Authored by: Ralph G. Carter , James M. Scott

Routledge Handbook of American Foreign Policy

Print publication date:  August  2011
Online publication date:  April  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415800884
eBook ISBN: 9780203878637
Adobe ISBN: 9781135967352


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Conventional wisdom holds that “the captain of the ship of state is the president” (Crabb and Holt 1992: 297, emphasis in original). As a result, most studies of American foreign policy making focus on the president and/or other White House participants in the process (Rudalevige 2005). Bert Rockman (1994: 59) summarizes this viewpoint well when he says, “because of constitutional interpretations of presidential prerogatives in foreign policy and the president’s unique ability to act, leadership in foreign policy is normally thought to be the particular responsibility of the president.” Relatively few studies attribute any systematic or significant influence by Congress in foreign policy. 1 To many, Congress seems neither prepared nor willing to challenge presidential preferences in foreign policy making (Hinckley 1994). Instead, “Congressional acquiescence in foreign affairs … is the product of a powerful set of internal norms and attitudes, customs and institutions, a veritable culture of deference” (Weissman 1995: 3).

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