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U.S. Foreign Policy: How Do Forces Outside Government Influence Policymaking? LEARNING RESOURCE

Source: Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Source: Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Grade Level Grades 9-12, Higher Education

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Learning Resource

The president of the United States leads the country’s foreign policy. They are the face of American diplomacy, the leader of the country’s armed forces, and the principal organizer for many of the government’s most ambitious international initiatives.

However, presidents face many checks to their power within government. Congress, for instance, can refuse to fund a president’s agenda or pass legislation to curtail an administration’s authority. The judiciary, meanwhile, can constrain the White House if it deems its actions unconstitutional. Even forces within a president’s own political party can push and pull the administration’s priorities in different directions. 

The U.S. government is an intricate network of counterbalancing forces, but the government alone does not shape foreign policy. For the United States and democracies like it, several forces outside government inform and influence policymaking as well, including the press, public opinion, special interest groups, and think tanks. 

In autocratic countries, those forces play a far less significant role. Such governments frequently rig or avoid elections, suppress dissent, co-opt civil society institutions, and exercise near-total control over the policymaking process.

In this resource from World101, students will explore a democracy’s diverse ecosystem of influential nongovernmental forces and take a look at several instances in which they have shaped U.S. foreign policy.

About

CFR Education is an initiative within the Council on Foreign Relations that aims to make complex foreign policy and international issues accessible for middle, high school, and college students through its educational products: World101, Model Diplomacy, and Convene the Council.

World101 is a free collection of multimedia resources on the fundamentals of international relations and foreign policy. Designed to help your students understand the essential issues, forces, and actors that shape global affairs, World101 aims to support teachers with its videos, charts, essays, and timelines that can easily be added to any part of your lesson plan.

Resources

Videos
Public Opinion and the Media In Foreign Policy | Model Diplomacy
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Why is U.S. Foreign Policy So Important?| World101
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Introduction to Unit V: What is Foreign Policy? | World101
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Why the Kyoto Protocol Failed and How U.S. Presidents Make Treaties Today |World101
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