Diplomacy and domestic politics: the logic of two-level games

TitleDiplomacy and domestic politics: the logic of two-level games
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsPutnam, RD

The most portentious development in the fields of CP and IR in recent years is the drawing recognition among practitioners in each field of the need to take into account entanglements between the two. Empirical illustrations of reciprocal influence between domestic and international affairs abound. What we need now are concepts and theories that will help us organize and extend our empirical observations.

Analysis in terms of two-level games offers a promising response to this challenge. Unlike state-centric theories, the two-level approach recognizes the inevitability of domestic conflict about what the "national interest" requires. Unlike the "Second Image" or the "second Image Reversed", the two-level approach recignizes that central decision-makers strive to reconcile domestic and international imperatives simultaneously. As we have seen, statesmen in this predicament face distinctive strategic opportunities and strategic dilemmas.

This theoretical approach highlights several significant features of the links between diplomacy and domestic politics, including:

1. the important distinction between voluntary and involuntary defection from international agreements

2. the contrast between issues on which domestic interests are homogenous, simply pitting hawks against doves, and issues on which domestic interests are more heterogeneous, so that domestic cleavage may actually foster international cooperation

3. the possibility of synergistic issue linkage, in which strategic moves at one game table facilitate unexpected coalitions at the second table.

4. the paradoxical fact that institutional arrangements which strengthen decision-makers at home may weaken their international bargaining position and vice versa.

5. the importance of targeting international threats, offers, and side-payments with an eye towards their domestic incidence at home and abroad

6. the strategic uses of uncertainty about domestic politics, and the special utility of "kinky win-sets"

7. the potential reverberation of international pressures within the domestic arena

8. the divergences of interest between a national leader and those on whose behalf he is negotiating, and in particular, the international implications of his fixed investments in domestic politics.