Presidents and International Cooperation
Abstract and Keywords
This article starts by briefly outlining the state of the field of international relations and domestic politics and examines how this literature has developed over the years. It also reports some of the recent literature on two-level games — i.e., the idea that presidents simultaneously play a bargaining game at the domestic level (with Congress) and at the international level (with other states). Then, new literature that links presidents to questions of international cooperation, in particular, cooperation that occurs within international organizations, is presented. The article concentrates on the core theoretical and empirical debates in the literature surrounding the presidency and international cooperation. It is suggested that presidents have incentives to limit their own policy autonomy in order to gain bargaining leverage domestically. Much of the exciting research in international relations lies at the border with American politics.
Research examining the interactions between domestic politics and international relations has blossomed in recent years. Some of this work discusses how domestic political debates shape a country's incentives to engage in international cooperation. Other work examines how international factors influence decisions by key domestic actors. Most importantly, nearly all of this work implicates the American presidency in important ways.
As the rise of globalization has led to the blurring of lines between international and domestic issues, research in both American politics and international relations has begun to reflect these increasingly permeable borders. No longer can scholars of American politics hide behind the age‐ old dictum that “politics stops at the water's edge.” Nor can international relations scholars claim that America, even with the world's largest military and largest economy, is immune to the ebbs and flows of the international system. All states are increasingly interdependent, forcing domestic institutions to confront issues emanating from the international system: economic recessions, environmental degradation, trade regulation, security issues, and human rights abuse. This interdependence often requires interstate cooperation to coordinate responses to international events. Cooperation often requires new policies at home, placing domestic politics front and center in the question of international policy coordination.
This chapter will discuss this fast‐ growing literature as well as promising areas for future research. It proceeds as follows. First, it briefly reviews the state of the field of (p. 698) international relations and domestic politics and examines how this literature has developed over the years. Second, it highlights some of the recent literature on two‐ level games— i.e., the idea that presidents simultaneously play a bargaining game at the domestic level (with Congress) and at the international level (with other states). Third, it examines new literature that links presidents to questions of international cooperation, in particular, cooperation that occurs within international organizations.1 Some of this work suggests that presidents delegate to international organizations for domestic strategic reasons. Others argue that international organizations can help provide information to key constituencies regarding a president's behavior.
Before beginning, three general points are in order. First, the international relations literature on cooperation and domestic politics rarely focuses specifically on the American presidency, but attempts to generate broad cross‐ national predictions about how executives relate to international institutions. Yet, as we will see, the literature clearly implicates the American presidency in many ways. When turning from broad theoretical models to empirical testing, for instance, the vast majority of this work relies on examples or data from the United States.
In addition, this broad approach to executives should be seen as an opportunity for scholars of American politics. Theories of the American executive branch help refine predictions about national–international linkages. Key to this cross‐ subfield work is a serious engagement in each area. Future work would benefit from this opportunity to use extant theories and empirical work across subfields.
To take a simple example discussed below, some theories have assumed that Congress can help the president bargain more successfully in the international realm since an executive can always claim her hands are tied by domestic forces. Yet, studies of the presidency have shed important light on the conditions under which presidents have greater or lesser autonomy from congressional checks (e.g., Howell 2003). Presumably, any rational state negotiating with the president could see these conditions and adjust their bargaining strategy accordingly. This adjustment of bargaining strategy would likely influence the expected outcomes of international bargaining given domestic constraints. Better ideas concerning the interaction of international and domestic politics need strong cross‐ disciplinary research engaging both areas of inquiry. To this end, this review of the literature presents the broader theories of international cooperation with an eye towards the American presidency.
Second, the chapter examines the question of international cooperation broadly defined. This serves as a way to limit the scope of inquiry, rather than a judgment on the quality of work relating presidents and other international behavior, such as conflict. In addition, within the realm of international cooperation, the chapter frequently focuses on international institutions. Although nation‐ states have various methods of engaging in cooperation, international relations scholars spend much of their time examining institutions as ways to instantiate cooperation (see Abbott and Snidal 1998). Special attention to these institutions, therefore, has some obvious advantages.
Third and finally, this review is not meant to be comprehensive. Some empirical and theoretical literature will inevitably be missed. Rather than cover all relevant ground, however, it focuses on the core theoretical and empirical debates in the literature surrounding the presidency and international cooperation.
The State of the Field(s)
Why is the field of research regarding presidents and international cooperation growing so quickly? Put another way, what accounted for the previous dearth of research in this area? There are several related reasons for this state of affairs. For several decades, realist approaches held strong sway over the study of international relations. Many mainstream realist approaches, especially structural realism, assume a unitary actor at the domestic level (e.g., Morgenthau 1985; Waltz 1979). That is, many realists “black‐ box” the internal politics of states. State actions occur largely in response to the exigencies of the international system rather than due to behavior at the domestic level. In such a theoretical framework, there is no room for presidents (or any other domestic institution) to influence outcomes (for a recent example, see Gowa 1999).
Similarly, many realists are pessimistic about the potential for international cooperation and give little credence to the power of international institutions (e.g., Mearsheimer 1994/5). They hold that international organizations have little independent role in shaping outcomes, but merely reflect the interests of the strong states in the international system. For many realists, knowing the preferences of the strong states means knowing the preferences of international organizations. Thus, there is little reason to focus analytical attention on these international bodies. It is fair to say that throughout the Cold War, the predominance of realist thought meant that little serious attention was paid to either presidents or international institutions.
At this same time, a small but vibrant community of scholars investigated the determinants of American foreign policy behavior (e.g., Rosenau 1961; Hermann 1980). Yet this literature, which often focused on the individual attributes of (p. 700) presidents, paid almost no attention to how international institutions either constrained or empowered those presidents. These scholars were far more interested in how certain processes constrained presidents who, according to realist theories, should have been pursuing the national interest, yet often failed to do so. Unfortunately, many of these scholars focused more on the psychology of individuals and groups, rather than the domestic institutions in which the decision makers were embedded.
Finally, the field of American politics and its attendant studies of the presidency paid little heed to international factors and their role in shaping the behavior of the executive branch. This is in part because presidency scholars chose to focus on domestic policy issues over foreign policy. The lacuna also reflected the power of the two presidents thesis, which pervaded research for many years (Wildavsky 1966). Advocates of this position held that presidents were given a much freer hand in making foreign policy than in domestic policy. If one accepts the theory that Congress will demur more frequently on international issues, there will be, by definition, fewer interesting questions surrounding foreign policy issues like international cooperation.
Yet, in the past twenty years, there has been a marked increase in the number of studies examining domestic politics and international relations (IR), including many focusing on international institutions. What led to this increased attention? First, the end of the Cold War and the fall of realism as the dominant IR theory have been crucially important. Realism was criticized for its inability to predict the sea change in international politics brought about by the end of the Cold War. Similarly, it is hard to tell the story of the decline of the Soviet Union without reference to domestic politics. Thus, many in the IR community began to revisit the idea that domestic factors were important explanatory variables. Second, the increasing globalization of the world economy meant increasing interaction between domestic forces and their international counterparts. Third, there has been a notable rise in the number of international organizations (IO) since the 1970s (Pevehouse, Nordstrom, and Warnke 2004). If these organizations served little purpose, as realists maintained, why did states continue to form them at such a rapid pace? Many studies thus began to examine the domestic impetus for IO formation and membership. Finally, even if the two presidencies thesis is correct (Canes‐ Wrone, Howell, and Lewis 2008), meaningful debates persist over foreign policy issues; and other research suggests underlying similarities regarding domestic and international policy (Howell and Pevehouse 2005).
Of course, the literatures reviewed here are not without some weaknesses. Theories that have emphasized the politics surrounding the executive branch tend to black‐ box international interactions, whereas those studies that take politics at the international level seriously often have very thin conceptions of domestic politics and the American presidency. That is, the literature to date has chosen to emphasize the importance of presidents or the international cooperation, not both. In doing so, both sides have missed considerable opportunities to create a richer set of theories pertaining to executives and international institutions.
(p. 701) Two‐Level Games
One of the most influential efforts to theorize the strategic interaction that characterizes politics in the domestic and international arena was Robert Putnam's work on two‐ level games. Putnam's (1988) basic insight was that state leaders were playing two simultaneous bargaining games in their attempts to achieve international cooperation: an international negotiation game against other states and a domestic negotiation game against a set of domestic interests (often, but not exclusively, a legislature). Putnam formalizes an earlier insight by Schelling (1960) that a president can invoke domestic constraints (e.g., existing laws or requirements for legislative ratification) to gain leverage in international negotiations— an idea that many since have labeled the “Schelling conjecture.” By credibly claiming her winset is restricted at the domestic level, a president can gain a better bargain at the international level. According to Putnam (1988, 434): “At the national level, domestic groups pursue their interests by pressuring the government to adopt favorable policies, and politicians seek power by constructing coalitions among these groups. At the international level, national governments seek to maximize their own ability to satisfy domestic pressures, while minimizing the adverse consequences of foreign developments.”
While Putnam's formulation of Schelling's insight has become a popular theory in international relations, empirical support for the idea of two‐ level games has been mixed. In a collection of case studies, Evans, Jacobson, and Putnam (1993) find little evidence that executives claim to be tied down domestically to gain international leverage. They also suggest that the framework itself was theoretically underspecified, making hypothesis testing difficult.
Information, Institutions, and Two‐ Level Games
Despite these weaknesses, Putnam's formulation has spawned a number of extensions (Milner 1997; Iida 1993; Mo 1994; and Tarar 2001). Central among these is the theoretical and empirical work by Milner (1997), who develops a formal model with three domestic actors— an executive, a legislature, and interest groups— which yields predictions that run counter to Schelling and Putnam's logic. Milner finds that under conditions where domestic ratification is less certain, presidents have a more difficult time negotiating internationally. Rather than maximize the “national interest” at the interstate level, leaders must prioritize negotiating a domestically acceptable agreement that may or may not be acceptable to international partners.
What variables predict conditions of uncertain domestic ratification? Milner focuses on three: the structure of domestic preferences, the nature of domestic institutions, and the internal distribution of information. Regarding domestic preferences, Milner shows that when the executive faces strong opposition in the legislature, the probability of international cooperation declines. In her words, “divisions at home (p. 702) seem to undermine a country's international bargaining strength” (236).2 As for domestic institutions, Milner considers their degree of formality— specifically, whether legislatures have a formal ratification role (e.g., the US Senate) or an implicit one (e.g., most parliamentary systems). Finally, she examines how interest groups can facilitate the bargaining process domestically by serving as information providers. She concludes that the presence of at least one “endorser,” an interest group favoring ratification of an agreement, is an important condition for legislative approval. These endorsers can provide information to legislators who are otherwise ignorant of international issues and are generally skeptical of international engagement. Even in the presence of two opposing interest groups, the probability of cooperation rises when compared to a situation where no endorser exists.
Ironically, Milner's overall predictions for international cooperation are more pessimistic than Schelling, Putnam, and even many realist scholars. The key mechanism driving Milner's conclusion is fear on the part of legislators and interest groups about the distributional consequences of international agreements. These actors fear the adjustment costs; in particular, that these costs of cooperation could fall disproportionately on their interests. Moreover, Milner argues that these actors have difficulty in dividing the spoils from international agreements. Thus, they push presidents to design agreements that maximize legislator preferences to secure ratification, making life more difficult for the executive at the international level.
Milner's careful analysis has brought important insights to the consideration of executives and international agreements. Her counter‐ intuitive predictions concerning domestic politics led to an important revision of the Schelling conjecture upon which scholars continue to build (see Butler 2004; Tarar 2005). She also provided a general model of domestic politics and international relations that tapped concepts familiar to students of domestic political institutions (e.g., divided government) yet moved beyond the substantive area of international trade, upon which most studies of presidential–congressional relations had focused (e.g., Lohman and O'Halloran 1994). Finally, her model also drew important links to well‐ known findings in American politics concerning the nature of interest groups as information providers (Epstein and O'Halloran 1993).
There are, however, reasons to push Milner's analysis forward. Empirically, Milner undertakes several case studies to provide illustrative support for her model; however, the large number of key variables in her model precludes her from finding cases where each important factor varies. Theoretically, Humphreys (2007) generates a similar model that adds the possibility of strategic behavior on the part of the legislature and introduces multidimensional preferences instead of single‐ dimensional winsets. According to Humphreys, these changes reverse Milner's prediction: the presence of a ratifier can assist presidents in achieving a better deal at the international level. Unfortunately, while Humphrey's model more closely mirrors the reality of domestic and international negotiations, he provides no empirical evidence to support (p. 703) his conclusions, nor does he confront the fact that extant empirical literature has found mixed evidence of the Schelling conjecture.
Finally, Milner's assumptions about international politics are quite sparse (by her own admission), in that she presumes an anarchic international environment free of institutions. While she speculates that relaxing the anarchy assumption and/or the introduction of international institutions could allow for a more propitious environment for international cooperation, these alternative assumptions are not incorporated into the model. While there are certainly limits to the number of variables that can be captured in any model, it is possible that the nature of the international game directly affects the nature of the gains and losses at the domestic level. If this is the case, it would be wise to more closely examine the international level to anticipate the circumstances under which legislators care enough about outcomes to threaten non‐ ratification. Put simply, if the anticipated benefits of an international agreement are low, or the expected compliance of other members is low, legislators may lack incentives to impinge on presidents at the international negotiation stage.
Congress, Delegation, and Two‐ Level Games
In another key work in the area of two‐ level games, Martin (2000) draws less‐ pessimistic conclusions about international cooperation and domestic politics while making a key contribution to theories of two‐ level games. Like Milner, she focuses on domestic political institutions, especially the president and Congress. Martin, however, moves beyond the idea of Congress as ratification body by noting several other mechanisms by which Congress can influence the negotiation process. In wielding the power of the purse, creating roadblocks to implementation, and threatening oversight, Congress “possess[es] numerous subtle and indirect mechanisms of influence” (51). Of course, presidents can anticipate these stumbling blocks and may attempt to negotiate around them at the international level. The important lesson to take from this possibility, Martin emphasizes, is that we may rarely witness direct congressional influence on the president concerning international cooperation. Rather, the anticipated effects will be subsumed into the president's negotiation strategy, making the detection of congressional influence more difficult.
Martin then investigates several hypotheses concerning the nature of legislative–executive politics regarding international cooperation. Two of these are particularly relevant to this discussion: the delegation hypothesis and the influence hypothesis. The delegation hypothesis, which builds upon models of executive oversight found in American politics, suggests the conditions under which Congress will delegate authority to the president to negotiate at the international level (e.g., Weingast and Moran 1983; McCubbins and Schwartz 1984; Lupia and McCubbins 1994).
Martin contends that legislators choose to delegate to the executive branch for a variety of reasons, including overcoming informational asymmetries in the area of foreign affairs. Due to their scant knowledge of foreign affairs and the lack of interest (p. 704) among constituents, legislators delegate foreign policy to the executive, while still keeping their oversight power.3 Yet, as Martin recognizes, conditions may determine how comfortable legislators are with that delegation decision. Divided government, for instance, plays a key role: legislators of the president's party will be more likely to delegate to the executive due to the higher probability of preference homogeneity between them.
Through a quantitative examination of sanctions episodes and a qualitative examination of US food aid policy, Martin finds support for the delegation hypothesis. Congressionally imposed economic sanctions are more likely under divided government, since Congress cannot be assured the president will pursue sanctions on his own. Drawing on the history of American food aid, Martin finds evidence that behavior considered to be “abusive of executive authority” leads Congress to enact numerous reporting requirements, particularly under divided government.
The influence hypothesis, by contrast, questions whether executives can evade legislative “interference” in foreign affairs. After all, if a president anticipates congressional opposition to an international agreement, he or she could attempt to unilaterally create international cooperation through an executive agreement— skirting ratification requirements.4 To test this hypothesis, Martin quantitatively examines the percentage of all international agreements concluded as executive agreements from 1953 to 1992 (where all international agreements are the sum of executive agreements and ratified international treaties). She initially finds little support for her influence hypothesis; contrary to expectations, as the number of the president's co‐ partisans in Congress increases, so does the percentage of international agreements concluded as executive agreements. Yet, the substantive effect of this finding is quite small— the predicted increase in the percentage of executive agreements as the total number of international agreements, when moving from very low congressional support to very high, hovers between 1 and 2 percent.
Using a disaggregated measure, however, Martin finds that the level of congressional support for the president has no influence on the number of executive agreements, although congressional support positively influences the number of international treaties signed. This result suggests that the president does need congressional support to conclude international agreements and, rather than attempting to evade ratification, concludes more treaties under times of unified government, knowing the path to ratification will be easier.
Martin's work, much like Milner's, provides a rich understanding of the constraints faced by the president. Her logic of delegation provides an alternative set of causal mechanisms to Milner's bargaining‐ based theory, while suggesting a larger set (p. 705) of conditions that are more propitious for international cooperation. Moreover, Martin's recognition that executives may anticipate congressional opposition— thus allowing Congress influence over negotiations without direct, observable behavior— provides an important reminder to those undertaking empirical investigation of executive–legislative relations in foreign policy.
Like Milner, however, Martin pays scant attention to the nature of the international game being played by the executive, ignoring the question of whether the substance of the international agreement matters. Martin does investigate whether cooperation is more successful at the international level conditional on congressional involvement, but the international institutions and agreement themselves are rarely examined. This could be important if there are differences across different international agreements based on substantive issue area. And while Martin does vary the issue areas of her empirical investigation, there is little comparison between them.
Given Martin's theoretical mechanisms, in particular her emphasis on information, this gap could be problematic. For example, Congress is likely to be more informed concerning issues of trade or immigration, compared to other foreign policy issues such as the environment or foreign aid. Given that information dynamics play a key role in congressional decisions to delegate, one wonders if her findings are conditional on issue area. Perhaps even periods of unified government are not sufficient to spur delegation if Congress feels its competence in a particular area is high or the treaty poses clear and potentially large adjustment costs. The resounding bipartisan rejection of the Kyoto Protocol under the Clinton administration, for example, suggests that some of Martin's dynamics may depend on the nature of the international agreement. Further hypotheses could be developed to link the underlying causal mechanisms in Martin's work to the nature of the international cooperation.
Opening the International Black Box
In general, the move to unpack institutions at both the domestic and international level is afoot. In a recent example, Mansfield, Milner, and Pevehouse (2008) utilize the idea of veto players in the context of domestic ratification when examining state accession to preferential trade agreements. Specifically, they use cross‐ national time series data measuring the extent of preference divergence within domestic institutions across pairs of states (dyads) from 1950 to 2000. Their measure of preference divergence is taken from Henisz (2002), who uses three domestic factors: the presence of an effective legislative branch to check presidential power, the alignment of party power across the executive and the legislative branches (e.g., the presence of divided government), and the heterogeneity of preferences within the legislative branch (i.e., the probability that two representatives picked at random will hail from the same party).
For their dependent variable, the authors measure the depth of proposed integration in the trade agreement. That is, did the agreement call for a modest (p. 706) decline in tariffs, the wholesale adoption of free trade, the adoption of a common tariff structure across all members, the coordination of macroeconomic policies such as inflation control, the elimination of barriers to labor mobility, or the adoption of a common currency? They hypothesize that the presence of veto players in democracies will lessen the probability of deeper cooperation, since these more extensive arrangements raise the likelihood of more significant adjustment costs and/or material benefits. Adopting Milner's (1997) logic, they suggest the higher potential for costs will make the conclusion of a ratifiable agreement less likely.
Indeed, consistent with previous research (Mansfield, Milner, and Rosendorff 2002), they find that while democracies are more likely than non‐ democracies to join these international trade agreements, the relationship is conditional: as the number of veto players rises in democracies, the probability of entering into deep international cooperation declines. Their results are important since they suggest presidents will face more intense pressures if proposing deeper cooperation in international institutions. Thus, while the domestic story clearly remains important, delving deeper into the international side of the equation appears to yield important insights as well.
In sum, the literature on two‐ level games has grown substantially in IR. Two important themes of this work deserve consideration. First, only a small subset of the literature deals with the content of international institutions, although there are efforts under way to fill this gap. To date, the main thrust of the two‐ level games literature, from the IR perspective, has been pinpointing the factors that promote cooperation among states. That is, what domestic factors shape state incentives to cooperate with one another? Given the classic concern of IR with cooperation under conditions of anarchy, this emphasis was once warranted. Now that IR has moved past the first‐ order question of whether states cooperate, however, it has begun to think more systematically about the function, design, and success of that cooperation. The next step for the two‐ level games literature is to take these emerging insights concerning the design (Koremenos, Lipson, and Snidal 2000), the functionality (Goldstein et al. 2000; Rosendorff 2005), and the enforcement potential (Simmons 2000; von Stein 2005) of those international regimes, and tie them to our theories of two‐ level games.
Authors such as Milner and Martin have elucidated very specific causal mechanisms that shape the incentives of domestic political actors vis‐ à‐ vis international cooperation. Yet, domestic actors presumably have preferences concerning the design, functionality, and enforcement properties of international cooperation. That is, the next natural step in the research agenda is to flesh out the preferences of presidents and Congress over the form— rather than just the fact— of international cooperation. For example, might all members of Congress (regardless of partisanship) be willing to delegate to the president if the IO's rules guarantee American veto power over policy? Conversely, more egalitarian voting rules in the organization may sharpen political debates in the US, raising the prospect of a partisan showdown over whether to delegate in the first place. Congressional preferences (p. 707) over particular international issues, and how they play into two‐ level games, remain largely uninvestigated theoretically and empirically.
Indeed, perhaps the only study to pursue this research avenue, by Reinhardt (2003), reveals important constraints on the ability of presidents to leverage domestic opposition once the probability of enforcement by international institutions is considered. In short, Reinhardt argues that “the benefits of tying hands [in order to promote international cooperation] occur in proportion to the ex ante probability of enforcement” (99). Reinhardt bases his conclusion on a formal model of WTO institutional bargaining assuming the presence of divided government. His model takes an important step towards combining the insights of the two‐ level games literature using well‐ specified theories of international institutions, and accounts of domestic politics.
Second, as discussed in this section, the empirical evidence concerning two‐ level games is mixed. While some large‐ n studies have confirmed the importance of domestic factors in shaping incentives for cooperation, many qualitative studies have not. Yet, as Martin reminds us, the influence of legislatures may be both subtle and subject to anticipatory action by presidents. A lesson can be taken from the use of force literature: Congress has never activated the time limit provisions of the War Powers Act since its adoption. Yet, to say that this is evidence of congressional inactivity regarding war and military force is to overlook important congressional behavior (see Howell and Pevehouse 2007). Similarly, just because the list of non‐ ratified treaties for the US may be small, this does not suggest congressional indifference.
Here, future empirical work should examine insights from American politics to learn more about other mechanisms through which Congress can influence the president in addition to the threat of non‐ ratification of treaties. Vocalizing opposition to executive policy choices provides one possible route. This opposition may actually undermine a leader's international bargaining credibility in situations where perceptions of resolve are important (e.g., the use of force; see Schultz 1998). Vocal opposition can also turn public opinion against the president (Howell and Pevehouse 2007). Alternatively, Congress can tighten oversight of executive agencies, threaten public hearings, or use the power of the purse. Again, the key point is that presidents may anticipate this behavior and adjust their international bargaining strategies accordingly, or decline to participate in international negotiations if failure at home looms.
In the next section, we examine a burgeoning literature which largely takes cooperation as a given, but explores the ways in which extant international institutions can serve or frustrate the goals of presidents. This newer literature examines why presidents might surrender some policy autonomy to an IO. In other words, the key question is not how domestic politics constrains international cooperation, but rather how domestic politics might promote it. Moreover, for this body of literature, the focus at the international level becomes the interaction of presidents with international institutions rather than interaction with other nation‐ states.
(p. 708) Delegation for Self‐Restraint
Two major strands of literature have blossomed in the past decade relating the president and the international system generally, and IOs in particular. We can divide these works into two broad camps: those emphasizing delegation (at the international level) and those emphasizing information. In this section, we review literature suggesting that presidents have incentives to limit their own policy autonomy in order to gain bargaining leverage domestically. While the two‐ level games conception of delegation occurs at the domestic level, these scholars have noted that presidents may delegate authority to international institutions, tying their own hands to boost their leverage domestically.
Delegation and American Trade Policy
Goldstein (1996) makes a delegation argument concerning the president and Congress in the area of trade policy; however, rather than Congress delegating to the president, the president delegates to an international institution. Goldstein examines the case of the 1988 Canadian–US free trade agreement, where binational panels were given the right to arbitrate disputes that arose between the two countries. Goldstein's puzzle emanates from the fact that these panels consistently ruled in favor of Canada, the weaker of the two parties to the agreement. Moreover, the US trade bureaucracy began to change its own behavior based on these panel rulings. Why, Goldstein asks, did the more powerful US actors not anticipate this outcome and design a system more favorable to their own interests? Why did the US not push for an ex post revision of the procedure or refuse to implement the judgments of the panels, since they did not automatically become US law?
Goldstein's answer arises from her model of executive–legislative bargaining and delegation. Goldstein adopts the widely held assumption that the president's preferences lean towards free trade (given its broad, welfare‐ maximizing benefits), while preferences of Congress lean towards protectionism (given each legislator's narrow, district‐ level interest in preventing the adjustment costs of free trade). Historically, however, Congress would be overwhelmed by demands from interest groups for protection. To remedy this problem, Congress delegated trade authority to the president to create a buffer between it and interest groups, creating so‐ called “fast‐ track” authority (today known as “Trade Promotion Authority”).
Yet, over time, interest groups found other ways to promote protectionism through agencies such as the International Trade Commission, which could determine whether other states had adopted “unfair” trade policies. Through liberal interpretation of what constituted “unfair” policies, these agencies could erect “defensive” trade barriers. The creation of the binational panels under the Canadian–US trade agreement became a way for the president to delegate authority to determine “unfair” policies to an international body which was more likely to hold (p. 709) pro‐ free trade preferences. Thus, in cases where US agencies accused Canada of unfair practices, the final judgment on the issue would come from the binational panels, which consistently ruled against the US “defensive” measures.
According to Goldstein, the delegation of this authority to an international institution allowed the president to shift policies closer to his ideal point, away from Congress's as well as the domestic trade bureaucracy's ideal point.5 Thus, having received the power to set unilateral tariff policy through fast track, the president then sought to curb attempts to erect barriers in response to complaints of “unfair” trade practices through federal agencies. By shifting authority to an international institution, the president effectively circumvented both Congress and the bureaucracy.
Obviously Goldstein only examines one case of this delegation story, but there are broader lessons to be learned from her study. Whereas Milner and Martin argue that factors like divided government will shape whether executives are able to commit to international agreements in the first place, Goldstein's study draws our attention to two additional issues. First, executives may find themselves in positions where their own ideal points on particular issues are far from the median member of Congress (which may or may not correlate with the presence of divided government), or even the ideal points of administrative agencies. Rather than serve as a constraint, this preference divergence provides an impetus to engage in international cooperation.
Second, Goldstein draws our attention to the form of international cooperation. Not just any trade agreement would accomplish the delegation goals of the president. The particulars of the Canada–US trade agreement mattered: the creation of binational panels that were relatively insulated from Congress was key to the delegation effort. This turn towards examining specific institutional functionalities is one that should continue in the literature since many of the causal theories put forth depend crucially on the international institution's ability to perform certain functions. After all, it is possible that preferences concerning delegation are conditional on the content of the international agreement— a possibility discussed below.
Delegation and Human Rights
In a very different empirical context, Moravcsik (2000) argues that executive incentives to delegate authority to international human rights institutions can be interpreted as attempts to create credible commitments to these policies. In his words: “Establishing an international human rights regime is an act of political delegation akin to establishing a domestic court or administrative agency” (220). In particular, he argues that newly democratic countries will join IOs that intrude on state sovereignty in order to commit current and future governments to protect human (p. 710) rights. This “lock‐ in” is particularly effective since third parties (other members of the IO) will be committed to enforcing the conditions of the agreement and can be counted on to punish any reneging.
More relevant to our discussion here, however, is Moravcsik's assertion that well‐ established democracies, such as the US, will not pay the costs associated with joining human rights regimes. A key factor driving Moravcsik's idea of delegation is political uncertainty— because new democracies face high future uncertainties, an executive will lock in policies today, raising the costs of future defections tomorrow, even if he or she is not in power. Well‐ established democratic regimes, such as the US, do not face such political uncertainty, nor do they have difficulty making endogenous credible commitments to particular policies. Moreover, Moravcsik argues, older democracies are more likely to have established strong reputations promoting human rights, and thus do not gain any reputational benefit from joining human rights organizations.
Importantly, Moravcsik's study goes beyond Goldstein's argument that the distribution of domestic preferences drives presidents to commit to international institutions. Rather, Moravcsik highlights the incentives presidents have to lock in a new status quo in order to limit the autonomy of future presidents. Essential to his argument is the idea that international agreements increase the cost of defection over domestic policies. The study has important limits, however. Some of the assumptions Moravcsik adopts are specific to human rights issues, and he makes few attempts to generalize the theory outside this realm. And even within this area, he only examines one case: the formation of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after the Second World War.
Does Moravcsik's theory tell us anything about presidential behavior in the American context? While the answer is likely no in the area of human rights, one can easily imagine other issue areas where it provides insight. In particular, the idea of locking in a particular set of policies through international organizations is a powerful one, even if states such as the US can make fairly credible commitments to future policy endogenously (e.g., by setting up a costly administrative agency). Environmental issues may provide one example. US policy in this area has varied widely by administration due to disparate preferences across political parties. The US has not committed to some key international environmental treaties— most notably, the Kyoto Protocol— yet future administrations will no doubt attempt to lock in particular environmental policies by acceding to these organizations. Magnifying this effect is the possibility that America's international partners could inflict higher costs on the US through mechanisms established in the agreement.
The presence of time‐ inconsistent preferences may provide another incentive for self‐ restraint. Aware that they will face temptation to renege on promises in the future, executives may view self‐ constraint as a logical policy response. Key to each of these logics, however, is that an international commitment raises the costs of backing out relative to a purely domestic commitment. Domestic laws may be easier to amend than international agreements are, and domestic administrative agencies can be captured, as in the Goldstein trade example. Of course, this begs an important (p. 711) question that Moravcsik skirts: why would a rational legislature allow their hands to be tied in the first place? This brings us back to the question of ratification in two‐ level games, to which we return below.
Other work in the area of human rights and international cooperation has made arguments similar to Moravcsik, but has reached different empirical conclusions concerning established democracies. Hafner‐ Burton, Mansfield, and Pevehouse (2008) conduct a cross‐ national time series statistical analysis to examine whether new democracies systematically join human rights organizations in comparison with other types of political regimes. They generalize Moravcsik's logic to suggest that a variety of human rights organizations besides the ECHR could create costly commitments to future human rights policies. Indeed, the authors find that newly democratized states are statistically more likely to accede to human rights organizations than other types of political regimes, although the effect does not hold for human rights treaties.6 They also find, contra Moravcsik's predictions, that more democratic states are more likely to join human rights organizations, controlling for those that have democratized.
This finding suggests that Moravcsik's conclusions could be confined to his single case study. Indeed, the desire to tie hands in the face of future leadership turnover or time‐ inconsistent preference is one that arises in all democracies. The key challenge is determining under what conditions presidents will find the intrusion of an international commitment less costly compared to future policy uncertainty. Answering this question requires an understanding of how much presidents value future policy continuity, the level of uncertainty regarding future policy outcomes, and the costliness of the commitment internationally. Theories developed in American politics may offer more leverage on the first two questions, while international relations theories may contribute to our understanding of the third.
Of course, Hafner‐ Burton, Mansfield, and Pevehouse's empirical evidence is consistent with other theories that have little to do with delegation at the domestic level. For example, established democracies may join human rights institutions to signal a commitment to promoting human rights abroad or to pressure other members to improve their own human rights performance. Again, better theory is needed to elucidate the circumstances under which presidents will favor utilizing delegation to IOs rather than internal commitment devices. Such a theory would permit more refined empirical testing about the exact causal mechanisms at work.
Finally, as previously noted, a potential tension exists between the delegation literature and the literature on two‐ level games. That is, presidents may strongly prefer to delegate to an international institution, either due to a particular preference distribution (e.g., Goldstein) or to instantiate credible commitments (e.g., Moravscik). Congress, however, is not an ignorant bystander in this process. Any argument (p. 712) contending that presidents can enhance their own power through delegation must confront the question of why Congress would acquiesce to such a maneuver. While several possible explanations exist, chances are that most accounts will need to apply extant theories of executive–legislative interactions developed in the context of American politics.
For example, Schultz (2003), drawing on the logic of self‐restraint, makes a hand‐tying argument in the security realm. He argues that “working through international organizations also creates a way for the president to commit himself to a [military] operation, by increasing the costs of turning back” (109). Because presidents generally possess better information and enjoy first‐ mover advantages in the field of security, Schultz contends they can often preempt congressional opposition and “induce legislators to shy away from efforts to deauthorize, defund, or otherwise limit the mission” (109). And while these various advantages certainly apply to the use of military force (Howell and Pevehouse 2007, 6–9), it remains unclear whether the president enjoys them in other issue areas as well.
Information and Approval Seeking
In IR theory, the liberal challenge to realism largely derived from a set of claims advanced by Keohane (1984) and others, touting the ability of international institutions to help engender cooperation among rationally egoistic states in an anarchic system. According to proponents, international institutions, by providing information to interested parties about the state of the world and/or the behavior of others, could help quell states' fears of cheating, aid in punishing defectors, and assist policy coordination (Abbott and Snidal 1998).
Over the past decades many scholars have recognized that the informational benefits of international institutions do not stop at the international level. In both the security and economic realms, scholars have increasingly argued that IOs provide information that is useful to other actors within states or useful to state leaders for domestic purposes.
Presidents, Public Opinion, and Approving the Use of Force
In the realm of security and foreign policy, Chapman and Reiter (2004) argue that international institutions, such as the UN Security Council, provide important signals to the American public about the potential costs and benefits of potential military action. They argue that presidents care deeply about public opinion regarding potential uses of military force, and thus are only likely to use force when the proposed venture is popular. The public, for its part, has little reason to trust the (p. 713) pronouncements of the president since they assume he will naturally favor the use of force, even when force may not be justified. In other words, the public presumes slack in the principal–agent framework. In equilibrium, then, the public may be unwilling to back the use of force.
As emphasized by the principal–agent literature, third parties can help ameliorate the slack problem by providing fire alarms. While opposition political parties could serve this role (see Schultz 2001), so could IOs. By consulting the UN Security Council, presidents can signal that they are responding to important threats rather than engaging in reckless behavior. When the Security Council votes to approve a use of force, this is a clear indication that neutral third parties support the mission, leading the public to look more favorably upon the military effort.7 Of course, this assumes the public and the UN Security Council have similar preferences, a point to which we return momentarily.
Empirically, Chapman and Reiter find that the “rally round the flag” effect associated with American uses of force between 1945 and 2001 is higher when Security Council approval is received. Their empirical results are robust to the inclusion of a litany of control variables including the severity of the use of force, whether the US initiated the use of force, the presence of allies, and numerous economic variables. They conclude that their findings suggest an interesting substitution effect: executives can turn to international institutions to “constrain” their behavior in an attempt to lessen the constraint of domestic public opinion.
The Chapman and Reiter finding does beg the question of selection: why would a president propose a use of force to the Security Council if there was a high risk of rejection, a rejection which could turn public opinion strongly against using force? Might a president attempt to anticipate Security Council responses and only seek authorization in cases where approval was likely, and might those be the same cases where a rally effect would naturally take place? Chapman and Reiter do attempt to control for this possibility by introducing variables that represent the cases where this dynamic is most likely, i.e., a direct attack on the American homeland or on US troops. Still, a fuller attempt to deal with selection would give more confidence in the results.
A process related to these selection dynamics is addressed by Fang (2007), who contends that even leaders interested in private rents may seek approval from international institutions such as the Security Council. Fang creates a formal model where voters want to elect a leader who is concerned with choosing the “best” policy, rather than a “biased” leader who will pursue private benefits. Fang assumes that consultation with an IO will help a leader choose a better policy, and thus an “unbiased” leader will consult with the institution to maximize her reelection chances. Yet, upon seeing this behavior, Fang argues that a pooling equilibrium will result: biased leaders will also consult the institution to feign interest in the public good. Indeed, according to Fang, this is the power of institutions— by creating (p. 714) electoral incentives for good leaders to consult the institution, even leaders who may not want to consult the institution must, since they do not want to appear publicly biased.
Fang does not explore the mechanisms through which international institutions improve policy outcomes; however, one possibility is that institutions convey information. By publicly vetting a potential policy, a leader opens herself to criticism by the IO, removing doubts that she is acting only in her own best interests. Fang also notes that the power of the institution to constrain biased leaders grows as the public maintains favorable ratings of the institution itself. Yet, while some scholars contend that publics (even in the US) have a positive view of many IOs (see Kull 2002), their overall knowledge of international institutions may be low— a point to which we return below.
Information, Bias, and the Logic of Approval Seeking
The claim that international institutions can bolster cooperation by providing information to publics has also been extended in work by Thompson (2006) and Chapman (2007). Thompson (2006) uses insights from theories of Congress to examine the conditions under which information provided by international institutions can educate the public (Krehbiel 1992; Gilligan and Krehbiel 1989). According to these theories, the distribution of preferences within the institution matters; approval from an institution perceived to be biased in favor of a president is unlikely to affect public sentiment because observers expect this support. An institution with more heterogeneous preferences, however, can provide a more informative signal, since it is less clear ex ante that the president would receive strong support from that institution.
Thompson's information transmission theory suggests that the Security Council's preference structure may elevate its influence: because a wide variety of interests are represented on the Council, especially the presence of the permanent five veto players (Russia, China, France, Great Britain, and the US), any signal from that body will be informative to the American (or any other) public. Yet, the theory applies more generally to institutions that embody diverse preferences, because “formal IOs that are neutral, with heterogeneous and representative memberships are uniquely capable of providing credible information” (30). Interestingly, however, Thompson only identifies two audiences interested in this information: foreign publics and their leaders, who must take public support into consideration in making their own political decisions. Of course, this assumes that other states' regimes are democratic or at least representative, which may or may not be the case. But more importantly, Thompson ignores what may be the main target audience: the president's own public. And while it does not detract from the overall power of Thompson's theory, it would seem that a key impetus for seeking public support from a group of other states may be to inform one's own public and/or neutralize domestic opposition, per Schultz's argument.
This issue is taken up by Chapman (2007), who develops a formal model outlining the conditions under which presidents will seek authorization to use force from international institutions. Similar to Thompson, Chapman contends that institutions that are perceived as biased against an executive can provide more credible information.8 For Chapman, the important audience is the president's constituents, who base their decision to support a policy goal on the feedback they receive from the international body. The audience cares about the feedback because they assume that opposition from a pivotal member in an IO will lead to higher costs of using force— or, more broadly, shifting the status quo. Public opposition to a policy makes an executive less likely to implement it, conditional on the perceived costs of going against the public's wishes and the cost of the use of force itself.
Chapman recognizes, moreover, that the public may discount support or opposition, depending on the perceived preferences of the pivotal member of the IO. Support for a policy from an IO that is biased against the state will provide credible information, but opposition from that organization does not guarantee more costs, since opposition was anticipated. Similarly, support from an institution biased in favor of the state is rarely beneficial, but opposition from such an institution could be quite costly. The hypothesis deduced from these comparative statics suggests that leaders who desire public support will choose to consult institutions that are perceived as “biased” against them, since the benefits are potentially large and the costs generally small.
Chapman's model nicely creates the possibility for variation regarding the question of when presidents will consult IOs. For Chapman, the pivotal member of an organization may differ based on the issue (e.g., environment versus security), the time frame (e.g., Cold War versus post‐ Cold War), and the institution (e.g., UN Security Council versus NATO). Thus, he escapes the need to argue that the bias within institutions is generally fixed over time— a critique that could be leveled at Thompson. This flexibility, however, entails costs. As discussed more fully below, Chapman's model demands that the public have knowledge of the pivotal player's preferences across these various issues, time frames, and institutions— an ironic assumption, given that a key principle of the model is the notion that the public observes the organization in the first place because it suffers from information shortages.
In addition, while Chapman's argument suggests intriguing hypotheses about the incentives of presidents to risk rejection by IOs, taken to its logical conclusion, the argument conjures potentially strange predictions. In the case of the 2003 Gulf War, for example, it suggests that George W. Bush should have attempted to garner approval for the conflict in the halls of the Arab League or the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Approval from such bodies would clearly convey valuable (p. 716) information to domestic and international audiences; and although the probability of winning approval verges on zero, the costs of failing to secure approval may also be very small. Yet, we find few cases of presidents engaging in approval seeking from extremely biased institutions. If the costs of rejection are truly minimal and the benefits large, why would the president not make an attempt? This suggests other factors could be at play: the cost of approval seeking, for example, in terms of delay and reputational harm. That is, there seems to be an upper bound as to how biased the institution could be for presidents to even consider consulting them, and this is likely due to factors outside Chapman's model.
Elections, Presidents, and Trade Policy
The arguments linking international institutions, executives, and other domestic political actors are not confined to security affairs. Mansfield, Milner, and Rosendorff (2002) make an information provision argument with regard to economic organizations, specifically preferential trade agreements. They begin with the assumption that presidents value reelection. And while voter support is important for achieving this outcome, so might be the support of interest groups. To secure rents for these interest groups, an executive may increase tariffs higher than is preferred by the median voter. And while the public may have little knowledge of tariff levels, they do observe the price of goods (which rises with higher tariffs). If the price of goods grows too much, voters will attempt to remove the president from office.
Importantly, however, other macroeconomic factors may also increase the price of goods, resulting in a push to unseat an incumbent. Unfortunately, presidents cannot credibly inform the public that a rise in the price of goods was due to behavior other than rent seeking, since voters know that executives have incentives to raise tariffs to seek rents. International institutions can serve an important purpose for presidents in this regard. By signing a trade agreement committing a state to low tariffs, leaders can create a source of credible information regarding the underlying causes of poor economic outcomes. Much like the Security Council for Chapman and Reiter as well as Fang, trade agreements serve as the “alarm bell” for opportunistic behavior on the part of the executive. Since other members of the trade agreement face strong incentives to report unilateral increases in tariffs that violate the agreement, voters can monitor messages from the trade agreement concerning the origins of economic downturns. In the absence of a message from the international institution, voters assume the economic downturn was beyond the control of the president and she is reelected.
Mansfield, Milner, and Rosendorff empirically test the observable implication of their hypothesis: pairs of democratic states will be more likely to join preferential trade agreements than either pairs of autocratic states or mixed pairs (where only one state is a democracy). Examining all pairs of countries from 1951 to 1992, they find that pairs of democratic states are about twice as likely mixed pairs, and four times as likely as autocratic pairs, to form a preferential trade agreement. The Mansfield, (p. 717) Milner, and Rosendorff work is valuable in extending the information‐ related benefits of IOs to the economic realm as well as providing an extensive theoretical framework for how presidents can benefit from the provision of information from international institutions.
A key question begged by Mansfield, Milner, and Rosendorff's work, which relies on the American public's knowledge of international events, is exactly how much the public knows about foreign affairs. Indeed, the papers linking IOs to public opinion contain a curious tension. On one hand, all suggest that, consistent with most empirical findings, the public is relatively ignorant about foreign affairs and suffers from large information asymmetries vis‐ à‐ vis the president. Otherwise, the pronouncements of the president would carry greater credibility. Yet, the arguments also demand the public to be attentive to signals from IOs regarding policy. In some issue areas, this may not be a stretch. Scholars such as Holsti (2004) have found that the mass public is relatively informed on issues of war and peace. But even though an average American could express knowledge of an incipient conflict involving the United States, it does not necessarily follow that they would be knowledgeable about an IOs position on that conflict. It is also unclear that international sources would be the first place voters would turn to for this information.
Of course, some of these arguments suggest that presidents have the power of the pulpit— they affirmatively choose to join an institution to convey information. Still, for some authors, the knowledge requirement for the public is sizeable. In particular, Chapman's model depends on the ability of voters to know the location of the ideal point of the pivotal member across time, issues, and institutions in order to give proper weight to the opinion of that institution. If they lack the knowledge of other states' preferences or the identity of the pivotal member, it is unclear how the public could evaluate information from the institution. One is tempted to suggest that the public discounts it or gives it little weight in their overall calculations of the desirability of a course of foreign policy action. When confronted with a situation of asymmetric information vis‐ à‐ vis both the president and the international institution, the voter likely pays little attention to IO endorsements— even those that are difficult to achieve and thus the most informative.
Mansfield, Milner, and Rosendorff confront a potentially more daunting problem. While the public may be relatively more informed about matters of war and peace, it is unlikely that they closely monitor decisions of preferential trade arrangements (for example, Goldstein's binational panels in the US–Canada agreement). If true, this consideration undermines the ability of such agreements to serve as an effective fire alarm, giving a president less incentive to join the organization. One counter to this claim is that the alarm will not be pulled by the organization itself, but rather other member states who will loudly protest unilateral tariff increases. Indeed, this is an important mechanism since numerous preferential trade agreements lack formal institutional bodies to make such pronouncements (see Pevehouse 2008). In instances where other states must pull the fire alarm, however, the public must not perceive other states to be biased. Otherwise, any signal risks becoming (p. 718) uninformative, as in the Chapman and Thompson frameworks. Moreover, it begs the question of the value added of having an institution rather than relying on other states to identify one's own cheating behavior.
The final issue regarding these information‐ based theories of IOs concerns domestic alternatives. In the previous section, it was argued that international self‐ constraints were superior to domestic ones. Yet, in terms of information, it is less clear why executives do not rely on Congress and/or congressional opposition as a substitute for international sources of credible information. In the eyes of voters, Congress has less working knowledge of foreign affairs than the executive, who possesses large advantages in terms of information. Moreover, recent research has shown that the public closely follows debates over foreign affairs within Congress (Mermin 1999), and that detectable shifts in public opinion occur as Congress shifts its discussions of various policy options (Howell and Pevehouse 2007, ch. 7).
Given that large bodies of evidence indicate that the public follows Congress on foreign affairs, whereas little evidence suggests that voters shift in response to cues from international institutions, one wonders why Congress does not serve as a natural check against non‐ credible public pronouncements by the president. In other words, unless on a particular issue the incentives of Congress on the whole are perfectly aligned with the president, one can assume that any pronouncement about policy (e.g., tariff increases, the use of force, etc.) is credible given the constant presence of some domestic opposition. That is, why do executives face any problems of credibility vis‐ à‐ vis the public given congressional incentives to serve as a check on the president?
This is not to say that leaders will not seek endorsements and signals from IOs for other reasons, such as elite or public opinion in other countries, especially if doing so is relatively costless. But it is not clear that seeking approval from international sources helps the president to solve problems at home. Indeed, one area for future theorizing and empirical work would be to consider the relative costs and benefits of “staying domestic” versus “going international.” This general question applies to the literature on self‐ restraint as well as approval seeking. Each option no doubt offers distinct costs and benefits at both the domestic and international level. Future scholarship would do well to explicitly compare the strategies from the perspective of the president.
Conclusions and Future Directions
This chapter began by noting the extensive growth in the literature linking domestic politics and international relations. Much of this literature bears directly on studies of the American president and her role in engaging in international cooperation. Of (p. 719) course, even though this fast‐ growing literature has pushed boundaries on the theoretical and empirical frontier, more work remains to be done.
There are several important questions in this area that remain underexplored. First, the work that has drawn significant insights from theories of American politics, especially in the field of two‐ level games, can do more to incorporate factors relating to the international realm. These theories often make restrictive assumptions about or pay little attention to the nature of international bargaining partners, the organization or agreement under consideration, or even the prospects that the organization will operate successfully. Theoretically, it is the same question asked by scholars of congressional models of delegation: to which agents are the principals comfortable delegating? As previously discussed, particular rules in an institution may be more attractive for presidents to solve credibility or time‐ inconsistency problems, but Congress may resist such attempts. By exploring how variation in the structure of international institutions (e.g., voting rules, enforcement mechanisms) influences domestic decision‐ making processes, future scholarship can move beyond the generality of the two‐ level games literature to emphasize particular conditions where domestic and international forces impinge on each other.
Second, the literature emphasizing the international side of the executive–IO linkage has often overlooked important domestic conditions that could make existing theories richer. For example, a key issue in the past decade in American presidency research has been the increasing use of unilateral executive instruments to achieve executives' policy goals (Howell 2003; Mayer 2001). As suggested in this essay, numerous IR scholars assume these mechanisms are inherently less credible than international commitments because they are easily altered or overturned domestically. Yet, as Howell (2005, 423) argues, “Congress has had a difficult time enacting laws that amend or overturn orders issued by presidents.” This implies that IR scholars may overestimate the need for international solutions.
In addition, as a second‐ order question, how do other states perceive American commitments made via executive orders? Martin (2000) contends that congressional involvement in the policy process makes international cooperation more successful, but more systematic empirical work on the success of cooperation with respect to international versus domestic policy changes is in order. Moreover, does the fact that presidents “regularly invent new [policy mechanisms] or redefine old ones in order to suit their own strategic interests” undermine widely held assumptions in IR theory about the nature of democratic systems, such as their institutional constraints or promising advantages (Lipson 2003)? In other words, IR scholars often portray a far more idyllic and cooperative domestic scene in democracies than may actually exist.
Finally, much of the literature discussed here relies on public opinion as an important causal mechanism. Yet, as previously discussed, marked disagreement exists regarding how much the public knows about various issue areas. Future empirical research would do well to build on our scholarship of the public's knowledge of international affairs generally and international institutions more specifically. This has theoretical and empirical import: if the public knows more than theorists believe, the information asymmetries between the president and the public (p. 720) may be reduced, ameliorating her credibility problem in conveying her true intentions. Likewise, scholars would do well to square the increasingly common assumption that the president faces credibility problems resulting from informational asymmetries with the sizeable literature in American politics suggesting that presidents can shift public opinion under certain conditions (Kernell 1997). If presidents can lead, it suggests a public less wary of their pronouncements than is assumed by much of the IR literature.
Relatedly, scholars could do more do emphasize the role of the president in shaping the public opinion environment for Congress. Extant research in American politics suggests that presidents can play some role in legislative debates over policy through the mechanism of public opinion (Canes‐ Wrone 2005). As previously suggested, empirical work has also shown that Congress can play a key role in shaping opinion on foreign affairs, which in turns influences the president (Howell and Pevehouse 2007). While these arguments are not necessarily contradictory, they do suggest more work needs to be done to outline the precise conditions under which public opinion helps empower or constrain the president in international affairs. Specific to the previous discussion, one key question concerns the robustness of these theoretical models to a relaxation of the assumption that the public pays heed to the signals of IOs, as opposed to those of the president or Congress. Is Congress a key factor in the public's knowledge of international cooperation? Does the salience of a particular international issue increase or decrease the president's ability to engage in self‐ restraint or approval seeking?
The answers to these questions lie in wait for future scholars. Indeed, much of the exciting research in international relations lies at the border with American politics. Given the growing importance of global trade, international finance, globalization, and transnational security issues, both fields have much to learn from each other. The good news is that there is increasing interest in this work among each field. The Midwest Political Science Association has created an entire division in their annual program entitled “Domestic Politics and International Relations.” Moreover, the University of Chicago Press has launched a book series engaging this exact topic. Outlets for work in this area are clearly expanding. As more work meaningfully engages both fields, including the theory and evidence within them, this area of research will no doubt continue to blossom.
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(1) I limit my focus to questions of cooperation through international organizations because much of the recent theoretical and empirical development in the field has occurred in this area. Throughout this chapter, I refer to international organizations and international institutions interchangeably. International organizations, which tend to have a physical presence (e.g., the United Nations), are usually conceived of as a subset of institutions, which can be legal entities only (e.g., an international treaty). In this review, I exclude a broader definition of international institutions that would include international norms.
(2) Milner also emphasizes the importance of executive or presidential preferences, especially in contexts where leaders can initiate international bargaining.
(3) Canes‐Wrone, Howell, and Lewis (2008) make a similar argument in the context of the two presidencies thesis: that Congress has delegated authority in some foreign policy issue areas. Thus, the presence of interbranch struggles over foreign policy will be over issues on which Congress has affirmatively chosen not to delegate, creating a bias towards rejecting the two presidencies thesis when examining behavioral measures such as roll‐call votes.
(5) Normally, a president would have more control over an agency within the executive branch, but the ITC is unique in that it is designed to be independent. For example, the president is constrained by law to a?point a bipartisan commission, which places limits on her ability to manipulate the ideal point of the ITC.
(6) Mansfield and Pevehouse (2006) find that democratizing states join all types of international organizations more frequently than other regime types, but they also find that stable democracies join more than any non‐democratic regime type.
(8) For Chapman, “bias” is defined as the location of the preference point of the pivotal member relative to the audience and the status quo. A bias against a state occurs when the pivotal member's ideal point is closer to the status quo than the audience, while a bias towards the state is the contrary.