(Under contract with the University of Michigan Press.)

The road to foreign policy is often paved by coalition governments in parliamentary democracies. Nearly 90 percent of all Western European governments in the post-War era include two or more political parties. Finland has not elected a single-party majority since 1917. Israel, the Middle East’s only consolidated democracy, has never experienced single-party rule in its history. Even the United Kingdom, known for its long streak of single-party rule, now navigates hung parliaments and multiparty cabinets. Yet when studying the foreign policies of these regimes, researchers fall back on the convenient distinction between coalitions and single- party governments. They overlook what goes on within coalitions, even though history shows that these governments could commit themselves at one point either to missile deployments, international military operations, or strengthening bilateral relationships with a foreign actor while failing to do so at other times, ending up postponing their decisions, watering down their policy positions, or promising to do less than they otherwise would.

What explains this variation in their foreign policy behavior? How can some coalitions make commitments more easily than others in the international arena? Why can some “talk the talk” and “walk the walk,” but others only talk in foreign affairs?

Governing Abroad addresses these questions to argue that the specific constellation of parties in government explains why some coalitions can make more assertive foreign policy decisions than others. Building on the rich literatures on coalition theory, legislative politics, and retrospective voting, the book weaves together sophisticated statistical analyses of more than 17,000 foreign policy events across 30 European countries alongside in-depth case studies from Denmark, the Netherlands, and Finland to demonstrate that the size of the coalition, its partisan composition, and its interaction with the parliamentary opposition together influence its ability to make international commitments. Focusing for the first time on the post-Cold War period, the book offers new insights on coalition foreign policy to both scholars and practitioners of international politics.

Table of Contents:

  1. Why Study Coalition Governments in Foreign Policy?

  2. Foreign Policy in Parliamentary Regimes: Unpacking the Dichotomy

  3. Coalition Politics and the Intensity of Commitments

  4. Reaching ‘Across the Aisle:’ Danish Commitments During the 1990 and 2003 Operations in Iraq

  5. When Foreign Policy Spills Over: Dutch Support for the Iraq War

  6. Loyal to Whom? Finland’s Decision to Join the European Monetary Union

  7. Coalition Foreign Policy, Unpacked: Implications for Theory and Policy