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U.S. FOREIGN POLICY: WHO'S IN CHARGE? Richard Cheney A1 k.T first glance, the Constitution seems to have covered all the bases. Congress has the power to declare war and raise an army and navy. The Senate has additional advice and consent powers in the ratification of treaties and the appointment of ambassadors and other high-ranking government officials, including the secretaries of state and defense. And the president is commander-in-chief and head of state. But if the bases are covered, the base paths meander all over the place and often times it is even difficult to tell who is supposed to be at bat. The ambiguity concerning the proper role of the executive and legislative branches, which was so evident at the Constitutional Convention, particularly expresses itself in matters of foreign policy. As President Ford has remarked: "It was not intended that these powers be consolidated in the interest of efficiency, but that they be separated in the interest of democracy." It is therefore probably in keeping with the sort of government that the Founding Fathers envisioned that the conduct of foreign policy has been pushed and pulled between the legislative and executive branches through most of our history. The contemporary relationship between the two branches was suddenly and radically altered in the early morning hours of December 7, 1941, and it is from that point forward that I would like to focus on the struggle between the executive and legislative branches in the conduct of modern American foreign policy. It is my intention to show Richard Cheney is the at-large representative from Wyoming in the House of Representatives and currently serves as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee in the House. He was deputy assistant to President Ford from 1974 to 1975 and served as White House chief of staff from 1975 to 1976. 107 108 SAIS REVIEW that, while the Founding Fathers' decision to leave that relationship ambiguous was undoubtedly wise, they nevertheless established a system that gives the chief executive the fundamental power to be the executor of American foreign policy. And if that was the case in 1789, I feel very strongly that it is even more so today. President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded to the one-two punch of the Great Depression and the bombing of Pearl Harbor in such a vigorous, confident, take-charge manner that, by the time he died, he had effectively defined the role of the modern president in the minds of most Americans. Truman assumed office with the executive branch firmly and unquestionably in charge of American foreign policy and was not inclined to have it any other way. In Truman's first three years as president, Congress (1) approved the Truman Doctrine, granting $400 million in aid to Greece and Turkey to withstand Communist pressures in the area, (2) passed the Marshall Plan which totalled almost $13 billion in economic and military assistance to Europe and set up a relationship with that part of the globe that still stands today, and (3) approved U.S. participation in nato. Those three major foreign policy initiatives, so sweeping in scope that they continue to be a major influence in our present relationship with Europe almost forty years later, were unquestionably executive branch initiatives. Truman, coming out of the trauma of a world war and following the vigorous Roosevelt presidency, flexed his muscles and redefined American interests abroad as he saw fit. He met with little congressional opposition. Truman, himself a product of the Congress, did not lack an appreciation of the strengths, prejudices, and prerogatives of the Hill. But circumstances at that time were such that both branches of government were inclined to favor executive branch dominance in the foreign policy arena, for several reasons. First, matters were so complex and required such immediate attention in the period immediately following the war that policy matters of such sweeping scope as the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, and nato could be efficiently accomplished only by the executive branch. More important, there was a general perception of the president as a successful leader whose judgment people could trust. The chief executive had successfully propelled the nation out...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-4724
Print ISSN
1945-4716
Pages
pp. 107-115
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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