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Bomb or build? How party ideologies affect the balance of foreign aid and defence spending

Authors: George Wenzelburger and Florian Böller

Affiliation: University of Kaiserslautern

Organization/Publisher: SAGE Journals

Date/Place: November 20, 2019, U.S.

Type: Research Article

Number of Pages: 21


Keywords: Defense Spending, Foreign Aid, Foreign Policy, Party Ideology


This research article focuses on the role of political parties in shaping foreign policy choices and priorities. Although there is a great literature on the domestic sources of foreign policy, the authors claim that there is little consideration of the political parties’ role in determining foreign policy. Calling political parties the “neglected element” in the foreign policy equation, the authors argue that the ideology of the political parties in power affects the foreign policy priorities since it influences the relative importance of the military or foreign aid expenditures. They propose that “defence spending and foreign aid are two sides of the same coin.” The authors accordingly combine both of these elements of foreign policy in their study instead of studying them separately. They developed the “bomb-or-build”-balance (BBB) concept, which refers to the significance of military or foreign aid expenditure in government’s foreign policy. The authors’ systematic analysis starts with a literature review on the influence of partisanship on foreign policy priorities. After shedding light on “voter attitudes” and “party manifestos,” the authors then link these positions to the policies of the parties in charge, creating the BBB. The authors then conduct an empirical study analyzing 21 OECD countries quantitatively to show their BBB values, to determine whether skewed for military or foreign aid; or if a balanced profile in relation to government’s ideology.

By: Yomna Süleyman, CIGA Research Assistant



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