National Leadership and Foreign Policy: A Case Study in the Mobilization of Public Support

By James N. Rosenau | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
National Leadership and Foreign Policy: A Derived Model

The contents and effectiveness of a foreign policy--or of any public policy for that matter--can be explained in terms of various types of actors and various forms of behavior. Foreign service officers who assess conditions abroad and initiate policy alternatives to cope with them, high government officials who advise one course of action rather than another, nongovernmental leadership groups who veto or support some of the alternatives, citizens comprising the mass public who limit the range of acceptable alternatives, top officers of the executive branch who finally decide which alternative to adopt, members of the legislative branch who modify the chosen alternative, officials in the field who implement the alternative which ultimately emerges from the policy-making process--all of these actors and groups contribute to the character and success of American foreign policy and each can serve as the focus of an explanatory analysis.

To be sure, not all of these actors are equally influential. There is a vast discrepancy between the influence of the President who makes the final decision and that of the ordinary citizen who contributes vague feelings to a public mood that sets outer limits on the policy commitments which can be undertaken. Yet the nature of the policy is a function of the activities--or lack of activities--of each of these actors. Variations in the style or quality of the role played by any of them produce corresponding alterations in the contents and adequacy of the policy. Changing presidential attitudes produce much greater policy alterations than do changing moods on the part of the citizenry, but shifting public moods do have consequences for the formulation and conduct of foreign policy.

United States action abroad, in short, is determined by a

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