A fruitless crown : the logic and limits of foreign policy in revolutionist dictatorships.

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2015-03-25

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This dissertation examines the process of foreign policymaking in dictatorial regimes, using historical examples to illustrate contemporary implications for American foreign policy. I introduce a sub-category of regimes called “revolutionist dictatorships” that highlights the relationship between the regime and its continual need for public affirmation of its legitimacy. Lacking the institutional structures that routinize the role of public opinion within the state, the regime is forced to directly mobilize public support for its ambitions through an ideological program over which the regime must maintain exclusive rights of interpretation and implementation. Maintaining the image of ideological purity, on which its legitimacy ultimately relies, confines the revolutionist dictatorship to a series of short-term calculations that gradually constrict the pursuit of long-term strategic ends, and deprives the leadership of a clear separation between the objective conditions of security and the preferences of ideology. The need to preserve the illusion of ideological purity renders the unalloyed pursuit of interests impossible. I will first review and critique the literature on this subject, which tends to separate ideology and interest into discrete categories in which one or the other predominates based on the preferences of the leadership. I will then examine dictatorial power in light of its relationship to public opinion and develop the connection with three cases studies: Joseph Stalin, Sukarno, and Saddam Hussein. The similar incentives and pressures that arise between these ostensibly unlike cases will demonstrate the ramifications of using ideology to effect a direct connection between leader and people. Understanding this dilemma will provide a more sophisticated template for interpretation dictatorial behavior than dismissing them as inveterate “rogue states” or admiring them as sophisticated practitioners of realpolitik. The implications of this study may also be used to clarify the interplay of ideology and interest in both democratic and non-democratic states, and examine patterns of relations between and among them.

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