Congress and Foreign Policy

Congress and Foreign Policy

Congress and Foreign Policy

Congress and Foreign Policy

Excerpt

Modern international politics is a rigorous testing ground for the classic instruments of government in a democratic society. Of such extraordinary rigor is the test, indeed, that one can make an impressive case for the proposition that the democratic legislature is an anachronistic survival of a bygone epoch.

Ours is the era of permanent crisis: crisis at home, crisis abroad. So universal and commonplace a fact renders the very word a cliché. Ours is the electric atmosphere favorable to the appearance of the "leader"--not, certainly, the calm environment congenial to discussion, debate, and orderly agreement.

And yet despite these grounds for pessimism, the Congress of the United States has far from taken the Jeremiahs to heart. Its vigor and liveliness often seem more like the boisterous demands of a contentious youngster than "the petty tyrannies of an already close-to-powerless old man" (as one of the Jeremiahs, James Burnham, described it a few years ago). In either case, however, the analogy is inaccurate; for Congress is not an organism of fixed life span. It is an institution whose fate may be influenced to some extent by rational calculation.

Yet if one scrutinizes Congress with some care, the conclusion is unavoidable that the national legislature, as it now plays its exacting role on the political stage, is remarkably illsuited exercise a wise control over the nation's foreign policy. To anyone who values the democratic process on the one side and ponders the desperate urgencies of international politics on the other, this conclusion, however little novelty it may . . .

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