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Foreign Affairs Anthology Series

Essays for the Presidency

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Library of Congress U.S. Senate Chamber circa 1873.
Foreign Affairs From The Anthology: Essays for the Presidency
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The Senate in Foreign Policy

WHAT is the role of a Senator in the formulation of United States foreign policy? The answer to this question depends upon the character of the times, the issues at hand, and the Senator himself. This essay is concerned with the continuing international crisis of our times, a period for which the term "total diplomacy" was appropriately invented. The issues at stake in the present crisis are almost beyond human calculation. Will a tension-ridden coexistence be catastrophically resolved in a nuclear war? Will Western culture and values be swept under by the rising tide of Communist imperialism?

The United States Senate today is a heterogeneous body reflecting the richness and diversity of the American people. It takes all types--conservatives, liberals, dreamers and practical men--to make a functioning Senate. There is no simple formula for taking its pulse or resolving its will. Its decisions emerge from a continuous process of criticism and analysis on the one hand and the necessity for action on the other. A great nation, like a man of action, cannot tarry for perfect answers. It always has to settle for the best it can get under less than optimum circumstances.

The Founding Fathers regarded the Senate as a council of elders which would deal largely with domestic political concerns. Its unique value, said Madison, is that it proceeds "with more coolness, with more system, and with more wisdom than the popular branch." Federalist Paper No. 64 said "the Constitution provides that our negotiations for treaties shall have every advantage which can be derived from talents, information, integrity, and deliberate investigations, on the one hand, and from secrecy and despatch on the other." Integrity and deliberation were virtues associated with the Senate while dispatch and secrecy were the qualities of the Executive Branch.

Foreign policy was an occasional and tangential function of the Senate in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Today the mind and will of the Senate are never free from the burdens of the United States in the

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