Bureaucracy and Foreign Policy

Bureaucracy and Foreign Policy

Bureaucracy and Foreign Policy

Bureaucracy and Foreign Policy

Excerpt

In recent years bureaucratic organizations have come to be regarded as major centers of decision in foreign affairs. A theory of bureaucratic determinism has emerged which credits executive agencies with virtually total control over the development of American policy abroad. A decade or so ago explanations of American foreign policy stressed the significance of tidal shifts of public opinion, or what was then called the "mood" of the electorate. Now the force of public opinion in international affairs is discounted, and it is the bureaucratic apparatus which is at the center of attention.

Clearly, executive agencies play an increasingly important role in foreign policy. But they are still far from being as preeminent as some commentators have assumed. The political stakes of presidents and their personal perspectives on foreign affairs are more decisive than any other factors shaping the character of American involvement abroad. The conduct of foreign policy under President Nixon and the dominant position of his special assistant for national security affairs, Henry Kissinger, provide dramatic evidence of this fact on the contemporary scene.

Thus, foreign policy today is the product of a system of executive decision-making in which the president and his political appointees play a leading role and career bureaucrats are often relegated to minor parts. If fundamental reform of the foreign policy process is sought, it will be found not in administrative reorganization but through a reordering of the basic political structure which will have the effect of limiting what is now virtually a . . .

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