Decision-makers in all fields are often faced with diverse and contradictory policy options. Increasingly, decisions seem to be based on ideology and institutional interests rather than an honest assessment of the merits of each option. In some cases, the fact that future outcomes are rarely knowable is even used to justify poor decision-making processes. This paper offers a critique of an established foreign policy tool that is still widely used by the great powers, the sale or grant of conventional arms, solely in terms of the assumptions that underlie the practice. Identifying these assumptions, including deeply held beliefs about the nature of arms, security and political influence, offers the most effective avenue for challenging the continued use of this foreign policy tool. By specifically identifying a series of related assumptions which collectively constitute the policy tool, it is possible to offer a powerful and systematic assessment of the validity of current practices that goes beyond any of the analyses that critics currently offer.
While this approach is not necessarily ground-breaking, the current political discourse tends to focus far too much on competing and unverifiable predictions of the future consequences of policy choices, and would benefit from a more rigorous analysis of the cognitive bedrock on which all policy recommendations rest. Investigating an area deeply enough to understand the ideas that lie at the heart of the various tools of choice offers insight into, for example, which are more or less situational, which are overly reliant on specific ideologies and which are best supported by historical data. As such, a study that focuses on identifying and analyzing the assumptions underlying this prominent foreign policy tool has much to offer other areas of public policy analysis, as well as the arms control and foreign policy communities.
|Keywords:||Arms Trade, Arms Transfers, Assumptions, Conventional Arms, Conventional Arms Control, Critical Security Studies, Foreign Policy Analysis|
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Intercultural Communications, Rikkyo University, Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Japan
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