Foreign Policy: The Role of the President and Congress Essay
The traditional role of the foreign policy creation is traditionally designated to the Office of the President of The United States of America and Congress.
The presidency is responsible for creating policy from six key areas:1) responses to foreign events 2) proposals for legislation 3) negotiation of international agreements 4) policy statements 5) policy implementation 6) independent action. Congress or the legislative branch is responsible for creating foreign policy from six key areas: 1) resolutions and policy statements 2) legislative directives 3) legislative pressure 4) legislative restrictions/funding denials 5) informal advice 6) congressional oversight. 2 The President is both head of state and chief executive. As head of state the president plays a major role in foreign policy, owing to his ability to use speed, flexibility and secrecy in negotiations. This role is enhanced by his sole authority to use nuclear weapons.
Although the president cannot declare war, he can create a condition of war by ordering troops such as former presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and former presidents Clinton and Bush Sr. and current president Bush Jr. , in Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq. Although Congress as granted by the constitution is responsible for maintaining the armed forces and declaring war, in times of great action such as 9/113 the president has superseded their authority and ruled judgment on his own.This might be due in part to the fact that the executive power in the constitution is abstract, while the congressional power is more defined which has lead to the expansion of the executive office.
The people of America look to the president for leadership in national security issues. Congress is not regarded similarly when it comes to leadership. Presidential power is a function of the president’s ability to understand the nature of the political process, the international climate, and the power he has as a leader. Several factors complicate he policymaking process. These include the nature of the presidency, public expectations, and the demands of the international security environment.
The president can use several strategies to overcome opposition in Congress. Many are inherent to the office, while others depend upon the effectiveness the president’s leadership style and techniques. Every president since 1953 has used congressional liaison staff to develop and maintain relations with members of congress, in order to have the appearance of mutual consensus between the two branches. The president has the advantage in dealing with Congress in the national security arena, however, because the sources of intelligence, the basis of policy and strategy skills, are centered in the president’s office.
The Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is the base of the president’s power. Many of these delegated powers have come in military and foreign policy areas and are due to the increased role of the U. S. in global affairs.The role and leadership responsibilities of presidents increased as a result of national security and economic emergencies throughout the past several generations and because of the nation’s role in advocating democracy. Congress attempts to assert itself and serve as a reasonable and responsible check on presidential power.
It is only partially effective in this role; however no president should ever take congressional support for granted, and if they do they can expect the same treatment that former president Nixon received.Presidents should expect opposition from Congress especially if the presidential agenda has not been tabled with Congress. Congress has had some notable success in trying to incorporate itself into the national security arena. The War Powers Resolution of 1974 is an important milestone. 7 It states that the president must consult congress prior to committing U.
S. troops to hostile action. After 60 days troops must be withdrawn if a declaration of war has not been passed. After that, the president has an additional 30 days to conclude the secession of troops.
However as we have witnessed Congress has never enacted The War Powers Resolution of 1974 even when the world was calling for much needed debate as to whether ‘weapons of mass destruction’8 were ever found in Iraq. The Cold War9 vastly increased presidential power and prestige, sharply reducing congressional influence over foreign policy. Presidents argued that they were better equipped to make decisions about war.One way that Congress has been able to successfully thwart the president has been the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act of 1974.
0 This act serves to restrict the president when wanting funds for military use. We have seen this in action when the president has tabled a bill requesting the increase in military spending. Congress literally stalled the president. Although funding was eventually granted, this wasn’t done for months hampering the president’s plan to engage in war. The Intelligence Oversight Act of 198011 is also another act that Congress has used to restructure the Defense Department, created a permanent oversight committee in both houses, and has been able to legislate related dealings with the CIA.The process of keeping check on power is called ‘checks and balances.
’12 Checks and balances in theory serves to keep the president from gaining so much power that he becomes all-powerful. It also serves to keep Congress from gaining just as much power. The whole political process at times may seem bogged down by too many rules and restrictions. However, these seemingly too many rules are in fact the process of ‘checks and balances’ working. We have seen the consequences of rushed action such as the Vietnam war, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.Although as Americans we shouldn’t let foreign rulers believe that they can execute despicable acts as 9/11, we also shouldn’t rush into the decision of making war.
As such we have seen the failure of Congress to suppress the haste of our current president. We have actually witnessed the consequences of not having the rest of the world commit their troops in our fight against tyranny. Had Congress been more authoritative and instituted the War Measures Resolution, maybe the rest of the world would have seen this as reserved action. No one ever said that retaliation should not take place.What the world was saying was ‘give us a moment to think because we have all seen what war has done and we wish to see the weapons of mass destruction.
’ In spite of this we still have had allies commit troops because of the overwhelming threat of terrorism in their country. It was the method in which the manner of achieving war that gave our allies reasons to demand further proof and not the ability to commit that was the central issue. The expressed powers of the executive – those specifically mentioned in the Constitution text – were easily understood.These included the ability to pardon and the appointment of certain public officers. The core issue has been the phrase, “The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States.
”13 This has created a power that is implied. For example, an expressed power is receiving foreign ambassadors. Implied power is recognizing foreign governments. This implied power is what initially created the imbalance of power between the president and congress which was then at least in theory mitigated by The War Measures Resolution and Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act.The role of the presidency has also grown because the president is in office full-time and Congress takes several long breaks over the course of a year.
The president and his office are recognized as the nations foreign communications channel while Congress has no such recognition. Thus, the office of the president has notice of information regarding issues of foreign policy much sooner and tends to act quicker than referring to Congress. Although Congress may not have access to information as soon as the presidency knows, when it does find out, Congress can act as quickly as an assembly of 535 people can act.When it came time to act on 9/11 (providing the monies to rebuild attacked areas) Congress approved budgetary legislation without hesitation. What the presidency and Congress has indicated by this ‘back and forth’ exchange has been the underlying sensibility of achieving balance.
Balance, which no one section of the branches, either Congress or the office of the presidency shall have so much power that it continuously makes decisions without consulting the other branches. It is this balance that constantly needs to be checked. It has by the creation of ‘checks and balances’ within the Constitution.Although this doesn’t always work as we have seen with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it has worked by hindering certain processes such as budgetary approval and troop commitment. The foreign policy role of the office of the president is a huge task that involves courting various governments and meeting their appropriate heads of state. Because the president and members of his office are often involved in face-to-face negotiations it is difficult to divide what responsibilities the president has and which ones blur the lines between the responsibilities of the president and that of Congress when it involves foreign policy.
As a result, the foreign policy role of the office of the president has expanded to include implied powers of recognizing foreign governments. The presidency has been used to set forth the agenda of war as seen in Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq. However while Congress’ role has been seen as limited to budgetary restrictions and doing whatever the office of the president wants this is only partially true. Because Congress has the ability to approve budget and veto any of his proposed legislation the president has had to rely on Congress for accelerating his agenda.Congress has been able to increase the time it has taken for the president to get the approval his office requires.
This has allowed a delay in which Congress can re-group and get informed. Although this may seem a minor ability of Congress to act on foreign policy approval, nonetheless, it is a very important ability. It is an important ability because it allows for balance. It allows for more decisive agenda creation rather than sheer reaction in the face of aggressive nations against the United States.
While the president may seem to ultimately have the upper hand in foreign policy, without the approval of Congress for his budget, the president is handicapped. Both branches of government need each other. Cooperation and balance are important keys to continued success. The creation of foreign policy and vigorously defending and implementing that policy has increased the presence and stature of the Office of the President of the United States. Decisions, mandates, consequences, action and reaction are all part of ever increasing responsibilities.
This increase in power requires another to ensure that the power does not increase absolutely. Congress’ role has been to mitigate that power. Although Congress has been seen as ineffective and slow, it is this ability to slow the agenda of the Office of the President that Congress’ power rests. It is this inherent flexibility of Congress as prescribed by the Constitution that enables our government and our country to be the most hated and the most envied.