Foreign Policy

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.

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.

Historical Documents

Proclamation of Neutrality George Washington
The Monroe Doctrine James Monroe
First "Open Door" Note Sec. Stae John Hay
Fourteen Points Speech Woodrow Wilson
Four Freedoms Franklin D. Roosevelt
The Truman Doctrine Harry S. Truman
The War Powers Resolution

War Messages
1812 War Message James Madison
1898 War Message William McKinley
1917 War Message (WWI) Woodrow Wilson
1941 Message (WWII) Franklin Roosevelt
FDR's Radio Address to the Nation

Statements of Military Action (Undeclared Wars)
Peace without Conquest Lyndon Johnson
Serbia 1999 Bill Clinton
September 11, 2001 George W. Bush

Treaties, Pacts & Agreements
Kellog-Briand Pact
The Atlantic Charter
UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Federalist Papers
No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 - Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence
No. 29 - Concerning the Militia
No. 74 - The Command of the Military and Naval Forces, and the Pardoning Power of the Executive
No. 75 - The Treaty Making Power of the Executive

AntiFederalist Papers
No. 8 - The Power Vested in Congress of Sending Troops For Suppressing Insurrections Will Always Enable Them to Stifle the First Struggles of Freedom
No. 24 and No. 25 - Objections to a Standing Army
No. 29 - Objections to National Control of the Militia
No. 75 - A Note Protesting the Treaty-Making Provisions of the Constitution

Reasearch and Study Helps

Congress has been debating a bill that would "normalize" trade with China. What are the major arguments on each side of the debate?

A Memorial Day Salute

Headlines & Editorials

Washington Post Special Report on National Security
In-depth on Missile Defense Washington Post