede even more influence to elites to shape the terms of debate.
Old elites may just be replaced by elites with different shared values or residual links, to use Pareto's terminology. Lars Schoultz (1990) argued that the end of the Cold War would shift power from elites clinging to the "strategic denial" doctrine that seeks to block outside powers' influence in the Western Hemisphere (i.e., the Monroe Doctrine) to mobilized citizens at the grass roots rejecting that doctrine. He observed,
Today, the democratized process stands in stark contrast to the policy making process that existed only a few decades ago, when a small handful of officials in Washington were the only relevant participants. Today, even a minor policy issue is likely to involve a bewildering array of official participants, each of whom represents some interest in U.S. society, and major policy issues inject the public at all levels of government, from public opinion polls to grass-roots organizations to highly organized lobbies to Congressional pressure. (14)
But like the argument about the "new politics" in the FRG (Baker et al. 1981), Schoultz is really describing the replacement of one set of elites with another set of elites with a different value system. To the degree that the mass public is mobilized, it must be mobilized by opinion shapers and interest groups they organize. Only three sentences after the passage quoted above, Schoultz (1990, 15) describes "the mobilization of what has come to be known in Washington as 'the liberal foreign policy community' - human rights organizations, church groups, university students and faculties - the liberals who emerged in the 1960s to anchor the left end of the U.S. political spectrum." These are the multilateralist idealist elites that will be discussed later in this article.
Second, as symbols specialists, elites have a great advantage in being able to manipulate the technology and media of the information age. Hence, that age may not devolve more influence to the mass public.
The suggestion that the information highway will inevitably democratize foreign policymaking is a misleading interpretation of technology's role. Clough (1994, 7) is wrong in contending that
The latest generation of Wise Men does not have enough public authority or institutional clout to forge a new consensus from the top down without a threat as clear and compelling as the Red menace. Nor are its leaders sufficiently nimble or creative to put out the prairie fire of independent global policy making that is raging across the country.
Yet logically, who will take most advantage of the instruments of the information age, from C-SPAN to the Internet? Symbols specialists are "nimble and creative" - poised to take advantage of those instruments. The tendency for the public to be more informed about foreign policy issues and to better communicate their immediate preferences through new vehicles may be outweighed by the virtuoso skills of symbols specialists mobilizing public ratification of policies they set out.
APPLYING INDUCTIVE ANALYSIS
A Straightforward Strategy for Empirical Research
So how do you prove that this deductive reasoning is correct? First, it will be useful to establish hypotheses that one can try to falsify. To account for the two theses in the conventional wisdom identified above, two hypotheses could be:
H1: Now that the Cold War is over, the attitudes of elites are less important than the attitudes of the general public as determinants of foreign policy adopted by the U.S. government.
H2: In the contemporary era of rapidly proliferating computer- and television-based channels of communication, the attitudes of elites are less important than the attitudes of the general public as determinants of foreign policy adopted by the U.S. government.
So how does one go about testing whether mass attitudes are more important than elite attitudes? It is very difficult to isolate the more significant causal variable determining foreign policy outcomes when elite and mass attitudes are quite similar. Therefore, a simple way to explore the relative importance of these two sets of attitudes would be to choose cases in which they differ substantially. If one looks at such cases of elite-mass gaps, and judges whether policy outcomes reflect the preferences of elites or the general public, one can test these hypotheses.
Available Data on Contemporary Elite and Mass Attitudes
What is the most useful source of data where elite-mass gaps can be identified? Having already reviewed conceptual literature on elites, a brief review of recent surveys on elite and mass opinion is in order. As it turns out, given the respective strengths of the surveys, one is far and away the most useful source of information for exploring elite-mass gaps.
A very recent study by Public Agenda is interesting but not very helpful. Public Agenda's studies of foreign policy attitudes, spearheaded by Daniel Yankelovich, have been quite fair and illustrative. This latest study, "Mixed Messages" (Farkas 1995) confirms the thesis of an article which I wrote suggesting that there is a complex realignment of elite beliefs on foreign policy after the Cold War, no longer characterized by a linear ideological spectrum, though not a chaotic dealignment of those beliefs (Lagon 1994a). The study found that elites are not successfully doing their job as opinion leaders. While suggestive regarding elite opinion, the study did not focus sufficiently on comparisons of elite and mass attitudes to identify significant elite-mass gaps.
Multiple studies of the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) claim to identify broad support for U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian intervention. These studies include two on peacekeeping generally (Kull and Ramsey 1994a; Kull 1995b), three on Bosnia (Kull and Ramsey 1993b; Kull and Ramsey 1994b; Kull 1995a), one on Somalia (Kull and Ramsey 1993a), and one on Haiti (Kull and Ramsey 1994c). Elite beliefs are relevant only to the PIPA studies in the sense that they aim to demonstrate that the public is as committed as elites are to multilateral intervention. So elite-mass gaps are not revealed. In fact, the PIPA studies do not compare elite and mass attitudes. Moreover, it seems that questions have been worded in the PIPA surveys so as to enhance the support for peace operations reflected in the findings.
The Times-Mirror study, "America's Place in the World" (1993), explicitly examines influentials' views of foreign policy. It makes some general comparisons of elite and mass views on foreign policy. Yet the unique contribution of this report is to compare the views of elites in nine professional areas: media, business and finance, arts and culture, foreign affairs, defense and security, state and local government, think tanks and academia elite, clergy, and science and engineering.
The Times-Mirror Center also released a study this year, at the time of the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations' founding, ("Public Opinion of the U.N." 1995). While the survey report was focused chiefly on attitudes about the U.N., as are a number of the PIPA studies as well, it was really designed to reveal the extent of American internationalism using the U.N. as a heuristic device.(4) But the study examined mass attitudes and does not engage in substantial comparison of elite and mass beliefs about the United States' role in the world.
This year's Chicago Council on Foreign Relations study (Rielly 1995), however, provides the basis for the research design proposed above. The Chicago Council puts out a survey report every four years, and its distinctive feature is to compare the views of the general public with those of leaders. The 1995 report measures the size of elite-mass gaps in attitudes. Therefore, it is easy to identify issues for which there are at least 15 or 20 percentage-point differences in elite and mass responses. This year's study is also more useful than the last report (Rielly 1991), since it reflects attitudes that are fully disentangled from the Cold War context. Therefore, it permits a more careful analysis of hypothesis H1.
It would be helpful to examine five issues with large elite-mass gaps cited in the Chicago Council report. I have chosen two complementary and emblematic security issues and three economic issues (see table 1). In all five cases, I have chosen to look at general attitudes about American policy rather than about very narrow and specific policy questions. This choice prevents the spurious variable of knowledge from skewing findings. Elites will have greater knowledge about specific countries and narrow problems. Since deductive logic indicates enduring elite influence, it is best to avoid cases where elite preferences would likely prevail through superior knowledge alone.
1995 Chicago Council on Foreign Relations Findings (in percentages)
Question Elites Public "Gap"
Defending allies' security very important 60 41 19 Support arms sales to other nations 45 15 30 Sympathize with eliminating tariffs 79 40 39 Protecting American jobs very important 51 84 33 EU economic integration mostly good 85 49 36
Source: John Reilly, ed., American Public Opinion and U.S. Foreign Policy, 1995 (Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, 1995), 15-39.
After elaborating on the evidence of a substantial elite-mass gap for each issue, it will be necessary to examine the general trend in outcomes. If the policy that has been adopted more closely reflects public attitudes, then H1 and H2 are valid. If the outcomes reflect elite preferences, then H1 and H2 are invalid.
Two Cases in Security Relations: Attitudes and Outcomes
Two security-related issues cited in the Chicago Council study that reveal large elite-mass gaps involve guarantees in alliance relationships and arms sales. The issue of whether "defending our allies' security" is a "very important" goal of the United States reveals a significant difference between elite and mass opinion. This is the most fundamental aspect of American engagement abroad - a commitment to come to our allies' defense - especially in the area of security policy. Sixty percent of leaders and 41 percent of the public think it is a very important aim (Rielly 1995, 15). Not only does this represent a 19 percent gap, but majority opinion is on opposite sides; most leaders think this is a very important aim, but most citizens do not.
Which side in this elite-mass gap has been reflected in recent policy outcomes? While the United States has not been called upon to defend the nations to which it has offered formal security guarantees - European members of NATO, Japan, and Korea - there is robust evidence that policy outcomes favor a commitment to defending our allies' security. The United States has kept a troop presence in Western Europe of about 100,000 soldiers, despite the absence of a Warsaw Pact threat. As evidenced by a 1995 Defense Department white paper on Europe and NATO (United States Security Strategy for Europe and NATO 1995), the United States places central emphasis on its commitment to NATO.
The corresponding Defense Department regional white paper for East Asia reveals a strong commitment to defending allies in that region, too. The crucial pledge in United States Security Strategy for the East Asia-Pacific Region (1995, 32) is to maintain a presence of 100,000 military personnel in the Asia-Pacific theater, forming a conscious symmetry with the troop presence in Europe. This is a clear indicator of the United States' commitment to defend such allies as Japan and South Korea. As for the latter, the Clinton administration's strategy for dealing with the North Korean nuclear arms program, spearheaded first by former President Carter and then Ambassador-at-Large Robert Gallucci of the State Department, has been characterized more by carrots than sticks. Nonetheless, the American commitment to come to the defense of South Korea in the event of an attack on it is crystal clear, embodied in the American military presence in that country. In short, policy outcomes in both Europe and East Asia more closely match the majority opinion among elites, demonstrating greater influence of elites in determining policy.
The issue of whether to sell military equipment to other nations also yields a wide elite-mass gap. Forty-five percent of elites support arms sales and only 15 percent of the general public support them (Rielly 1995, 32). There is close to an even split among elites as to whether arms sales are morally sound and prudent, while a truly limited minority of the public countenance arms sales. A 30 percent gap on this basic instrument of assisting other nations in defending themselves is significant.
What then is actual policy today on arms sales? The current administration calls for a reduction of arms proliferation, with the United States playing a part in that reduction. This rhetoric parallels the small but definite longitudinal decline in elite support for arms sales that the 1995 Chicago Council report identifies since its 1991 survey (Rielly 1995, 32). But arms sales by the United States have remained quite high in the first year of the current administration (see World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 1995, 135). In 1993, the United States was still far and away the largest arms dealer in the world, with 46.9 percent of world arms exports, over two and a half times the share of the second-ranking nation (15). After an eighteen-month interagency review, the administration affirmed a policy of continuing arms sales to allies in February 1995. So this paradox of anti-proliferation rhetoric accompanying sustained arms sales reflects the approximately evenly divided opinion concerning arms sales among opinion leaders, rather than the unambiguous opposition to arms sales in the general public. It would appear then that outcomes are more consonant with elite opinion and indicate the greater salience of elites.
Three Cases in Trade Relations: Attitudes and Outcomes
Economic issues are arguably more important than security issues now that the Cold War is over. Trade is the most significant dimension of economic foreign policy, given the nature of the international economy and the impact of trade on the lives of all Americans.(5) Three questions posed in the 1995 Chicago Council survey produced substantial elite-mass gaps.
First, opinion leaders and the public differ over the elimination of tariffs. Seventy-nine percent of elites sympathize with eliminating tariffs. Only 40 percent of the mass public does (Rielly 1995, 39). This represents an enormous elite-mass gap. Elite support for removing the primary barrier to free trade is twice that of the general population. Furthermore, although a sizable minority of the public favors tariff reductions, a highly robust four-fifths majority of influentials favors them.
Policy outcomes closely parallel elite opinion on tariffs. Congressional passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Uruguay Round GATT treaty forming the World Trade Organization are substantial efforts to reduce tariffs, among other aims. Despite some bilateral battles with Japan on automobile exports with a narrow set of sanctions placed on Japanese luxury cars, the general pattern of contemporary policy has been supportive of tariff reductions, as discussion of a Transatlantic Free Trade Area by Commerce Department Secretary Ron Brown and Undersecretary Jeff Garten indicates.
Therefore, it is fair to say that actual policy is more consistent with the view of the vast majority of leaders, who want to cut tariffs, than with the lukewarm support of tariff reduction in the general public. Elite attitudes appear to be more consequential than public attitudes on this issue.
Second, influentials and the general population disagree about whether "protecting jobs of American workers" is "very important." Fifty-one percent of elites think that goal is very important, while a whopping 84 percent of the public thinks so (Rielly 1995, 39). The elite-mass gap is 33 points. Only one in two leaders thinks that our trade policy should assign a high priority to preventing job loss, while five out of six members of the public consider it a priority.
What evidence is there about whether elite or mass opinion matters more in the protection of American jobs? Again, note the passage of NAFTA. The most often mentioned down side of the agreement was the potential flow of jobs to Mexico (Ross Perot's "giant sucking sound"). American businesses have moved and will continue to move some of their operations into a market in which labor costs are cheaper, Mexico. In particular operations moved south of the border, American workers would be laid off. The politicians supporting NAFTA - a majority - believe that economic growth will more than compensate for such short-term layoffs in long-run job creation (see "President Unveils Plan Stressing Link Between Exports, Jobs" 1993). Still, clearly, the policy outcome of NAFTA's passage reflects a de-emphasis of protecting American jobs in the short run.
One can conclude that policy has mirrored the ambivalence of elites about protecting American jobs (seeking long-term growth and worrying less about short-term losses in the free market), rather than the enormous support for job security among the general public - those whom the shoe pinches. Here again, elite values matter more than mass values.
A final question in the survey pertinent to trade and competitiveness dealt with European integration. Eighty-five percent of leaders think Western European economic unification is "mostly good." Forty-nine percent of Americans generally think that unification is "mostly good" (Rielly 1995, 25). This represents an enormous 36 point elite-mass gap. A huge majority of elites thinks European integration will be good for Europeans and for Americans, presumably based on a positive-sum view of economic growth. Yet only one-half of the public thinks EU integration is good news; their views appear to be divided between positive-sum and zero-sum views of international trade.
What policy outcomes shed light on the relative importance of elite and mass opinion on European economic integration? While there are mercantilist politicians of the Left and the Right who express fears about a Fortress Europe - lowering commercial barriers within the EU and erecting them around that bloc - there has been no tangible example of a policy based on such a concern. Republican and Democratic administrations have stated that the United States continues to support European integration (even without the rationale of strengthening Europe in light of a Soviet bloc threat). Even in frustration over the EU's Common Agricultural Program in the arduous Uruguay Round GATT talks, no American initiative was introduced to retaliate with increased American farm subsidies.
It appears that articulated and operational policy trends are not congruent with mass-level skepticism about the benefits to the United States of Western European economic unification. Once again, the positive-sum views of influentials appear to matter more than the somewhat more zero-sum views of Americans at large.
What is the meaning of evidence from the survey that elite attitudes are proving more salient than mass attitudes as determinants of policy on the five questions indicating major elite-mass gaps (table 1)? It shows that hypotheses H1 and H2 are invalid. Remember, the survey was taken well into the post-Cold War era and information age. Contemporary policy is going in the direction of elite preferences more than mass preferences. Initial empirical evidence thus verifies the deductive logic that the end of the Cold War and the emergence of a communications revolution have not seriously reduced the importance of elite attitudes.
Nonetheless, future research ought to try to confirm these findings in a similar way. That future research should do two things. First, it ought to look at a broader battery of cases in which there are substantial (more than 15-20 percent) differences in elite and mass opinion. The set of cases appropriate to the scope of this article was admittedly small. Moreover, a larger study of the impact of the Cold War's demise and especially communications technology would examine trends over time. As we move further and further into a post-Cold War information age, do elite attitudes remain salient in instances of "elite-mass gaps"? Do H1 and H2 remain invalid? For instance, do symbols specialists only have a short-term advantage in the information age? Does H2 eventually become valid? Scholars must establish that the mid-1990s are not merely transitional years, and that the full effects of the Cold War's demise and the information age's ascendance are accounted for in studying the influence of "influentials."
For now, it is reasonable to conclude that elites still matter significantly in foreign policymaking. But the elites whose beliefs matter will not necessarily be the elites who mattered in the Cold War, an epistemic community consisting of the "national security state" and "security studies" experts outside of government - whose members circulated back and forth between one another. So, if elites matter, who are they? What do they believe?
WHAT THESE INFLUENTIALS BELIEVE
A Nonlinear Array of Four World Views
As stated earlier, there is no such thing as the unitary elite. There are competing elites defined by different visions of the common good trying to sell those visions to the public as the ratifiers of policy in a democracy.
A good deal of literature was devoted to the subject of competing belief systems during the Cold War, especially in the post-Vietnam period. George Quester (1982) offered the elegantly simple tripartite schema of those who saw the United States as morally better than other nations in the world, those who saw it as morally equivalent to other nations, and those who thought it was morally more culpable than other nations. Ole Holsti and James Rosenau identified internationalists viewing world politics through the prism of the East-West conflict, internationalists with non-Cold War priorities (e.g., economics and distributive justice), and isolationists seeking to focus on public policy at home (Holsti and Rosenau, 1984). Ironically, the most elaborate and penetrating typology was published by Stephen Walt (1989) just as the Cold War was ending. It fixed upon the proper scope of the containment doctrine as the dimension differentiating the beliefs of elite groupings.
Since the Cold War, a few scholars have explored new ideological types. For instance, Wittkopf (1990; 1994) and Holsti and Rosenau (1990) have examined a typology based on two dimensions: support for or opposition to "militant internationalism" and support for or opposition to "cooperative internationalism," which account for cross-cutting cleavages on security and non-security issues.
Let me offer a scheme that seems best to capture the basic preferences of elites in the post-Cold War information age [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. It involves two dimensions.
The first dimension involves the relative role of interests and values in American policy. It poses a choice between an interests-based approach to policymaking, realpolitik, and an idealist values-based approach, idealism. Realpolitik and idealism here refer to the normative premises of decisionmakers' worldviews, not explanatory models of social scientists. In fact, I use the word realpolitik, rather than realist or realism to reinforce that distinction.
The second dimension involves the relative benefits of collaboration or going it alone. It poses a choice between unilateralism and multilateralism. This choice is not an absolute dichotomy between always or never collaborating with other nations as partners. It merely represents how elites are predisposed to view international relations. Since world views largely consist of the filter through which leaders examine the international environment and policy options, this dimension involves a priori assumptions about whether multilateral or unilateral instruments of policy are more efficacious.
When one juxtaposes these two binary choices, one gets four ideological types. The combination of realpolitik and multilateralism could be called "coalitional pragmatism." It is "pragmatic" in its emphasis on interests and pursuing policy within the constraints of the possible, determined largely by relative capabilities within the international balance of power. It is "coalitional" in the sense that goals are pursued with partners.
The combination of idealism and multilateralism could be called "disinterested globalism." I borrow this label from Jeane Kirkpatrick (1990, 42). The emphasis on values and not on interests makes it "disinterested." The root word globalism is apt to describe both the idealist aims and multilateral instruments embraced by this elite grouping.
The marriage of realpolitik and unilateralism can be called "pessimistic nationalism." The approach is "nationalist" in the sense that it advocates acting alone, unfettered by compromises with partners in informal coalitions or formal organizations. It is pessimistic in the sense that it assumes the United States should pursue interests within the context of what is rather than promote values in the service of what ought to be.
Finally, a world view linking idealism and unilateralism could be called "optimistic nationalism." Again, the approach is "nationalist" in the sense that the United States will go it alone, independent of multilateral channels of decisionmaking or policy implementation. It is "optimistic" in its preference for maintaining and expanding the scope of democratic capitalist values in the world.
The Succession of Dominant World Views in the 1980s and 1990s
If you look at the 1980s and 1990s - the years when the Cold War unraveled and when the information age (of cable television, the fax, and electronic mail) took hold - one sees examples of these four elite ideological types. The dominant thrust of American foreign policy was successively embodied by the Reagan administration, the Bush administration, the Clinton administration before the 1994 election, and the new Republican majority since the 1994 election, which for unique circumstances has eclipsed (perhaps temporarily) the executive branch as the chief force in setting the tone of American foreign policy.
Each of these actors - the three presidential administrations and the 104th Congress - corresponds to one of the four world views identified above. (Note the succession of world views indicated by the arrow in the center of figure 1.)
The Reagan administration exhibited a combination of idealism and unilateralism. Ronald Reagan's idealism took the form of an ideological struggle (a "crusade for freedom") against the Soviet-led totalitarian bloc ("the evil empire"), relying on such policy instruments as public diplomacy and a new national endowment to promote democratization. The administration's perceptual filters for identifying problems, defining goals, and even choosing instruments of policy were moralistic (see Lagon 1994b, 96-100). The unilateralism was seen in a willingness to go it alone in, for instance, not signing the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and de-emphasizing multilateral channels for delivering foreign aid.
The policy most representative of Reagan's combination of moralism with a penchant for going it alone was the Strategic Defense Initiative. This policy's moralism lay in its effort to transcend the existing nuclear doctrine based on a balance of terror that some, such as Robert Jervis (1984), have characterized as an existential fact of life rather than a policy. Its unilateralism is seen in its dramatic announcement with little consultation with allies benefiting' from the American nuclear umbrella or adversaries with whom that balance of terror was maintained. This unilateral initiative, based on a positivist faith in technology and a desire to eliminate a standoff holding populations hostage to potential obliteration, was a classic example of "optimistic nationalism."
The Bush administration combined realpolitik with multilateralism. It is worth noting that by this scheme, a Republican administration succeeding another Republican administration had the opposite approach - changing its orientation on both dimensions of policy. The Bush administration exhibited an emphasis on American interests and the balance of power, not least because of the return to influence of proteges of Henry Kissinger - Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Eagleberger - and other colleagues from the Nixon and Ford administrations, such as Richard Cheney and, indeed, the president himself. Their realpolitik views can be seen in a common desire to prevent or slow the breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia for fear of the resulting instability. The administration also clearly exhibited a willingness to foster multilateralism. It was the Bush administration that created the precedent for trying to work through the U.N. in a post-Cold War world.
Indeed, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm best illustrate the administration's "coalitional pragmatism." The decision to expel Iraq from Kuwait was based on the transgression of a sovereign nation-state's territorial integrity and the interest of maintaining the free flow of oil to the United States and its allies. These were aims grounded in realpolitik. The effort was thoroughly multilateralist - from its reliance on a U.N. Security Council authorization to burden sharing through a coalition.
In its first two years, when it was a largely unchallenged arbiter of American foreign policy, the Clinton administration combined idealism and multilateralism. The idealism has chiefly taken the form of the doctrine promoted by National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, "Enlargement" (Lake 1993). That doctrine refers to the goal of enlarging the zone of market economies and democratic governments like our own. The multilateralism of the administration appears to be based in a strong belief that acting in concert always has more legitimacy than acting alone; hence the administration's unwillingness to recognize an inherent right under international law to self-defense (under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter) in the case of Bosnia because it would not want to lift the arms embargo on that nation unilaterally.
As George Szamuely (1993) has noted in a suggestive paper, this combination of idealism and multilateralism created a new form of interventionism. The archetypal instance of the Clinton administration's "disinterested globalism" was its so-called peacekeeping policy in Somalia. In two crucial ways it changed the nature of the American intervention in Somalia, which began under the "coalitional pragmatist" Bush administration. First, the goal of the operation became nation-building rather than emergency humanitarian aid for the starving. As U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright (1993) said of Security Council Resolution 814, recasting the mission in Somalia, "by adopting this resolution we will embark on an unprecedented enterprise aimed at nothing less than the restoration of an entire country as a proud, functioning and viable member of the community of nations."
Second, the administration turned over operational control of UNOSOM to the U.N. Secretariat, rather than maintaining U.S. control as it had in the earlier phase of the Somalia operation during the Bush administration (and also the Desert Shield and Desert Storm coalition under U.N. auspices). This policy is a good example of "disinterested globalism," idealistic in its pursuit of nation-building and so convinced of the legitimacy of multilateralism that it turned over control of the military operation to the U.N.'s administrators.
One can argue that the control of both Houses of Congress by the Republicans for the first time in four decades has given it a leading role in the foreign policy arena in recent months. Its foreign policy agenda, to the degree that Congress can "write" rather than merely "edit" the foreign policy of the United States, has exhibited a "pessimistic nationalist" worldview. It represents the 180-degree opposite of the Clinton administration's disinterested globalism of 1993 and 1994: realpolitik rather than idealism, and unilateralism rather than multilateralism. Its realpolitik is seen in its insistence that military intervention clearly serves American interests; for instance, for the Republican Congress, restoration of a democratically elected government in Haiti does not satisfy these criteria for the Republicans today.(6) And its unilateralism is seen in its effort to reduce funding to the U.N. and limit the transfer of operational control of U.S. troops by the United Nations.
The emblematic policy of the Republican Congress is the National Security Revitalization Act (H.R. 7), the one bill outlined in the "Contract with America" devoted to foreign policy and defense. The bill seeks to reverse what some analysts (Szamuely 1993) have observed in the Clinton era as the combination of (1) overextended military intervention for purposes remote from tangible American national security concerns and (2) contracting defense spending and capabilities. H.R. 7 embodies the opposite premises: military intervention must serve clear national interests (requiring congressional approval for American involvement in U.N. "peace operations"); and defense capabilities must not be allowed to dwindle (necessitating a commission to study whether present forces can even achieve the goals set out by the Clinton administration's "Bottom-Up Review," to fight and win in two nearly simultaneous major regional contingencies).
In the post-Cold War information age, multiple elites will compete for the hearts and minds of the American people. There will be no single foreign policy establishment based on a monolithic ideological consensus. The opinion shapers will be offering a menu with (at least) four options for mass ratification. The options of optimistic nationalism, coalitional pragmatism, disinterested globalism, and pessimistic nationalism have been showcased by the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations, and the new Republican congressional majority respectively.
NOT-SO-DEMOCRATIC FOREIGN POLICY IN THE AMERICAN DEMOCRACY?
The argument of this article is that foreign policy in American democracy is in a sense not as democratic as one might think. Suggestions that the departure of the Cold War and the arrival of the information age will shrink the role of foreign policy elites do not stand up to deductive logic, nor to empirical evidence as to outcomes when there are disjunctions in elite and mass opinion.
These findings raise normative questions about whether the role of elites in democracies' foreign policy is unhealthy or even oligarchical, to use Michels's term. Does this enduring role for opinion shapers as mobilizers violate the principles of pluralism in the American democracy, which seem to be more in evidence in practice in domestic policymaking?
While these questions deserve substantial discussion, and are largely beyond the basic scope of this article, let me close with a few remarks on this matter. Despite the fact that I have focused on five instances of elite-mass gaps apparent in the Chicago Council's 1995 survey as a useful analytical tool, there is substantial convergence of elite and mass attitudes in foreign affairs (Rielly 1995, 15-16).
After all, elites are not completely insulated from the mass culture in the United States. First, they are socialized in that culture along with the rest of the American public. Second, elites do not determine foreign policy outcomes independent of public will. It is telling that elites are called "opinion shapers." They must mobilize public support, and the public retains the power to ratify foreign policy. Therefore, elites may have a surprisingly large role in a democracy, but they are by no means autonomous. For this reason, Michels grossly overstates democracies' oligarchical tendencies.
As competing elites offer four options to the public - unilateralist realpolitik, multilateralist realpolitik, unilateralist idealism, and multilateralist idealism - the ideology that will prevail more often than the others will have to "fit" the mass culture. As historian Robert Dallek (1983) has suggested, there is a "style" of American foreign policy influenced by the culture. It may be, for instance, that proponents of unilateralist idealism (optimistic nationalism) will re-emerge and mobilize public support for that foreign policy approach because of a fit with the American culture. However, checking out this speculative prediction is the subject of another article.
1. I would like to thank Russell Hill for suggesting this formulation of TQM, and hence helping to inspire the analogy.
2. Of course, totalitarian dictatorships have been concerned with mobilizing mass support through persuasion as well as coercion. Hence their unique focus on the use of propaganda, instruments of socialization, and cultural symbols. (Ellul 1965.)
3. It is ironic indeed that Clough should publish this article, "Grass Roots Policymaking," in Foreign Affairs, the flagship publication of a major organ of the foreign policy establishment, the Council on Foreign Relations. Clough is heading a study group for CFR, no less, on the emergence of new domestic actors in the foreign policy process.
4. Like the Clinton administration itself, the study might be making a mistake in assuming that attitudes about the U.N. directly reflect attitudes more broadly about American engagement in the world; criticism of the United Nations and funding it are not evidence of isolationism per se.
5. Admittedly, these premises may reflect the consensus view among elites ("America's Place in the World" 1993, 18).
6. Robert Kagan (1995) has argued in Commentary that the Republicans have abandoned their commitment to the idealism of the Reagan years in embracing the inverse of the Clinton administration. He criticizes the unanimous rejection of involvement in Haiti - based on there being no national interests involved - as inconsistent with Republican policy in Latin America in the 1980s. He offers this observation after having served in the State Department's Bureau for Inter-American Affairs in the Reagan administration.
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Mark P. Lagon is a research associate at the American Enterprise Institute, and an adjunct professor of government and of national security studies at Georgetown University. Lagon is author of The Reagan Doctrine: Sources of American Conduct in the Cold War's Last Chapter (Praeger, 1994).…