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Foreign Policy Instruments Summary


U.S. foreign policy outputs vary considerably. At one end of the continuum are sharply focused outputs such as the presidential use of military force via a specific drone strike on an enemy target, or the forging of a presidential summit with another country’s president or head of state. At the other end of the spectrum are broadly focused outputs that typically bring more involvement from the Congress and other world leaders, such as the process to formalize a multilateral treaty on the global environment or the process to finalize the U.S. diplomatic budget each fiscal year. Broadly focused outputs typically take more time to decide, involve more nation-states, are more expensive, and are quite difficult to reverse once in place. Sharply focused outputs are faster, tend to be led by the president, and are easier for future policymakers to undo.

Practice Questions

  1. Which types of foreign policy outputs have more impact, broadly conceived ones or sharply focused ones? Why?


1. Broadly conceived foreign policy outputs tend to have a longer impact overall because of their permanence, though sharply focused foreign policy outputs can have more impact in the short term.


congressional executive agreement: an international agreement that is not a treaty and that is negotiated by the president and approved by a simple majority of the House and Senate

sole executive agreement: an international agreement that is not a treaty and that is negotiated and approved by the president acting alone

treaty: an international agreement entered by the United States that requires presidential negotiation with other nation(s), consent by two-thirds of the Senate, and final ratification by the president

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