In broad terms, America's foreign policies are aimed at maintaining and promoting the favorable position and security of the United States in the international arena. The goals of American foreign policy, however, are not always clear. How involved should the United States be in the affairs of other nations? Should it only use its military might to defend its borders or should it be involved in peace-keeping efforts around the world? Should the United States attempt to trade "freely" with other nations, or should it enact restrictive tariffs to protect American companies and manufacturers?
As the United States faces the new millennium, there are familiar calls to become more isolated from the rest of the world while others argue that the nation must remain an active participant in the world community, even as the world becomes a more uncertain and dangerous place.
Who Makes Foreign Policy?
The Constitution of
the United States gives the President the clear upper-hand in the conduct
of foreign policy. The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the nation's
armed forces. As the single officer of the United States charged with
receiving the leaders of other nations and with negotiating treaties,
the President is also the nation's Chief Diplomat. (Photo at Right:
President George W. Bush meets with Prime Minister Belka of Poland, August
2004. Source: White
The President, however, does not have the authority to make foreign policy independently. The Constitution gives the Congress the power to check the President's foreign policy powers in important ways. While the President can order the United States military into action to respond to emergencies and threats to the security of the nation, only the Congress has the authority to officially "declare war." Ultimately, it is the Congress' power of the purse that allows it to cut off funding to presidentially ordered military ventures of which it does not approve.
In treaty making, the President must also work together with the Congress. While the President is free to negotiate treaties between the United States and other nations, treaties must be ratified by the Senate before they are officially binding on the United States.
The budgets of the State Department and other foreign policy agencies, which are officially charged with implementing the President's foreign policies, are also set by the Congress and overseen by foreign policy committees in both the House and the Senate. However, the ability of the Congress to influence foreign policy and check the President's actions are limited. The President's constitutional authority and ability to act unilaterally, juxtaposed against 535 often divided members of Congress, give the President a decisive edge.
What is the Proper Role of the United States in the World Today?
While China's military strength is increasingly formidable, the United States is arguably the world's only remaining Superpower, with a long history of military involvement around the globe. While the United States has only declared war five times in its history, it has been involved in hundreds of armed conflicts in dozens of countries. These "undeclared wars" range in significance and scale from America's prolonged involvement in Korea and Vietnam, to bombing raids on Baghdad and Kosovo, to post-9/11 actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.