Policy Analysis and Argument

Policy Analysis and Argument - NOTICE This material may be...

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1 Political Science 102: Introduction to International Relations POLICY ANALYSIS AND ARGUMENT (January 2002) Roy Licklider So far in this course we have focused on empirical issues, what has happened and what will happen . How does this relate to foreign policy decision-making, the choices made to real people in governments at different times which influence our lives? Clearly empirical issues are important in such decisions, but they are not necessarily decisive. Thus it is time to broaden our concerns. When people in governments make decisions about foreign policy, they must be concerned with normative issues as well, both to determine what outcomes they should seek (should the U.S. pursue bin Laden after the events of September 11) and what means are appropriate (empirically surprise attacks on the major cities of Afghanistan with nuclear weapons would probably have killed bin Laden, but many people would not have thought this appropriate because of the hundreds of thousands of other people who would have been killed or injured). Policy decisions, as opposed to academic research, require that both normative and empirical issues be addressed at the same time , which is one reason that decision-making is so difficult. To further complicate things, anyone who wishes to influence policy must engage in two separate processes--how do we decide for ourselves what the government should do (an intellectual process) and, after deciding, how do we persuade others to agree with us (a political process). We will use the techniques of argument to help us toward these objectives. Like all other intellectual activities, this choice is based on a faith or a theology. I believe that by mastering the arguments on both sides of an issue, we can each best determine our own positions. Once each of us thinks we know what we want to do, argument is essential because politics is the art of getting large numbers of people to act together, and persuasion is much more efficient than threats. However, it is also quite difficult, as we know from our everyday experience. How do we go about persuading someone to accept our views? Often the preferred strategy is something I call policy argument . This involves laying out a series of statements, explaining how they are logically connected, and supporting each statement and connection so clearly that the audience is prepared to adopt it for its own. To put it differently, you have to explain clearly why others should accept your position that this particular conclusion is more believable than others. This sounds like the science approach revisited, but note that answers to normative questions cannot be made more plausible by testing them against reality.
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2 Since we are talking about the future, facts are helpful but not decisive, since facts by definition refer to the past and present, and one can always contend with some reason that the future will be different. An alternative is analysis , showing the assumptions which underlie your arguments and the logic
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