The President

The president is very influential in US foreign policy, and directs the nation’s war-waging, treaties, and diplomatic relations.

Learning Objectives

Explain the President’s authority as Commander-in-Chief of the United States

Key Takeaways

treatyWar Powers Actcongressional-executive agreements

The President’s Influence on US Foreign Policy

It is the president who practices foreign and defense policy who has more power and responsibility.It is they who decide how and when war is waged.The president, as America's chief diplomat, can make treaties that must be ratified by the Senate.Presidents are also responsible for representing the nation to other world leaders and receiving ambassadors. In almost every case, presidents cite foreign policy as evidence of their term's success.From 1993 to 2001, Bill Clinton went from being a domestic policy expert to becoming a foreign policy enthusiast.Even George W. Bush, notoriously untraveled, underwent the same transformation before 9/11.Foreign policy under President Obama has been just as engaged, if not more, than that of his predecessors.Foreign policy initiatives pose fewer challenges to Congress than domestic policy initiatives, as long as Congress is consulted."Two Presidencies Thesis" contends that the president has greater independence in foreign affairs than in domestic affairs.

The President and Waging War

The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces and as such has broad authority over the armed forces. However, only Congress has authority to declare war and decide the civilian and military budget.

War powers provide a key avenue for presidents to act in foreign policy. After the 9/11 attacks, President Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel argued that as commander in chief President Bush could do what was necessary to protect the American people. Since World War II, presidents have never asked Congress for (or received) a declaration of war. Instead, they relied on open-ended congressional authorizations to use force, United Nations resolutions, North American Treaty Organization (NATO) actions, and orchestrated requests from tiny international organizations like the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.

Congress can react against undeclared wars by cutting funds for military interventions. Such efforts are time consuming and not in place until long after the initial incursion. Congress’s most concerted effort to restrict presidential war powers, the War Powers Act, passed despite President Nixon’s veto in 1973. It was established to limit presidential war powers, but it gave presidents the right to commit troops for sixty days with only the conditions being to consult with and report to Congress—conditions presidents often feel free to ignore. Since Vietnam, the act has done little to prevent presidents from unilaterally launching invasions.

President Obama did not seek congressional authorization before ordering the US military to join attacks on the Libyan air defenses and government forces in March 2011. After the bombing campaign started, Obama sent Congress a letter contending that as Commander-in-Chief he had constitutional authority for the attacks. White House lawyers used the distinction between “limited military operation” and “war” to justify this.

The President, Treaties, and Agreements

Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution grants power to the president to make treaties with the “advice and consent ” of two-thirds of the Senate. This is different from normal legislation which requires approval by simple majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

As president, Wilson disagreed with Congress about how to handle the peace treaty that ended World War I.Presidential office often has a significant impact on US foreign policy.

There have also been instances throughout U.S. history where the President has made international "agreements" through congressional-executive agreements (CEAs) ratified by only a majority of both houses of Congress, or sole executive agreements made by the President alone.In American history, congress-executive and sole-executive agreements were generally accepted by the Supreme Court.

The President and Diplomacy

.The president may appoint certain public officials with the "advice and consent" of the Senate.Under this clause, lower-level officials may also be appointed without the need for advice and consent.Therefore, the President is responsible for appointing both upper- and lower-level diplomats and foreign-aid workers. Several skincare products are available for straightening bleached hair.

Hillary Rodham Clinton: Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State, the Foreign Minister of the US.Diplomats (such as the Secretary of State) are appointed by the President, giving him or her considerable influence on US foreign policy.

Head of state and nation's top diplomat, the President serves the nation.The president is often portrayed as speaking for and embodying the nation: delivering the State of the Union address, welcoming foreign leaders, traveling abroad, and representing the United States at international conferences.In US foreign policy, all of these duties play a vital role.

The Cabinet

The secretary of state and secretary of defense play key roles in assisting the president with foreign policy.

Learning Objectives

Compare and contrast the roles of the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense in U.S. foreign policy

Key Takeaways


The president's cabinet includes several secretaries who help with foreign affairs.One of those is the secretary of state. The Secretary of State represents the United States Department of State, which is involved in foreign affairs.As the highest-ranking cabinet member, the Secretary is one of the cabinet's members.In addition to John Kerry, the 68th person to hold the position, the current Secretary of State is Robert Zoellick.He or she performs the following duties: Almost all domestic functions of the Department of State have been transferred to other government agencies.There are a few remaining duties, including storing and using the Great Seal of the United States, managing protocol for the White House, and drafting certain proclamations.In addition, the Secretary negotiates with state governments on the extradition of fugitives.The resignation of a President or Vice-President is only valid if it is announced in writing and delivered to the Secretary of State's office.President Nixon and Vice-President Spiro Agnew resigned over domestic issues and delivered instruments to Secretary of State. .The Secretary of State would be fourth in line to succeed the Presidency, after the Vice President, the House Speaker, and the Senate President Pro Tempore.From 1961 to 2001, six Secretaries of State were elected Presidents.


Flag of the Secretary of Defense: The flag of the secretary of defense.

As the head of the United States Foreign Service, the Secretary of State is responsible for managing the diplomatic service of the United States. The foreign service employs about 12,000 people domestically and internationally. It supports 265 United States Diplomatic missions around the world, including ambassadors to various nations.

The Secretary of Defense is the head and chief executive officer of the Department of Defense, which is an Executive Department of the Government of the United States of America. This position corresponds to what is generally known as a defense Minister in many other countries. The Secretary of Defense is appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the senate. The individual is by custom a member of the cabinet and by law a member of the National Security Council.

The Secretary of Defense is in the chain of command and exercises command and control, subject only to the orders of the President, over all Department of Defense forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps) for both operational and administrative purposes. Only the Secretary of Defense (or the President) can authorize the transfer of operational control of forces between the three Military Departments and between the combatant commands. Because the Office of Secretary of Defense is vested with legal powers which exceeds those of any commissioned officer, and is second only to the Office of President in the military hierarchy, it has sometimes unofficially been referred to as a de facto “deputy commander-in-chief. ” The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the principal military adviser to the Secretary of Defense and the President. While the Chairman may assist the Secretary and President in their command functions, the Chairman is not in the chain of command.Secretary of Defense is a statutory office. It is the general provision in administrative law that provides that the Secretary of Defense has “authority, direction and control over the Department of Defense. ” The Secretary of Defense is further designated by the same statute as “the principal assistant to the President in all matters relating to the Department of Defense. ” Ensuring civilian control of the military, an individual may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within seven years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular (i.e., non-reserve) component of an armed force.

The Bureaucracy

Prominent bureaucratic organizations shaping U.S. foreign policy include the State Department, the Defense Department, and the CIA.

Learning Objectives

Compare and contrast the roles of the State Department, the Defense Department, and the Central Intelligence Agency in shaping U.S. foreign policy.

Key Takeaways

diplomatic immunitytactical

Bureaucratic organizations actively contribute to shaping U.S. foreign policy.There are many of them, including the State Department, the Defense Department, and the Central Intelligence Agency.United States Department of State (DoS), commonly referred to as the State Department, is the U.S. federal executive department responsible for international relations, similar to national foreign ministries elsewhere. Creating the Department was one of the first executive departments set up in 1789. .State's mission includes the following:


U.S. State Department: The State Department is one bureaucratic agency that shapes U.S. foreign policy

The Department of Defense (also known as the Defense Department, USDOD, DOD, DoD or the Pentagon) is the executive department of the U.S. government charged with coordinating and supervising all agencies and functions of the government concerned directly with national security and the U.S. armed forces. The Department – headed by the Secretary of Defense – has three subordinate military departments: the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, and the Department of the Air Force. The Military Departments are each headed by their own Secretary, appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is an independent civilian intelligence agency of the U.S. government. It is an executive agency that reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence with responsibility for providing national security intelligence assessments to senior U.S. policymakers. Intelligence-gathering, a core function of the agency, is performed by non-military commissioned civilian intelligence agents, many of whom are trained to avoid tactical situations. The CIA also oversees and sometimes engages in tactical and covert activities at the request of the U.S. President. Often, when such field operations are organized, the U.S. military or other warfare tacticians carry these tactical operations out on behalf of the agency while the CIA oversees them.


Two constitutional clauses, the Constitution and Foreign Commerce Clause and the War Power Clause, give Congress foreign policy powers.

Learning Objectives

Evaluate the War Powers Clause and how the United States’ process of declaring and entering into war has changed over time, identifying the general role that Congress plays in making and coordinating foreign policy

Key Takeaways

police action

The Congress has several powers to engage in foreign policy, as well as to check the president in case of war.Congress was given powerful powers in the War Power Clause of the Constitution, as well as the Foreign Commerce Clause.Foreign commerce is the authority Congress has to regulate foreign trade.In accordance with the Constitution, five wars were declared: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. Secretary of State is a member of the United States Department of State. It is concerned with foreign affairs.The Secretary of the Treasury is the highest-ranking cabinet secretary by both line of succession and order of precedence.At the moment, the Secretary of State is John Kerry, the 68th person to hold the position.Her responsibilities include:.Other agencies now handle the majority of the Department of State's domestic functions.The only remaining responsibilities are the use and storage of the Great Seal of the United States, the handling of protocol for the White House, and the drafting of certain proclamations.In addition, the Secretary negotiates with individual state governments on extraditing fugitives to foreign countries.Under Federal Law, a President or Vice-President can officially resign only if their resignation is declared in a written instrument delivered to the Secretary of State. As a result, President Nixon's resignation and that of Vice President Spiro Agnew's, both domestic issues, were formalized in instruments delivered to the Secretary of State.As the highest ranking member of the cabinet, the Secretary of State is behind the President and Vice President as the third most powerful official of the U.S. Federal Government.Besides the Vice President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Secretary of State is the fourth in line to succeed the Presidency.Six Secretaries of State have gone on to become Presidents.

John Johnson and his advisors look at a map of Vietnam.Although it was not one that Congress waged, the police action turned into a warlike situation quickly.

Because of the speculation over the Gulf of Tonkin and the possibilities of misusing the authorization that followed, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution in 1973.In order to initiate hostilities, the president must get either a declaration of war or an authorization to use force from Congress within 60 days.The constitutionality of the resolution remains an open question.Several presidents have spoken out against its unconstitutional nature. Secretary of Defense is chief executive officer of the Department of Defense, which is an Executive Department of the Government of the United States of America.This position corresponds to what is commonly known as the Defense Minister in many countries.In most cases, the president appoints the Secretary of Defense with the consent of the Senate.By custom, the person is a member of the cabinet, and by law, a member of the National Security Council. In addition to acting as the chain of command and command authority over all of the Department of Defense's forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps), the Secretary of Defense exercises administrative and operational control over the departments' forces.Under the U.S. Armed Forces Organization, the Secretary of Defense (or the President) is the only individual who can authorize a transfer of operational control between the U.S. Military Departments and between combatant commands.It is sometimes unofficially referred to as a de facto "deputy commander-in-chief" because the Secretary of Defense has considerably broader powers than any commissioned officer, and is second only to the President in the military hierarchy.

Interest Groups

Foreign policy interest groups are domestic advocacy organizations which seek to influence the government’s foreign policy.

Key Takeaways


Foreign policy interest groups, which are domestic advocacy organizations seeking to directly or indirectly influence the government ‘s foreign policy, are a key player in U.S. foreign policy.

According to U.S. scholar John Dietrich, these interest groups have mobilized to represent a diverse array of business, labor, ethnic, human rights, environmental, and other organizations. In order to build and maintain their influence, they use tactics, such as framing the issue and shaping the terms of debate; offering information and analysis to elected representatives (who may not have the time to research the issue himself or herself); and monitoring the policy process and reacting to it through disseminating supplementary information, letter-writing campaigns, calling for additional hearings or legislation, and supporting or opposing candidates during elections.

Foreign policy interest groups often overlap with so-called “ethnic” interest groups, as they try to influence the foreign policy and, to a lesser extent, the domestic policy of the United States for the benefit of the foreign “ethnic kin” or homeland with whom respective ethnic groups identify. Though ethnic interest groups have existed for many decades, they have become a particularly influential phenomenon since the end of the Cold War.

According to political scientist Thomas Ambrosio, this is a result of growing acceptance that ethnic identity groups have the right to mobilize politically for the purpose of influencing U.S. policies at home and abroad. Prominent examples of these organizations include the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Cuban American National Foundation, the Armenian Assembly of America, the U.S.-India Political Action Committee, and the National Iranian American Council.


the American Israel Public Affairs Committee: The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is a prominent foreign policy interest group

Key Takeaways

mediamedia bias

Agenda -Setting in Foreign Policy

One way in which the media could set the agenda is if it is in an area in which very few Americans have direct knowledge of the issues. This applies to foreign policy. When American military personnel are involved, the media needs to report because the personnel are related to the American public. The media is also likely to have an interest in reporting issues that have substantial effects on American workers, such as major trade agreements with Mexico during the NAFTA negotiations in the 1990’s.

David McKay, author of American Politics and Society, lists as one of the three main distortions of information by the media, “Placing high priority on American news to the detriment of foreign news. And when the U.S. is engaged in military action abroad, this ‘foreign news’ crowds out other foreign news. ”

News Media and the Vietnam War

Its most famous involvement in foreign affairs was its participation in the Vietnam War.In the year 1966, there were 282 press corpsmen in South Vietnam, an increase of 40 from 1964.It rose to 419 by August.Only 110 of the 282 were Americans at the beginning of the year.67 were South Vietnamese, 26 Japanese, 24 British, 13 Koreans, 11 French, and seven Germans.Most combat events were broadcast live on television, which increased concern about foreign policy among many American citizens.

Soldier in Vietnam: Graphics like this helped contribute to Americans’ concern over foreign policy in Vietnam.

The U.S. Mission and the MACV (Military Assistance Command) also installed an “information czar,” the U.S. Mission’s Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs, Barry Zorthian, advised General William Westmoreland on public affairs matters. He had theoretical responsibility under the ambassador for the development of all information policy. He maintained liaison between the embassy, MACV, and the press; publicized information to refute erroneous and misleading news stories; and sought to assist the Saigon correspondents in covering the side of the war most favorable to the policies of the U.S. government. Zorthian possessed both experience with the media and a great deal of patience and tact while maintaining reasonably good relations with the press corps. Media correspondents were invited to attend nightly MACV briefings covering the day’s events that became known as the “Five O’Clock Follies. ” Most correspondents considered these briefings to be a waste of time. The Saigon bureau chiefs were also often invited to closed sessions at which presentations would be made by a briefing officer, the CIA station chief, or an official from the embassy who would present background or off-the-record information on upcoming military operations or Vietnamese political events.

According to Daniel Hallin, the dramatic structure of the uncensored “living room war” as reported during 1965–1967 remained simple and traditional: “the forces of good were locked in battle once again with the forces of evil. What began to change in 1967 was the conviction that the forces of good would inevitably prevail. ” During late 1967 the MACV had also begun to disregard the decision it had made at the Honolulu Conference that the military should leave the justification of the war to elected officials in Washington. The military found itself drawn progressively into politics, to the point that it had become as involved in “selling” the war to the American public as the political appointees it served. This change would have far-reaching detrimental effects.

Media Bias

A self-described liberal media watchdog group, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), in consultation with the Survey and Evaluation Research Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University, sponsored an academic study in which journalists were asked a range of questions about how they did their work and about how they viewed the quality of media coverage in the broad area of politics and economic policy. “They were asked for their opinions and views about a range of recent policy issues and debates. Finally, they were asked for demographic and identifying information, including their political orientation.” They then compared to the same or similar questions posed with “the public” based on Gallup, and Pew Trust polls. Their study concluded that a majority of journalists, although relatively liberal on social policies, were significantly to the right of the public on economic, labor, health care, and foreign policy issues.