Foreign Affairs and the Constitution

The shadow of U.S. President Barack Obama is visible on a copy of the U.S. Constitution in the National Archives, May 2009. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters


Americans have been celebrating the bicentennial of their Constitution with visible pride and audible satisfaction. The national mood is one of appreciation of the wisdom and prescience of the framers.

Students of foreign affairs will have noted, however, that the bicentennial is the year in which Americans have breathed the Iran-contra miasma; followed with pained incomprehension the circlings of president and Congress over Nicaragua and its neighbors; heard the president and the Senate shouting disagreement over the meaning of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty; watched the United States slip into the Persian Gulf and the Iran-Iraq war, wondering who in Washington was in charge. If we have not verged on constitutional crisis, few have been moved to declare that the constitutional arrangements for conducting the foreign affairs of the United States are worthy of celebration.

"Foreign affairs" is not a term found in the Constitution,

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