Stephen G. Rabe
Does the president make the Latin American policy of the United States? Is policy what the president says it is? Does the nation's Latin American policy change from president to president? Do Democratic presidents approach inter- American relations differently than do Republican presidents? Or, when it comes to Latin America, is the president merely one of many decision makers, sharing power with the State and Defense departments, the Central Intelligence Agency, Congress, research institutions, and various interest groups? Perhaps presidents exercise their authority on some inter-American issues and ignore others. What powers does the president have to make Latin American policy?
Questions such as these are usually implicit in the vast body of scholarly literature on U.S. relations with Latin America. But inter-Americanists rarely make the decision-making process the focus of their studies. Instead, they analyze the nature of U.S. policies and the impact of those policies on Latin America's development. Throughout the twentieth century, the United States has wielded predominant power in the Western Hemisphere. U.S. marines have occupied Caribbean nations, and Washington has covertly destabilized South American governments. Scholars have been naturally concerned with the actual use of such power.
But how a decision is made and who makes that decision are undoubtedly critical areas of inquiry. The formulation and execution of a policy inevitably affect its nature and consequences. Presumably a presidential decree, whose implementation was closely monitored from the Oval Office, would carry greater significance than a decision made by a Foreign Service officer in the Latin American bureau of the State Department. Such presumptions, however, have not been systematically examined.
The question of the president's role in the making of the Latin American policy of the United States will be pursued by first enumerating what are the broad sources of presidential power in making U.S. foreign policy toward Latin
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Publication information: Book title: U.S.-Latin American Policymaking:A Reference Handbook. Contributors: David W. Dent - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 248.
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