The United States and North Africa: A Cognitive Approach to Foreign Policy

The United States and North Africa: A Cognitive Approach to Foreign Policy

The United States and North Africa: A Cognitive Approach to Foreign Policy

The United States and North Africa: A Cognitive Approach to Foreign Policy

Synopsis

This work is a study of U.S. foreign policy from a psychological perspective. Using a novel method called cognitive mapping, it analyzes historical and interview data on U.S. policy toward North Africa through the reconstruction of mental images held by members of the U.S. foreign policy elite. Two case studies--arms sales to Morocco in the context of the Western Sahara war, and liquefied natural gas contracts with Algeria--are used to illustrate the usefulness of this perspective. It offers important conclusions about the role played by images and perception in foreign policy.

Excerpt

Among various conceptual tools used by studies of politics, the notion of image has attracted many international relations scholars. It has provided them with a new and very promising outlook on matters that did not seem to be satisfactorily explained or predicted by traditional theoretical tools. In the last twenty years, many concepts and notions, new to the field of politics, gained immediate popularity and became important in the analysis of the subjective side of political behavior. Among them, one finds the notions of image, definition of the situation, world view, mind set, and the concepts of belief, perception, and attitude. Unfortunately, these notions and concepts have often been used interchangeably -- day given the same meaning -- by many political scientists not aware of their subtle and necessary theoretical differences. However, their increasing use seems to reflect the recognition, by many scholars, of the relevance of a number of subjective factors in political explanations and predictions.

As a matter of fact, toward the end of the eight-year Reagan administration, and as the United States and the Soviet Union were entertaining more and more the idea of warmer relations and closer cooperation in all fields, some academic and non-academic observers spoke of a possible change that might have taken place in the image that the president, and some of his fellow policy makers, have been holding of the USSR. Among the many questions asked were: Did Reagan's image of the Soviet Union change in eight years? If yes, was such a change a necessary condition for the current rapprochement? Or was this due only to some changes in the Soviet behavior? These questions are similar to the ones we asked as we undertook this research. Only the issues are different; the concerns are the same. Our work tackles two relatively new scholastic interests in the U.S.: North Africa and its interaction with the United States, and the role of elite images in the foreign policy-making process.

To many scholars, facts have stopped speaking for themselves. They . . .

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