Lesson Objectives:- Constitutional powers of the president
- The executive branch and foreign policy
- The intelligence community
- The Department of Defense
- Congress's checks on presidential foreign policy
Article II, Section 1, requires that the president "solemnly swear" to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Article II, Section 2, assigns him "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States." As Commander-in-Chief, presidents have conducted at least 125 undeclared wars using this authority.
For example, Bill Clinton had conflicts in Haiti and Bosnia. George W. Bush sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq. Barack Obama sent air support to Libya.
Article II, Section 2 further grants the power to make treaties, with approval from the Senate, and the power to appoint ambassadors and to recognize foreign governments.
Within the executive branch, the Department of State, the National Security Council, the intelligence community, and the Department of Defense are also policymaking resources.
Since it has primary authority over foreign affairs, it only makes sense that the Department of State make the list. However, traditionally, the Department of State has been viewed as the slow bureaucratic agency everyone loathes. Under Barack Obama, that image was changed with Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. He meant it when he said the State Department was the nation's chief foreign policy adviser.
The National Security Council's purpose is to brief the president on how domestic, foreign, and military policies integrate relative to the national security.
The national security adviser's impact changes from president to president. Normally, they have a huge impact and are part of the president's cabinet, but under Barack Obama, the national security advisor played a minor role and was not included in the cabinet.
The intelligence community refers to the government agencies that gather information about the capabilities and intentions of foreign governments or that engage in covert actions. As far as foreign policy is concerned, the CIA has participated in the overthrow of governments and they came under attack for it when Congress decided to investigate them.
They have also come under attack for spying on American citizens, which at one time was considered strictly forbidden.
As a response to terrorism, the CIA has received more funding and has been given more liberties. Some people worry civil liberties are at stake while others contend that these are the types of measures that keep America safe.
Waterboarding is one such controversial topic. Under the Bush administration, Dick Cheney denied that waterboarding was a form of torture even though the government had defined it as one. President Obama denounced the practice even though he vowed that any person who had participated under an agency that allowed it would not suffer penalization.
Headed by a civilian secretary of Defense, the Department of Defense (DOD) was created to bring all of the military establishment under one roof. The Joint Chiefs of Staff act together to formulate a unified military strategy.
During the presidency of Richard Nixon, the Vietnam War brought about a need for Congress to limit the powers of the president in setting foreign and defense policy.
The 1973 War Powers Resolution limited the president's use of troops in military action without consulting Congress. Most presidents have interpreted that resolution in a way that allows them to send troops and then inform Congress about it later.
Congress can withhold funds. That is a strategy it often uses to check the president, but sometimes it can backfire.
With George W. Bush, Congress had written a decision that the president needed to add a timeline for withdrawing troops to his request for funds. He immediately threatened to veto any bill that mentioned anything to that effect.
Congress had to back down as they simply did not have the votes to override a veto.