American Foreign Policy : Meaning,Issues,Making and Institutions

What is a foreign policy?

Generally, a foreign policy paves a way to interact with other countries. It’s the way to build up relations with the nations around the world, be it economically, politically or socially.

The policy consists of few guidelines through which the country can safeguard its interests and achieve its goals through the international relations. Hence, the policy’s main aim stands out to build a strong nation.

goals of u.s. foreign policy


A Central function of the U.S government is to conduct relations with almost 200 other nations in the world. A Systematic way of a country to deal with the issues that may arise with other countries is simply, a foreign policy.

Preserving the national security of United States, promoting the world peace and establishing a bond with other countries are the main objectives of the foreign policy. There are many problems that arise due to these goals.

The national objectives that are to be achieved through this foreign policy have many obstacles to deal with.

The following are the main issues of the foreign policy:


Firstly for a country like America, finance is the great backbone. So, the issue that arises and to be dealt with would be ‘corruption’.

Corruption would hinder the economic growth and development of any country. Therefore, U.S department of state has taken steps to make all the countries corruption free. The following are the steps that the Department initiated:

  1. The first of the all the steps was to assist countries to prevent corruption by strengthening the democratic institutions and creating a support to empower the citizens.
  2. The department works with the global partners in bringing changes in the enforcement of laws across the borders of the country.
  3. It also tries to improve data sharing between financial hubs and develop tools to recover stolen assets.


The Economics and Business Affairs of America works daily to create job opportunities for all its citizens.

It also helps in building relationships with other countries through trade. The American companies do business around the world and also attract foreign investors to create jobs.

Building a durable U.S.-India partnership was one of the activities of America in creating a bond with India.


The central goal of US foreign policy is to promote human rights and strengthen democracies to help secure peace.

The United States promotes greater respect for human rights, including women’s rights and child rights.

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor [DRL] has the following working principles:

  • It strives to learn the truth and state the facts in all of its human right investigations.
  • It promotes the right of women through international campaigns for complete equality and political participation.
  • It ensures that the human rights are completely incorporated in the military training and security assistance programs.
  • It raises problems and issues through public channels.


The low status of women has a vast impact on the country economically, politically and socially. It reduces the opportunities for a country to boost economically.

They promote the rights and empowerment of women and girls through foreign policy. The main priorities of the Department are gender equality, women’s economic empowerment, women’s participation in peace and security.

They are striving to ensure participation of women in decision-making about peace and protecting women and children from harm and abuse. After all, when women do better, countries do better.


PEPFAR- President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is the government’s initiative to help save the lives of those who are affected by HIV/AIDS. This is implemented by the Office of the U.S Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy.

Its aim is to make small investments among donors and other partners to save lives and to ultimately end AIDS by 2030.


Nowadays cyber issues have become the biggest problem in any country. The State Department is trying to promote an open secure and reliable information and communications infrastructure. The responsibilities of “Office of the coordinator for cyber issues” include:

  • Acting on liaison to public and private sector entities on cyber issues.
  • Advising Secretary and Deputy Secretaries on cyber issues and engagements.
  • Coordinating the work of regional and functional bureaus within the Department of those areas.

Background of American Foreign policy

What is the history of the American foreign policy? Why there was a need to create a new policy that established diplomatic relations between countries? What were the goals at the initial stage of implementation of the policy?

The policy determines how the United States conducts relations with other countries. The other main reason to design the policy is to assure America’s security and defense. The policy also projects America’s national interest around the world.

After the Revolutionary War, America’s main interest was to maintain its independence from more powerful European nations. Its major foreign policy was to limit European countries who were trying to further colonize the Western Hemisphere.

National interest shapes foreign policy and covers a wide range of political, economic, military and humanitarian concerns.

Around the 19th century, America began to avoid foreign entanglements. It was more concerned about creating a nation that spanned the continent. It realized that it was time to look for foreign markets and colonies.

After the Second World War, United States began to engage in European affairs. By the 20th century, the United States stood out to be a minor imperial power after fighting t a war with Spain against Cuba and the Philippines and several other countries. It also refused to join the League of Nations.

After the Great Depression, America let its military strength expand.

Emerging from the Second World War, it became the most powerful economic power on Earth. It changed its foreign policy dramatically.

It then took lead in founding the United Nations. It created a system of alliances, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It invested many dollars in helping the war-devastated European countries to strengthen themselves.

During the Cold War, the United States and its allies competed with the Soviet Union and its allies militarily, economically and ideologically. The war ended when the Soviet Union lost economically with the West. And this victory helped the United Nations in becoming a superpower.

Through time, various principles and values shaped the present Foreign Policy. American Foreign policy has always helped and supported the nations to achieve independence.

Making of Foreign Policy

From the idea of achieving peace and harmony in the interiors of the country to the idea of becoming a superpower, the goals of the foreign policy appear to be changing from time to time.

Today, the policy covers a wide range of functions and issues. It includes establishing and successfully maintaining diplomatic relationships with almost 200 countries and international organizations such as the United Nations and the organization of American States. Also as a world leader, it also has a significant role in addressing the international economic and environmental problems.

It can be observed that the changes in the Foreign Policy are time evident, which changed and got modified with time. The making and carrying out of the policy mainly involves all three branches of government and a complex array of governmental institutions and other agencies.

With the advice and consent of the Senate, the president makes treaties and appoints ambassadors. As Commander in chief of the military, the president can rapidly project U.S power around the globe.

In the process of forming the foreign policy, the president relies on the advice from the National Security Council. This group is made up of the Vice-President, secretary of state, secretary of defense, head of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (who’s the nation’s highest military advisor). The State Department carries out the decisions regarding the policy. It also helps every region of the world to develop their foreign policy.

Congress also plays a role in American Foreign Policy. It has powers to set duties and tariffs on foreign exports and imports and also to regulate the foreign commerce and immigration. It also sets quotas on immigration and decides which country would benefit for most favored nation status in trade agreements.

On the other hand, Supreme Court has a very limited role in foreign policy. Its main role is to solve disputes between states, foreign states, and their citizens.

At different times, tensions aroused between the branches in the working of the policy. Sometimes, tensions arise when there is a difference in opinions. For an instance, Presidents sometimes favor treaties that the Senate does not want to approve it. Other times, problems have arisen between the Congress power to declare war and the president’s role as commander in chief. As sometimes, presidents ordered the armed forces to resolve conflicts through wars without the declaration by the Congress. Korean, Vietnam and Gulf wars are some among those ones where the declaration of the war was by the Presidents.

The public also plays a role in influencing the Foreign Policy. Advocacy groups for foreign countries often try to influence Congress and the president about issues.


The principal policy institutions are the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Council, Department of State and Department of Defense. They are formulated and implemented within the executive branch.

Central Intelligence Agency

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a civilian foreign intelligence service of the United States. This agency was formed on September 18 in the year 1947 for collecting, analyzing, evaluating the national security information from around the world through the use of human intelligence. It primarily focuses on providing intelligence to the President and Cabinet. Its main motto is “The Work of a Nation. The Centre of Intelligence.”

The CIA has no law enforcement function. Therefore it only focuses on gathering the overseas intelligence. It also serves as the national manager for coordination of human intelligence activities across the U.S. intelligence community.

The director is the main advisor to both the president and the National Security Council on intelligence. The CIA has expanded its role to even make paramilitary operations. The CIA and other intelligence agencies came into force understanding the terrorist threat to the United States. This agency uses a variety of means to gather information relating to the national security. The covert operations of the agency which involved assassinations and tampering with the elections later became the most controversial ones.

National Security Council

A National Security Council is usually an executive branch government body.

It is headed by the national security advisor and senior-level officials of military and other government bodies.

It was formed in the year 1945. Its main activities include maintenance of international peace and security. The main role of the council is to advise the president on the policy.

It is the one which accepts new members to the United Nations. Its powers include:

  • Establishment of operations that maintain peace in the country.
  • Authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions.

The resolutions of the council are typically enforced by the UN peacekeepers and military forces. In 2016, around 1,03,510 peacekeepers and 16,471 civilians were employed to work for 16 peacekeeping operations and one political mission.

Department of State

The United States Department of a state is often referred to as the State Department. The main responsibility of the department is to advise the President and represent the country in international affairs and solve the foreign policy issues.

It was established in the year 1789. It is the nation’s first executive department and is led by the Secretary of State, a member of the Cabinet who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

Its duties include:

  • Protecting and assisting the citizens of U.S living or traveling abroad.
  • Implementing the foreign policy of the United States.
  • Negotiating treaties and agreements with foreign entities.
  • Assisting the U.S. businesses in the international marketplace.
  • Providing support for the international activities of other U.S. agencies.
  • Keeping the public informed about the U.S. foreign policy.
  • Providing feedback from the public to administration officials.

Employees working for the Department of State may be assigned to missions abroad to represent The United States. Their work includes analyzing and reporting on the political, economic and social trends of the country. They also have to respond to the needs of U.S. citizens abroad.

Department of Defense

The Department of Defense is an executive branch department of the federal government of the United States. It was formed in the year 1947 as one of the National Military Establishments, with its headquarters at The Pentagon in Arlington County (in Virginia).

After the end of World War 2, President Harry Truman wanted to create a unified department of national defense and set up a “National Military Establishment.” It was renamed as “Department of Defense” on August 10, 1949.

The Department mainly focuses on maintaining the authority of the Military Departments to organize, train and equip their forces.

By Sai Priya

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