Thursday, April 19, 2012

Foreign Policy and a Gridlocked Congress

            The Atlantic in an article called “Obama vs. Romney: Unknowable Foreign-Policy Differences, describes the incredibly ambiguous nature of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama’s foreign policy platforms. Both claim major differences compared to the other candidate, however, both have one very important issue in common and that’s a willingness to engage in drone strikes and attack Iran if they attempt to acquire nuclear weapons.
            The most interesting aspect of these issues comes from the way in which these candidates intend to act when this time comes. Historically, it has been a requirement to ask congress for permission in matters of foreign policy. However, President Obama has already established a dangerous precedent by not ask for permission when attacking Libya. The fear is not that the President will start to bypass congress in all important foreign policy matters, but rather, that Congress’ ineptitude will force his hand. Was President Obama’s decision to bypass Congress an acknowledgement that Congress is gridlocked, and incapable of coming to quick consensus? If so, what will be the consequences of congressional gridlock on issues like Iran, and potentially North Korea. Congressional gridlock may be indirectly increasing the power of the executive branch, and without willingness to compromise, the legislative branch’s powers will continue to dwindle.


  1. Ok I actually did a research paper on this and Obama was in no way shape or form trying to bypass Congress because of their ineptitude. He enacted the War Power's Act that would allow him to send troops overseas into a warzone for 60 days. By that time if Congress had not ratified the continued presence of troops in the area the President would be forced to pull his forces out.

    Funny thing about this piece of legislation though because how it is written, it only applies to "boots on the ground" soldiers needing to be recalled. If you remember we didn't set foot in Libya we used drones to rain missiles down on them. Therefore when the 60 days were up after the Act was enacted he was allowed to keep the naval based fleet out there and continue supporting Libya from the air and sea without touching the soil.

    Clever little work around that wouldn't be usable if Libya was much further inland.

  2. I wonder what Libya would have looked like if Obama had decided to go to Congress instead of exercising the War Power's Act. It seems like the amount of gridlock would have inhibited him from passing all that he wanted, and it definitely would have delayed the response by the US. Is it better that with some issues, the president can have a larger rein? I think it might be a slippery slope, but there's also something to be said about a prompt response. If deadlock prevents Congress from acting, something may very well become a national security issue before the President can really address it.

  3. I, for one, am reassured that the President has such power to bypass Congress to use force in certain situations. These days, when every simple decision takes on a contrived political meaning, I would be worried if the President could not do so. Especially in situations like Libya, in which there is no direct national threat but a threat to humanity, Congress would likely be slow to act.