16.2 Making Foreign Policy
Making of foreign policy is inherently an executive responsibility. Thus the Framers of the American Constitution gave the president control over the major instruments of foreign policy, since the president alone has access to the best information; he can act swiftly, and decisively; and he alone, has the legitimate claim to be the spokesman for the entire nation. However Congress also possesses powers that are extremely important in the formulation and execution of foreign policy.
16.2a The President and Foreign Policy
The Constitution provides for a division of power between the executive and legislative branches of government in the control of foreign relations. However it gives a dominant role to the president who can "make treaties, provided two-thirds of the senators present concur." He is also empowered to "appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls" and to "receive ambassadors and other public ministers." The President possesses the complete discretion to recognize foreign governments and to sever diplomatic relations with them. For example in 1902, Theodore Roosevelt recognized the new state of Panama a few hours after a revolt had taken place, with the help of U.S. forces.
Further the President is made the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He is empowered to send U.S. armed forces anywhere in the world, to protect American interests. An impressive example of this is the "police action" in Korea from 1950 to 1953.
Though the president shares his treaty-making power with the
Senate, he has found an easy way to bypass the Senate through executive
agreements which simply involve an act by the President without
any participation whatsoever by Senate or House. Discretionary
funds can also be used by the president for financing military
and diplomatic initiatives. Special envoys that do not need
senate confirmation, carry out negotiations with other countries
on behalf of the president.
16.2b Congress and Foreign Policy
The Constitution empowers Congress "to regulate commerce with foreign nations", " to establish an uniform rule of naturalization", "to define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the laws of nations", and "to declare war, grant letters of marquee and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water." Further, Senate was given the power by the Constitution to approve treaties and appointments. The power of Congress to regulate foreign commerce is of great importance, as it enables Congress to drastically curtail or even prohibit trade between the U.S. and another country.
In the general field of legislation, Congress exerts a powerful influence, since some form of legislative enactment is required for almost all foreign policies proposed by the president. After bills are presented to Congress, the House or Senate can amend or reject them entirely.
Congress can also pass laws affecting foreign relations, for example the Neutrality Acts of the 1930s, which aimed at keeping the U.S. from becoming involved in another major war like World War I.
Congress can also wield potent influence over the conduct of foreign affairs, through its power over appropriations. The size or strength of the armed forces can be controlled by Congress by withholding or granting funds. This can affect the presidentís power to deal with foreign states. Congress also wields influence on foreign policy programs providing economic and military assistance to foreign countries. The critical comments made in Congress regarding foreign policies, make the executive branch more careful and reveal defects not previously detected. Apart from the Foreign Affairs and the Foreign Relations Committees of the House and Senate, almost every committee of Congress is concerned with some aspect of foreign policy.
16.2c The Mass Media and Foreign Policy
The citizens depend heavily on the mass media for their knowledge of foreign affairs. The foreign policy agenda can be influenced significantly by the media. For example, there was a shift in public opinion towards withdrawal from the Vietnam War, as the war was covered by the media. Similarly public opinion was in favor of American intervention in Somalia and Bosnia, after watching news reports on the starvation in Somalia and the civil war in Bosnia.