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Defining Foreign Policy Summary


As the president, Congress, and others carry out U.S. foreign policy in the areas of trade, diplomacy, defense, intelligence, foreign aid, and global environmental policy, they pursue a variety of objectives and face a multitude of challenges. The four main objectives of U.S. foreign policy are the protection of the United States and its citizens and allies, the assurance of continuing access to international resources and markets, the preservation of a balance of power in the world, and the protection of human rights and democracy.

The challenges of the massive and complex enterprise of U.S. foreign policy are many. First, there exists no true world-level authority dictating how the nations of the world should relate to one another. A second challenge is the widely differing views among countries about the role of government in people’s lives. A third is other countries’ varying ideas about the appropriate form of government. A fourth challenge is that many new foreign policy issues transcend borders. Finally, the varying conditions of the countries in the world affect what is possible in foreign policy and diplomatic relations.

Practice Questions

  1. What are two key differences between domestic policymaking and foreign policymaking?


balance of power: a situation in which no one nation or region is much more powerful militarily than any other in the world

balance of trade: the relationship between a country’s inflow and outflow of goods

Cold War: the period from shortly after World War II until approximately 1989–1990 when advanced industrial democracies divided behind the two superpowers (East: Soviet Union, West: United States) and the fear of nuclear war abounded

diplomacy: the establishment and maintenance of a formal relationship between countries

foreign policy: a government’s goals in dealing with other countries or regions and the strategy used to achieve them

free trade: a policy in which a country allows the unfettered flow of goods and services between itself and other countries

hard power: the use or threat of military power to influence the behavior of another country

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO): a cross-national military organization with bases in Belgium and Germany formed to maintain stability in Europe

protectionism: a policy in which a country does not permit other countries to sell goods and services within its borders or charges them very high tariffs (import taxes) to do so

soft power: nonmilitary tools used to influence another country, such as economic sanctions

United Nations (UN): an international organization of nation-states that seeks to promote peace, international relations, and economic and environmental programs

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