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date: 27 January 2022

Abstract and Keywords

A president is called to shape a foreign policy that both reflects America’s deepest values and serves its geopolitical interests. In doing so, a president has a range of options that can be used. However, these tools are not ends in themselves, but are undertaken to achieve certain goals. In this regard, there are five lessons that can serve as useful guideposts for those who are called to assist the president in this task. These include understanding that the tools of power are most effective when simultaneously employed; that multilateral action is usually more effective than unilateral action. In addition, while the executive branch has the lead on foreign policy, Congress and the states are also actors. When either of these groups lead they should grant the president flexibility in order to ensure that the policy continues to accomplish U.S. goals. The military tool of power while powerful frequently has serious constraint imposed upon it. It may also be more effective when used flexibly—e.g., the creation of NATO to deter the Soviet Union. Finally, policymaking is messy. Actions do not always result in the hoped-for outcome.

Keywords: policy process, tools of power, multilateralism, sanctions, president, national security

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