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International Relations and Defense, Role of the President

executive agreements, Council of Foreign Relations, American presidents, diplomatic relations, envoys

The executive branch has primarily been responsible for foreign policy in the United States. The Constitution gives the president authority over treaty-making, command of the armed forces, and the right to make executive agreements that do not have to be approved by Congress. As a result, the chief executive is in the best and most well-informed position to define and pursue America’s international objectives.

The president is advised and lobbied in these matters by the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, the House’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, interest groups such as the Council of Foreign Relations, and influential citizens. In addition, foreign policy is influenced by public opinion; the risk of being voted out of office over an unpopular action has often served to restrain overaggressive policymakers.

American presidents today have several different channels by which they can pursue foreign policy goals. One of the most important is diplomatic relations with other nations. The State Department is the critical agency in this regard because it manages diplomacy through ambassadors and envoys who work with other nations. The United States also discusses issues and negotiates with other nations through the United Nations (UN), an international organization of countries created to promote world peace and cooperation. The United States contributes to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the World Bank) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The World Bank was created in 1944 to provide postwar development aid through loans, and it concentrated on the rebuilding of Europe. The International Monetary Fund was also established in 1944 with the primary aim of setting up a structure to coordinate and stabilize currencies, and to lend money to help nations weather temporary financial crises. In addition, the United States can influence foreign policy through direct American economic and military aid to foreign countries.

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