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Rediscovering Historical Memory: German Foreign Military Intervention Decision Making Through the Second Lebanon War

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Abstract

This research tests theories for explaining recent German decisions to deploy or not deploy forces abroad. Underpinning this research is the rejection of a common scholarly reaction to German intervention policy, which is to disregard it as irrational or simply inexplicable, thereby degrading our overall understanding of interventions. Four approaches for unraveling this puzzle are tested, three common to the foreign policy literature but a fourth is borrowed from social psychology. Each of these approaches predicts to subsequent behaviors by first establishing decision maker “problem representations” emphasizing the process of option generation rather than option selection. Verbatim parliamentary statements of German representatives are coded for periods between 1990 and 2006. The study hypothesizes that the observation of problem representations provides a hitherto lacking theoretical structure to decisions. Data from 1,436 speeches provide mixed evidence. First, it indicates that German decision making vis-à-vis foreign military interventions is systematic and theoretically structured. Among the patterns is the importance of institutionalist problem representations. Also, results indicate a strength of realist problem representations and a weakness of historical-cultural problem representations with the main exception of the Lebanon occasion. The study concludes with observations on the generalizability of these findings to other decision-making contexts.

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