Department/School of the Primary Author

History and Government


President, Foreign Policy, Separation of Powers, U.S. Constitution, constitutional powers, Senate, treaty war powers, Commander in Chief, Congress, Supreme Court, Supreme Court opinions, Federalist Papers, Monroe Doctrine




How powerful is the President of the United States in the arena of foreign policy? This question has opened many discussions, and hotly contested debates as to the extent of the president’s actual power. To make matters more complicated, the United States’ foreign policy has developed and evolved over the course of the United States’ more than two-hundred years history. These foreign policy concerns and international conflicts have mired the presidency into debates and consistent trials over the constitutional extent of the presidency, specifically concerning presidential war powers. Moreover, the Presidents have varied in their approaches to each of these international policy concerns and conflicts. From President George Washington’s Proclamation of Neutrality in 1793, to Gulf of Tonkin Resolution under President Lyndon Johnson’s guise, and the Iran Contra Affair and Cold War policies of the Reagan Administration, American presidents have varied greatly on their outlook to the president’s role in foreign policymaking, and international conflict resolution. The goal of this research paper is not to definitively limit the various branches of the federal government on their responsibilities, as the Constitution allows for flexibility. Rather, the goal of this research paper is to understand the constitutional underpinnings of the President’s role in foreign policy and war making in relation to the separation of powers, and checks and balances delineated in the Constitution, survey the history of the presidents’ foreign policy approaches from George Washington to Ronald Reagan, and how the various Presidents have contributed to the expansion of the powers and roles of the President in foreign affairs – as well as international military conflict – in a historical context.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


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© 2019 Michael W. Wilt. All rights reserved



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