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date: 30 November 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter revisits the old paradox that the U.S. president is perhaps the most powerful person in the world and yet is constrained domestically by other political actors and a centuries-old constitutional framework. The chapter discusses key actors that shape American foreign policy, including the president, presidential advisers, the federal bureaucracy, Congress, the courts, interest groups, the media, and public opinion. Presidential candidates often call for major shifts in foreign policy, but once they are in office presidents are constrained by strategic and fiscal realities, the bureaucracy’s preference for continuity, America’s separation of powers system, rising partisanship, the fragmented media, and the openness of U.S. institutions to societal pressures. The result is that modern presidents struggle to build and maintain the domestic backing needed to carry out their foreign policy agenda.

Keywords: U.S. foreign policy, president, presidential advisers, bureaucracy, Congress, courts, interest groups, media, public opinion

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