Authors’ notes: An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2013 Annual Convention of the International Studies Association in San Francisco. We thank Gerry C. Alons and Klaus Brummer as well as the anonymous reviewers and journal editors at Foreign Policy Analysis for their comments and suggestions.
Counterfactual Reasoning in Foreign Policy Analysis: The Case of German Nonparticipation in the Libya Intervention of 2011†
Article first published online: 11 APR 2014
© 2014 International Studies Association
Foreign Policy Analysis
How to Cite
2014) Counterfactual Reasoning in Foreign Policy Analysis: The Case of German Nonparticipation in the Libya Intervention of 2011. Foreign Policy Analysis, doi: 10.1111/fpa.12054, . (
- Article first published online: 11 APR 2014
The abstention of the conservative-liberal government under Chancellor Angela Merkel on UN Security Council resolution 1973 marked the first occasion in which the Federal Republic of Germany stood against all three of its main Western partners, the US, France, and the UK, simultaneously, on a major foreign policy issue. Many accounts of this decision invoke the influence of electoral incentives. What is problematic, however, is that the causal weight attached to electoral politics is often left ambiguous and difficult to assess with traditional case study methods. The article, therefore, employs counterfactual reasoning to scrutinize “electoral politics” explanations of Germany's policy on Libya. Specifically, it develops counterfactuals in which decision making did not take place in the shadow of upcoming elections and investigates how other variables on different levels of analysis would have shaped decision making in the counterfactual scenarios. The findings suggest that electoral incentives did not decisively shift German foreign policy on Libya. More generally, the article speaks to the value of counterfactuals in foreign policy analysis.