Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Joshua W. Busby's "Moral Movements and Foreign Policy"

Joshua Busby is an Assistant Professor of Public Affairs and a fellow in the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service as well as a Crook Distinguished Scholar at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Moral Movements and Foreign Policy, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book Moral Movements and Foreign Policy picks up the story of why the Japanese government finally supported efforts to write-off developing country debt relief in the early 2000s even though they really did not want to. If you recall, there was a burst of advocacy activity leading up to the millennium by the Jubilee 2000 campaign. Inspired by a biblical verse, the idea was to give poor countries a fresh start in time for the new century. The campaign attracted a diverse base of support around the world from the left and the right and was one of the early efforts in the internet age to recruit celebrities for international development causes. Some years ago, I wrote about this in a piece entitled, “Bono Made Jesse Helms Cry” which is also the title for Chapter 3 of my book which includes page 99.

Looking at four campaigns on debt relief, climate change, HIV/AIDS, and the International Criminal Court, I ask a broader question in my book, why do some moral movements succeed in some places and fail in others? The answer has to do with (1) how advocates frame their appeals, (2) whether what they are seeking is costly, and (3) if the gatekeepers in charge of that particular policy believe the costs are worth it. Some campaigns do a better job framing their arguments to appeal to the values of the country they are targeting. However, sometimes the costs of supporting an advocacy campaign’s goals are high, putting decision-makers in a bind, “Do I support costs or values?” Some political systems make it possible for lots of actors (Congressional committee chairs, heads of agencies, the President) to block policies. Where those actors disagree, it will be more difficult for a campaign to win.

Coming back to page 99, that section gets into how Japan’s decision to support debt relief was implemented. The back-story revolves around how the issue was framed. The Bible was the inspiration for the Jubilee campaign. Obviously, Japan has a different religious tradition, but the issue was re-framed in Japan to be a test of the country’s reputation as a good “international citizen,” an important value in Japan since the end of WWII. Even though Japan faced high costs of writing off the debt, this appeal was deemed important enough that Japanese policymakers supported debt relief despite their misgivings.
Read an excerpt from Moral Movements and Foreign Policy, and learn more about the book at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue