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The presidency: Where foreign policy and domestic politics collide

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Events in American history that brought the people together to 'rally round the flag'.
  3. The international stage.
  4. The terrorist attacks and President Bush's capitalization on the situaltion.
  5. Using moral dichotomies.
  6. Conclusion.

Political scientists have long sought to discover where the foreign and the domestic spheres of the presidency connect. Presidents, it is assumed, must balance military needs with political needs, whether those political needs entail gaining domestic support for the president's agenda or maintaining a cohesive foreign coalition. For years, international relations theorists have argued over this: how important is domestic mood and foreign alliances in a president's foreign policy decisions? Realists argue that political needs do not matter when the nation acts on the international stage. They contend that the nation acts as one, unitary actor and all the political infighting and bargaining does not matter when a leader acts in his nation's interest. Liberals, or pluralists, take the opposite position, arguing political needs are not only a part of the scheme, but are central to what a president does. They seek to break down both the decision-making process and the formation of alliances in order to study the political effects of their contributions to military decisions.

[...] Bush's father found himself in an entirely different situation before and during the Gulf War of the early 1990s. The United States had not been attacked, and therefore, public support was not automatically in play nor was international support for U.S. intervention. Military needs and political needs had to be brought together in order for the president to act. When foreign events are not so clearly defined and America's interest is not inherently present, the people have a difficult time judging whether the United States should get involved or not. [...]


[...] Americans, not aware and not interested in the ins and outs of foreign policy, show more affinity toward judging a president's performance based on the outcome of the situation (Hurwitz and Peffley 238-9). It is here that presidents must bring the two sides together. The political needs must be brought up to speed with military needs and presidents must show good faith in such action in order to maintain the balance. President Bush did so during the Gulf War. After building an international coalition and gaining domestic political support for the war, Bush said the sole goal of the operation was to eradicate Kuwait of its Iraqi invaders, adding that his administration had exhausted all diplomatic avenues to resolve the conflict (Drachman and Shank 289). [...]

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