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ECPR 50th Anniversary Fund

Political Survival and Cumulative Fiascos: Britain, Zionism and the Palestine Mandate

European Politics
Foreign Policy
Carly Beckerman-Boys
The London School of Economics & Political Science
Carly Beckerman-Boys
The London School of Economics & Political Science

Although research into Groupthink or Bureaucratic Politics implies that flawed decision-making processes are avoidable, the third wave of Foreign Policy Analysis suggests that decision-making includes inescapable features, which may contribute to foreign policy fiascos. One of these third-wave frameworks, Poliheuristic (PH) Theory, is predicated upon a key assumption: that loss on the political dimension is noncompensatory. This approach places political survival above all other considerations, meaning that we should expect foreign policy decisions to represent little more than short-term fixes. Applying PH Theory to demonstrate just such a series of near-sighted decision-making episodes, this paper argues that British high policy towards Palestine during the Mandate Period did indeed represent a foreign policy fiasco. Through a series of decisions in which the pursuit of political survival all but determined final choices, the British Empire became trapped in a uneconomical cycle of sunk costs and diplomatic fire fighting over Palestine.
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