A recurring problem in the conduct of foreign affairs in the United States has been to determine the proper roles of the president and Congress. The ultimate source of authority in this melter, the Constitution, is notoriously ambiguous. Hence, Henkin (1972, page 90) observed that "the Constitution is especially inarticulate in allocating foreign affairs powers." Because of the conferral of foreign affairs-related powers on both the president and Congress, the Constitution established, according to Corwin's (1957, page 171) durable, well-known assertion, "an invitation to struggle for the privilege of directing American foreign policy."
The debate in the aftermath of the Iran-contra affair revealed that controversy continues over the proper spheres of foreign affairs authority of the president and Congress. Reacting to the disturbing revelations that the Reagan administration secretly had both sold arms to the Iranians and assisted the Nicaraguan contras in the face of congressional prohibitions, the official congressional Committees' Report(1) (United States Congress, 1987, page 411) concluded that the administration had acted "in violation of the Constitution and of applicable laws and regulations."
Included within the Committees' Report (United States Congress, 1987), however' was a "Minority Report" compiled by eight Republican members of the same investigating committees. Responding to the charges leveled by the Committees' Report (United States Congress, 1987, page 457), the "Minority Report" countered that "much of what President Reagan did in his actions toward Nicaragua and Iran were constitutionally protected exercises of inherent Presidential power."
More noteworthy perhaps than the spectacle of congressional Democrats and Republicans taking sides over the affair was the ensuing scholarly debate in the wake of the Iran-contra revelations. This debate(2) revealed a fundamental split over the meaning of the constitutional allocation of foreign policy powers. On one side of the issue are those who view Congress as a co-equal partner with the president, and who consequently view foreign policymaking as a shared responsibility (Draper, 1990; Fisher, 1988; Henkin, 1987/88; Koh, 1988, 1990; Schlesinger, 1987). Koh (1990, page 69), in particular, finds that the constitutional text, combined with more recent legislative statutes and judicial decisions, present a framework of "balanced institutional participation." This framework,
assigns to the president the predominant role in that process, but affords
him only a limited realm of exclusive powers, with regard to diplomatic
relations and negotiations and to the recognition of nations and
governments Outside of that realm, governmental decisions regarding
foreign affairs must transpire within a sphere of concurrent authority,
under presidential management, but bounded by the checks provided by
congressional consultation and judicial review.
On the other side of the debate are the advocates of presidential foreign policy prerogative,(3) the authority of the executive to act unilaterally, and on rare occasions in defiance of congressional mandates (Basile, 1989; Block & Rivkin, 1989; Goldberg, 1988; Rostow, 1988, 1989; Turner, 1988). A concise statement of the range of executive foreign affairs power believed conferred by Article II of the Constitution is offered by Block and Rivkin (1989, page 307), who write,
at the very least, it includes a foreign affairs power--the sole authority
to represent the United States in dealings with other nations--and a
discretionary power, sometimes termed the prerogative, which includes
both a broad authority to meet natural exigencies by acting for the public
good and a residual power which encompasses all authority not expressly
delegated to the other branches of …