President – Foreign Policy – 04 #1 Two formal constitutional powers of the president in making foreign policy



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Two formal constitutional powers of the president in making foreign policy:

1) Creating treaties: the president is granted the sole powers to create treaties

(agreements with other nations). Ex. Woodrow Wilson helped create the Treaty

of Versailles

2) Commander – in Chief: because there is civilian control over the military in the

United States, the president is in charge of the military. The president can set policy, like George W. Bush did when he pushed America into a war with Iraq even though many generals had publicly stated opposition to this undertaking before it took place, while others have even set military timetables and targets, like Truman did in regard to when and where to drop the atomic bombs on Japan during WWII.



Other examples included appointment of ambassadors & foreign policy officials, recognition of nations, receiving foreign dignitaries.

Two formal constitutional powers of the president in making foreign policy:

1) Senate is granted “advice and consent” in regard to treaties: the Senate must approve

all treaties with a 2/3 majority vote before it is to be ratified. Ex. The US Senate voted to reject the Treaty of Versailles because the isolationist Senate was afraid the League of Nations would drag the nation into another European conflict.

2) Congress controls the allocation of resources: In order to fight a war, the president

must receive funding to pay for the war and this must be done by Congress. The 110th Congress has attempted to dictate to President Bush a date of withdrawal for US troops in Iraq by tying a timetable to the allocation of funds for the troops. President Bush has been able to defeat the demands for a timetable so far. (This power is also know as the “power of the purse.”)

Other examples included confirm ambassadors, declare war, pass laws/resolutions

regarding foreign policy issues like the Neutrality Acts of the 1930’s or Lend-Lease, regulate foreign commerce (including trade agreements like NAFTA)

Two informal powers of the president that contribute to the president’s advantage over Congress in conducting foreign policy and explain each:

1) Executive Agreements: In its most simplistic definition, these are informal treaties

that avoid the system of checks and balances because they do not require the Senate to approve them. Some famous examples of the executive agreements include the end of the Vietnam War and SALT I (the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks created by Nixon between the US and Soviet Union that limit the stockpile of nuclear weapons of each nation. This was part of his foreign policy of détente.)

2) Crisis Manager: During times of crisis, which can be caused by military attacks – like



after the bombing of Pearl Harbor – or economic hardships – like during the Great Depression, Congress typically defers judgment to the president and a rallying around the leader occurs. This is why Congress has never declared war with first being asked by the president to do so.

Other examples included the president’s ability to persuade Congress (negotiate, offer support, threats), persuade the public (using the media or his bully pulpit), circumvent the formal process.


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