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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain what foreign policy is and how it differs from domestic policy
  • Identify the objectives of U.S. foreign policy
  • Describe the different types of foreign policy
  • Identify the U.S. government’s main challenges in the foreign policy realm

When we consider policy as our chapter focus, we are looking broadly at the actions the U.S. government carries out for particular purposes. In the case of foreign policy, that purpose is to manage its relationships with other nations of the world. Another distinction is that policy results from a course of action or a pattern of actions over time, rather than from a single action or decision. For example, U.S. foreign policy with Russia has been forged by several presidents, as well as by cabinet secretaries, House and Senate members, and foreign policy agency bureaucrats. Policy is also purposive, or intended to do something; that is, policymaking is not random. When the United States enters into an international agreement with other countries on aims such as free trade or nuclear disarmament, it does so for specific reasons. With that general definition of policy established, we shall now dig deeper into the specific domain of U.S. foreign policy.

Foreign policy basics

What is foreign policy    ? We can think of it on several levels, as “the goals that a state’s officials seek to attain abroad, the values that give rise to those objectives, and the means or instruments used to pursue them.”

Eugene R. Wittkopf, Christopher M. Jones, and Charles W. Kegley, Jr. 2007. American Foreign Policy: Pattern and Process , 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
This definition highlights some of the key topics in U.S. foreign policy, such as national goals abroad and the manner in which the United States tries to achieve them. Note too that we distinguish foreign policy, which is externally focused, from domestic policy, which sets strategies internal to the United States, though the two types of policies can become quite intertwined. So, for example, one might talk about Latino politics as a domestic issue when considering educational policies designed to increase the number of Hispanic Americans who attend and graduate from a U.S. college or university.
Michelle Camacho Liu. 2011. Investing in Higher Education for Latinos: Trends in Latino College Access and Success. Washington, DC: National Conference of State Legislatures. http://www.ncsl.org/documents/educ/trendsinlatinosuccess.pdf (May 12, 2016).
However, as demonstrated in the primary debates leading up to the 2016 election, Latino politics can quickly become a foreign policy matter when considering topics such as immigration from and foreign trade with countries in Central America and South America ( [link] ).
Charlene Barshefsky and James T. Hill. 2008. U.S.–Latin America Relations: A New Direction for a New Reality . Washington, DC: Council on Foreign Relations. i.cfr.org/content/publications/attachments/LatinAmerica_TF.pdf (May 12, 2016).

Questions & Answers

what is government
Seth Reply
why is today's government so corrupt?
Julius Reply
what type of government does American practice?
Joshua Reply
what type of government does American practice
Representative Democracy
what is communalism
Yarhere Reply
suppression of the people and their rights.
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debbie Reply
which political party has had the most sucess
Damion Reply
In what ways can the media change the way a citizen thinks about government?
Justin Reply
Which of the following is not an agent of political socialization?
Vanessa Reply
What is government
how is the legislative work ?
Abdurahim Reply
law making
When acting as an agenda setter, the media
Brooke Reply
How do you know the answer to a question?
Nikaela Reply
which was not a third party challenger
Jonna Reply
the system of government in the United States is best described as?
Gabrielle Reply
a government for the people by the people
Which of the following was not a third-party challenger? a. Whig Party b. Progressive Party c. Dixiecrats d. Green Party
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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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