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Foreign policy of the United States Term Paper

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Updated: Jun 18th, 2019


The US foreign policy stipulates the rules of engagement between the United States and nations from abroad. This policy has set out how individual citizens, corporations and organizations in the US are supposed to interact with foreign nations. Currently, about $15 trillion is used by the United States government to facilitate its global reach in terms of foreign policy agenda.

This amount is almost equal to 25% of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the world. In addition, about $711 billion has been secured for defense budget. This translates to about forty three percent of the total military spending across the globe (Jentleson 70).

The US Secretary of State is the key public figure who has been mandated to bridge the diplomatic gap between the US and other foreign nations (US Department of State par. 1). The personality plays a role similar to that of a foreign minister in other countries. Nonetheless, the ultimate power over foreign policies rests with the president. For instance, the national interest is defined by the president of the United States.

The Foreign Policy Agenda contains the formal objectives of the US foreign policy. These goals have been enshrined and safeguarded by the US Department of State. The broad goal of the US foreign policy aims at enhancing a more prosperous, democratic and safe world both for the community spread across the international arena and the American public.

Moreover, the foreign policy aims at streamlining exportation of goods and services, monitoring proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) such as nuclear weapons, enhancing trade and international commerce between the US and foreign nations, facilitating an effective labor force and education as well as monitoring effective immigration policies (Ikenberry 55).

International aid and foreign policy of the United States have been topics of great discourse especially in the contemporary US politics. The policy has received equal share of both positive and negative criticism at the local and international levels.

Although the US constitution clearly documents its foreign policy agenda, I feel that the contemporary U.S foreign policy definitely appears to strike a close balance between liberalism and realism because there seems to be secluded interests that are beyond our constitutional provisions. A case study of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is a critical example to this effect.

Comparative Analysis of the Branches of Government engagement in the foreign policy of the United States

The negotiation of treaties on behalf of the US government is the constitutional role of the president of the United States. However, this has to be done with the approval of the U.S senate. Hence, two-thirds of the senate must ratify any kind of treaty before being enforced.

In addition, the armed forces of the United States are commanded by the president who is the chief officer. Hence, he has elaborate power over the defense forces. Nonetheless, the power to declare or endorse any kind of war rests with the federal Congress. Besides, the Congress writes both the military and civilian budget as required by the constitution.

On the other hand, the foreign minister of the US is referred to as the Secretary of State. This public figure plays the role of diplomatic engagements between the US and other foreign nations. The president has the constitutional mandate to appoint both the ambassadors and the Secretary of State (Herring 106). Additional, matters related to trade and commerce between the US and other nations abroad are regulated by the Congress.

International law is also part and parcel of the US foreign policy. For instance, the enactments of both the executive and sole executive agreements are made possible through the constitutionally streamlined provisions. For example, the Congress or the President can make the congressional-executive agreements.

Hence, both the Senate and House of Representatives have to endorse it just like any other ordinary legislation when such treaties are constituted by the Congress. Nevertheless, there are clearly defined clauses in the Federal constitution that outline the legibility of such agreements.

Hence, some opponents of these forms of treaties have often argued that they are completely unconstitutional in nature although their validity has been upheld by the US Supreme Court. The president has the sole power to make the sole executive agreements (Herring 52).

It is pertinent to mention that the US constitution under the Treaty Clause clearly specifies the relevance of treaties. These are contracts that have been officially documented and are binding between or among the parties concerned.

Although the term treaty has been broadly interpreted in various international laws, the terminology has a stricter sense in the US. A case example is the Supreme Court ruling in the Missouri v. Hollan case. According to the US Supreme Court, it ruled out that the powers of the US constitution are unique also different from other arms of the federal government.

Therefore, treaties can be adopted by the federal government for the sake offering legislative guidance within specific states with unique needs (Jentleson 159). Although the District and Appellate courts have significant influence on the US public, their judicial powers are only enshrined within the local and state levels of government. Therefore, they can only be instrumental to treaties adopted within their areas of jurisdiction.

There are myriads of pressure or interest groups that have also taken a center stage in influencing the implementation of the US foreign policy (Richard 160). Furthermore, the formulation of the US foreign policy has also been monitored by these interest groups who advocate for fairness and human rights ideals both at the domestic and international levels.

It is evident that the US foreign policy has been transformed to a more pluralistic structure since the post-Cold War era and early 1970s when policies could be formulated and adopted by the key organs of the government per se. Although the president is still the key powerful actor in the formulation of foreign policy, there is an active Congress in place to content with in addition to pressure groups that play the watchdog role to the executive (Herring 167).

In any case, the number of interest groups has sharply increased in the last three decades or so with the broad aim of mobilizing and representing myriads of emerging needs of people within organizations by creating awareness on environmental affairs, human rights, ethnicity, labor and business. Hence, a more liberal approach has been embraced in the enactment of foreign policy similar to the case of domestic policy. Moreover, policy choices have been significantly influenced by these pressure groups using various channels.

Consideration of Impacts on the policy process from the various perspectives

The federal government has the mandate of offering guidance on how foreign aid should be conducted. However, it is specifically facilitated by the State Department on international affairs (Richard 160). Multilateral economic contributions humanitarian aid, the security and political goals of the US, and the bilateral development aid are the four key facets of foreign assistance facilitated by the federal government.

These types of assistances are also non-military in nature. For example, donations that are usually advanced by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank often go towards foreign aid in economically or politically devastated states. Humanitarian aid is also an integral consideration of the federal government on matters related to foreign aid.

The state has a similar perspective to that of the federal government. However, states have localized jurisdictions on matters related to foreign aid and policies. In one of its many foreign policies, the U.S has managed to put in place internal control systems in areas deemed to be of strategic importance to the country (Ikenberry 164). Each of the state governments has the responsibility of making sure that the foreign policies of the federal government be it in education, health, labor or security are adhered to strictly.

In addition, the media has always been instrumental in increasing public awareness on the prevailing foreign affairs of the US government.

As members of the fourth estate, media has played a critical role of informing, educating, offering positive criticism and also highlighting major issues affecting the society especially in regards to the existing foreign policies (Herring 87). On the same note, political parties provide the much needed checks and balances against the incumbent by influencing policy issues through congressional debates.

Summary Considerations

To recap it all, the modern U.S foreign policy especially under the Obama administration may not be purely classified into any singly known theory on international relations due to the fact several players and stakeholders have come on board and critically influenced the status quo.

It is worth to mention that there are sharp differences between the Obama administration and those who led before him. Although the ideals of Democrats and Republicans are not the same, a liberalist approach to foreign policy formulation and articulation has transformed the past scenario when instruments of foreign policy were closely guarded by the executive and the constitution.

When the principles of responsiveness in foreign policy and social needs are put into consideration, it is definite that some states have found themselves at the receiving end due to the suffering inflicted by harsh US foreign policies. For example, the US foreign policy on war and international security has left some countries in a state of hopelessness. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 over alleged claims of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) may have left more suffering to the population than the expected benefits (Jentleson 43).

In terms of the principles of efficiency and responsiveness to market and economic needs, the US foreign policy clearly stipulates the need for international commerce through the spirit of multilateral and bilateral co-operations. While foreign trade relations have been lauded to be integral in boosting the economy of the country, the foreign policy is also very keen on the possible transit and sale of illegal drugs within its borders.

Serious and unabated war on drugs has been put in place in order to safeguard the population. In addition, the immigration policies are usually revised on a regular basis to be in tandem with the emerging challenges and needs of the American society.

Nevertheless, a closer look at the contemporary U.S foreign policy illuminates a hybrid system of approach towards international affairs. Besides, there are evident weaknesses in the current policy formulation and implementation because the constitution does not seem to guide every move taken by the US authorities on foreign affairs.

Works Cited

Herring, George. From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, Print.

Ikenberry, John (ed). American Foreign Policy: Theoretical Essays (6th ed.). New York: Wadsworth, 2010. Print.

Jentleson, Bruce. American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century (4th ed). New York: W. W. Norton, 2010. Print.

Richard, Russell. American Diplomatic Realism: A Tradition Practiced and Preached 3(2000):159-183. Print.

US Department of State. Secretary of State: Hillary Rodham Clinton. 2012. Web. <>

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