Realist foreign policy analysis with a twist: the Persian Gulf security complex and the rise and fall of dual containment

Keith Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)
180 Downloads (Pure)


Analyses of US post-Cold War foreign policy in the Persian Gulf symbolize realism's new found concern with foreign policy analysis. Prominent realists attribute specific policies to domestic concerns and how they have dominated policymaking in the era of US primacy. Although convincing, this perspective is not comprehensive. By drawing on regional security complex theory, it is possible to map the regional developments that have equally constrained and incentivized the rise and fall of dual containment. This more extensive account produces two important findings regarding realism's neglect of the regional level of analysis. First, realists overstate the domestic determinants of US policy in the Persian Gulf. Second, and more broadly, realist foreign policy analysts underspecify systemic pressures that shape and shove a country's foreign policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-333
Number of pages19
JournalForeign Policy Analysis
Issue number3
Early online date2 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • foreign policy
  • Persian Gulf
  • policymaking

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