China’s New Vassal
How the War in Ukraine Turned Moscow Into Beijing’s Junior Partner
Over the past five years, there has been much debate about the proper respective roles of the President and the Congress in the field of foreign affairs. Most of the new interest in this topic is attributable to the conduct of a series of Presidents regarding Vietnam; a part of the interest arises out of the special aggravant of Watergate. As has happened periodically in American history when the people and the Congress have been unhappy with a President's performance, the pendulum of power has swung eastward on Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol. Out of the recent executive-legislative tug-of-war have come a new War Powers Act, undertaking to give the Congress a larger role in future commitments of U.S. forces, and legislation designed to provide a greater degree of congressional oversight over the activities of the intelligence community. The decline in presidential prestige has also made it easier for the Congress to stymie the executive branch on specific foreign policy issues, and made it possible for special interest subconstituencies to exert determining influence on national policy through local pressure on members of the Congress.
Recent reforms in congressional-executive relations represent an improvement over the past. But their impact will almost certainly be marginal in the long view and it appears that the direction of the tide has already turned. With a duly elected President in office in January, presidential prestige will rise, Vietnam and Watergate will fade further into the smog of time, new international circumstances will produce new situations in which the nation must act, and it is predictable that the presidency will effectively reassert its primacy in international matters that involve national security.
When at last we shall have ceased to debate yesterday's crisis and correct yesterday's abuse, we can turn attention to new and urgent problems that afflict our governmental machinery for making foreign policy. I believe we shall soon have to make major architectural changes in the way the Congress and the executive work, and work together, on foreign policy matters. We shall have to do this not because certain Presidents abused their powers, but because the basic character of the international affairs agenda has changed in a way that will require it.
The classical agenda of international relations mainly revolved around issues of boundaries, spheres of influence, national security and balance of power. Those issues are still alive, as every day's newspaper reminds us; balance-of-power politics will continue to make up a major part of tomorrow's international docket. But today's international agenda has dramatically expanded. The Arab oil embargo and OPEC price action of 1973, and their aftermath, offer a prime illustration of that expansion, and a brilliantly lit preview of the character of tomorrow's international agenda.
As in the oil crisis, the lives of tomorrow's foreign policy practitioners will be crowded with politically pressured negotiations about economic matters. Much of this bargaining will involve smaller, nonindustrialized countries. Increasing interdependence in the world's economy has redistributed international bargaining power on a number of key issues. As the world has become increasingly aware that its resources are not infinite, and as international norms of behavior have changed, the historic ability of great military powers to impose their will is diminishing. Small, militarily insignificant nations now sometimes find themselves able to swing great weight on particular issues.
How to distribute trade, income and resources among nations, how to allocate declining and expensive reserves of raw materials, how to decide what will be manufactured where, how to guarantee the continuity of the flow of supplies, how to assure continued access to markets, how to allocate resources not yet exploited, such as those of the seabeds-these, and an endless list of similar questions, will be persistent international problems.
Beyond the agenda of direct economic relations, even broader issues will present the United States with extremely difficult political, moral, and economic choices. Examples are protection of the earth's environment; surveillance over emerging technologies such as weather control; the world's exploding population; and the terrifying prospect of recurrent large-scale starvation.
Interdependence means vulnerability. A disruption of supplies, a change in pricing or a shift in the global environment does not simply inconvenience one country or another: it can dislocate whole economies, ways of life, and worldwide systems of production, employment, sales distribution, finance, investment and use. Since all, or almost all, countries have a stake in the outcomes of these issues on the new international agenda, many will press for a participatory role in determining those outcomes. Increasingly, international negotiations will be multilateral rather than bilateral. Current examples include the Law of the Sea Conference, the Jamaica meeting on the international monetary system, and a complex of interrelated negotiations going on in several places at once between more industrialized and less industrialized countries under the general rubric of a "new international economic order."
The new international agenda exhibits two striking characteristics, from the perspective of one who is interested in the process of foreign policy formation in the United States.
(1) Though the United States is incomparably the world's greatest economic power and remains (more challengeably) the world's foremost military power, we are no longer Gulliver in a world of Lilliputian states. As to the items on tomorrow's international agenda, the United States cannot obtain what it will by simply expressing that will. As other nations must, the United States today has to negotiate for what it gets on many issues. In negotiations, one must often make difficult trade-offs, settle for half a loaf, or even make do with damage limitation. The American people have not been conditioned by history to that kind of foreign policy. In anticipation of tomorrow's realities, a wise investment of political leadership by the new Administration would be to prepare the American public for the raw necessities of a negotiatory life.
(2) Most issues on the new international agenda have an immediate and profound impact upon domestic interests in the United States. The oil embargo and price rise were eloquently instructive on the point. The crisis began as an event in the field of international relations, played out against a classical backdrop of international power politics. But it immediately started all sorts of domestic rabbits. The press, the Congress, and much of the public suddenly discovered that energy is essential, its traditional sources are finite, it will not always be cheap, and the nation has no energy policy. The ensuing debate brought to the surface a host of issues of domestic public policy and domestic interests: the illusion of future U.S. self-sufficiency; the need to invest hundreds of billions of dollars to finance pipelines, refineries, docks, drilling and exploration for oil; the need for new research programs to harness exotic energy sources and make better use of present ones; radical proposals for pricing, taxation and rationing to constrain energy use and to allocate in a politically acceptable way the pain of reduction of use; highly emotional clashes between environmentalists and those seeking to develop energy resources; attacks against oil companies, public utility companies, politicians and anyone else in range in an unedifying scramble to find scapegoats; xenophobic fears that foreigners were about to buy up American industry and panicky proposals to block the recycling of dollars that is essential to balance the monetary system; ideological rethinking about economic growth; national security worries; etc.
Similarly, though less dramatically, the recent controversy over U.S. grain sales and embargoes showed how deeply the roots of international issues are planted in domestic political soil.
Of course foreign affairs and domestic politics have sometimes been visibly intermingled in our national past: the tariff issue is the obvious case. But until recently, such issues were exceptional, while traditional balance-of-power issues made up most of the foreign-relations agenda. But the exceptional has now become preponderant. The issues of the new international agenda strike instantly into the economic and political interests of domestic constituencies.
Underlying this new development are two major factors. The economic interdependence of the modern world is more than international. It is also inter-local. Interruption in the flow of a particular exported or imported commodity may or may not seriously disrupt the economy of a nation as a whole, but it is certain to raise hob with particular domestic regions, industries, farmers, or workers. In the United States today, almost every region and every economic group is in some way in the export or import business or, usually, both. As a result, every jiggle in the pattern of the international economy is likely to pinch some local group in the United States and convert it immediately into a vocal group. The other factor has already been mentioned. The international agenda itself has changed so that modern diplomacy is increasingly taken up with homespun economic subjects like fishing limits and commodity prices, as to which one or another set of domestic interests are deeply concerned and, quite rightly, see themselves as more expert than the denizens of the world's foreign ministries.
These new issues are thus simultaneously, profoundly and inseparably both domestic and international. If I may be permitted a coinage whose very cacophony may help provide emphasis-these issues are "intermestic."
Is the present foreign policy machinery of the U.S. government suited to the necessities of international negotiation on such "intermestic" issues? I think not. The Congress is not geared to deal with them; the executive branch is not organized to do so; and the two branches have no adequate mechanism for working together on them. Thus in response to the new international agenda, I propose three interrelated changes in our foreign policy machinery.
However power may be, or ought to be, shared between the Congress and the White House on issues of national security and traditional diplomacy, it is evident that on intermestic issues both branches should be, and will be, intimately involved. No President, no executive branch, will ever be able to deal alone with the oil energy problem, however dominant the leadership of the President in traditional foreign affairs. On any subject as vital to the average American as the price of gasoline, it is inconceivable that the Congress can be excluded. So long as there is a Congress of the United States, it will play a major and often determining role in intermestic issues.
As to issues of this type, therefore, the question is not whether the Congress should have a major say but rather (i) how should the Congress organize itself to discharge that assignment responsibly and (ii) how can the legislative and executive branches achieve acceptable levels of coordination.
The inherited constitutional structure of the United States certainly does little to help the nation arrive at and conduct a consecutive foreign policy. Having ordained a government of separate branches, the Constitution says virtually nothing about how foreign policy is to be formulated or conducted by them. Treaties are to be made by the President with the consent of two-thirds of the Senate; war is to be declared by majority vote of both houses of the Congress; the President is Commander in Chief of the armed forces; tariffs, as revenue measures, are legislated by the Congress; the President appoints ambassadors by and with the consent of the Senate; further, the Constitution saith not.1 One can clearly see in these provisions a mirror reflection of the simple classical agenda of international affairs dealing with treaties (for the most part about boundaries), representatives abroad (ambassadors) and national security.
Other factors beside constitutional obscurity and separation of powers make disorderly the Congress' treatment of foreign policy issues. The progressive dilution of party discipline is one factor. Decline in the authority of congressional leaders is another. Those reformers who were so eager to eliminate the seniority system for selecting committee chairmen did not often pause to reflect whether a Congress with no heads might be worse than a Congress with old heads. But most students of the Congress point to the committee system as the primary impediment to deliberative legislative action on complex issues. Each congressional committee is a barony, protective of its independence, jurisdiction and prerogatives. Subjects that are complex and interrelated-such as the appropriate U.S. political posture toward, trade with, and military and economic assistance to a particular foreign nation-are chopped up among several independent committees in each chamber and are never reassembled to make up an integrated whole for consideration or action by the Congress. Trade matters come before at least four separate committees of the Senate. International grain sales and surplus grain aid programs are under the jurisdiction of the agriculture committees of the Congress, where their foreign policy implications are likely to be given little attention. The splintered committee structure virtually precludes any process of congressional trade-offs through which local and special interests can be subordinated to broader national interests. The power of the committee process has, at the same time, all but displaced floor debate by the full chamber as an integrating deliberative procedure.
These structural problems of the Congress are deep-seated and probably ineradicable. We must, as a practical matter, take the fundamentals of the existing structure as a given. What, then, can be done that would fit compatibly with the existing structure of the Congress; improve the prospect that the Congress would consider intermestic issues in an interrelated way; enhance the likelihood of the emergence of strong congressional leaders who are well informed about such issues; and enable Congress to mesh its procedures better with those of the executive branch?
JOINT COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC AFFAIRS
It is proposed that the two chambers of Congress establish a new Joint Committee on International and Domestic Affairs (JCIDA). ("Intermestic" sounds too barbarous, even to its inventor, to be attached to a public body.) The membership of the proposed new Joint Committee would be made up of the chairman and ranking minority member of each of the committees of each house that regularly deals with a significant fragment of the nation's international affairs. Most obviously, these would include the foreign relations committees, the armed services committees, the banking committees, the commerce committees, the agriculture committees and the finance and ways and means committees. Whenever a particular item on the agenda of the Joint Committee concerns the jurisdictional interests of other committees of either house-as for example, the labor committees, or committees charged with civil rights issues-their chairmen and minority leaders would be invited to sit with the Joint Committee.
The new Joint Committee would not displace the jurisdiction of any existing committee of Congress. The key to the usefulness of the Joint Committee would lie in its location in the stream of congressional work. The Joint Committee would be the entry point to the Congress for presentations and proposals by the executive branch on all intermestic issues. Such proposals would still, as at present, be broken up into component parts and distributed among separate committees of each house, but not until a full presentation to the Joint Committee had been made. Thus, the chairman and minority leader of each affected committee would in the first instance have the opportunity, and the obligation, to hear the presentation in its full context of domestic and foreign considerations before the Joint Committee, and to hear the questions and comments made by the leaders of the other affected congressional committees.
Similarly, once action had been taken on intermestic matters by the appropriate separate committees of special substantive jurisdiction, the item would be returned to the Joint Committee before going to the floor of the houses of Congress. Ideally, the matter would not then be allowed to go forward without a majority and minority report of the Joint Committee, providing the chambers with a sense of the matter in its full international and domestic context. As a matter of near-term politics, however, it may be too much to hope that the new Joint Committee would initially be given such great leverage. To start out with, then, the Joint Committee would be given a prescribed period of time (30 days?) within which to review each matter that is sent to it from the substantive committees, at the end of which time the matter would proceed to the floor of the chambers with or without reports from the Joint Committee.2
As with other joint committees, the chairmanship of the new Joint Committee would alternate regularly between the chambers of the Congress. The chairmanship would also have to rotate among the constituent committee chairmen who regularly sit on the Joint Committee. There would be no formal voting in the Joint Committee, since its membership structure would always produce a 50-50 party representation.
Indispensable to the success of the Joint Committee, however, would be the creation of a small but sophisticated staff specifically chosen for its policy range and its sensitivity to the interrelationships between foreign and domestic political considerations. Another determinant of the success of the Joint Committee would be the dignity accorded it by the executive branch, which will be discussed more fully later.
In offering this proposal, I draw some considerable hope from Congress' recent establishment and use of its new budget committees. The creation of these new committees with their separate and central staffs will likely prove to be the single most important change that has been made in the U.S. government in this century. In creating these committees, the Congress has acknowledged for the first time that decisions on governmental program expenditures call for policy priority choices, that revenues and expenditures should have something to do with each other, and that everything is related to everything else.
The existence of the budget committees also constitutes a congressional recognition that the sum of the programs approved by the Congress constitutes a national budget and that the size and configuration of that budget as a whole is of the utmost significance to the performance of the economy. Reversing the procedure (or lack of it) that had hitherto always been followed by the Congress, the budget committees and the chambers now start by targeting the scale of the total budget, and the balance of revenues and borrowings that will be used to support it. The separate substantive committees are then faced with the task of negotiating out a national package of programs that does not exceed the pre-targeted total. To the astonishment of most observers, and many members of Congress, this experiment in rational governmental decision-making is actually working. Critical tests remain to be passed. But it is widely understood in the Congress that its future as a responsible organ of government may well hang upon its ability to make the new system work.
The proposal made here differs from the Congress' new budget committee approach in that it calls for a Joint Committee. It is also different, and politically far easier to implement, in that it does not demand the collective self-discipline that is required by the new budget process. But despite these differences, the two plans are similar in concept and approach. Both stem from the need to integrate matters that are inherently interconnected but that in the past have been disassembled by the Congress's procedures and never reassembled. The proposal made here is also akin to the new budget system in that it creates an overview committee to perform the function of integration without disturbing the existing structure of substantive committees.
Joint committees tend not to be a very popular idea on Capitol Hill. But the Joint Committee proposed here, having no substantive legislative authority of its own, lies within the range of the politically feasible, once the need for it is recognized.
In the executive branch, some degree of coherence has been brought to foreign policymaking in the national security field by the creation of the National Security Council, with its mix of the highest levels of the Defense Department, the State Department, the intelligence community and the White House. But no effective executive machinery exists to deal with non-security international issues or issues that are a scramble of foreign and domestic considerations. When it comes to handling such issues, the executive branch is nearly as fragmented, internally uncoordinated and subject to special interest pressures as the Congress. Coordination is achieved, if it is achieved at all, only at the desk of the President.
It seems to be the vision of every old State Department hand that foreign affairs belong to the State Department and that all other U.S. officials, appointed and elected, ought to stay out of such matters because they do not understand them and will simply muck them up. While the State Department appears at last to have reconciled itself to the participatory presence of the Defense Department and the NSC in issues of national security, this concession has permitted the State Department to concentrate its bureaucratic defenses on trying to fend off its next most threatening boarding party, the Treasury, where battle had been joined for a generation.
The thesis of this article implies that even more grave problems lie ahead for the doughty defenders of the State Department's traditional borders. The heart of the matter is that there is no way in which the State Department can effectively manage the exploding range and substantive complexity of the newly emerging international agenda. As a technical matter, the Department cannot manage the new flood because it does not have, and cannot have, the in-house expertise to develop positions on all current international issues or to represent those positions simultaneously at dozens of bargaining tables.
These are bad days both for diplomats in the field and for their home dugout, the foreign ministry. Modern communications technology, and the unlimited destructiveness of modern weaponry, have led prime ministers around the world to concentrate control of national security issues in their own hands. Today's ambassador tends to become a message carrier at the other end of the telephone, or not even that, as personalized diplomacy takes place on the hotline over his head and perhaps without his knowledge. And now, as the international agenda expands, the already beleaguered foreign ministries are being outgunned by the specialized expertise of other departments in their own governments. Accidents of history and personality have led to high public visibility for the present Secretary of State of this country. But that circumstance is unique. How many other sitting foreign ministers can the reader name?
In the case of the United States, the future position of the Department of State is particularly parlous. Not only does it lack the expertise to manage the new intermestic agenda, but it does not have, and cannot have, the domestic political base to do so. All other executive departments, and the Congress, are predominantly domestic in orientation. The Department of State alone has no significant domestic constituency to which it can look for support on Capitol Hill. That state of affairs has always made it difficult for the Department to carry the day without major political investment by the President, even when the question arose out of the conceded preserve of the Department, the traditional diplomatic agenda. Now that this is changing, there is no possibility whatsoever that the Department of State will be able to call the policy shots on questions that impinge drastically on the concerns of domestically oriented departments of the executive branch and on special-interest domestic constituencies who have direct channels to members of Congress.
Questions like U.S. policy on grain sales and on energy will not be left to the Department of State. Even if the policy results that State produced were sound, they would not be politically accepted. Indeed, on issues of the new intermestic variety, the State Department, far from enjoying a jurisdictional monopoly, will find itself hard put to bring the domestically oriented agencies to recognize that there really are important foreign policy perspectives that need to be taken into account, and that for good reason there is at least a partial role to be played by the State Department.3
The problem then becomes: how should the executive branch deal with intermestic issues in a way that combines the overseas perspective of the Department of State and those of the affected domestically oriented departments?
One possible avenue would be to construct within the White House staff a mini-mirror version of each of the executive departments, and then to hammer out departmental conflicts within the White House, under the gavel of the President's chief of staff. That system could be made to work after a fashion through the construction of a huge White House staff. But the disadvantages would be so great, and are so obvious, that we need not pause to rehearse them.
A second possible avenue would be for the President to try to elevate the Secretary of State a head higher than other Cabinet members, and make him a "lead agency," or convening authority vis-à-vis the rest of the Cabinet. But the essence of this approach has been tried before, and it hasn't worked. It fails mainly because the political gravity of all the other departmental players is greater than that of the Department of State. Where, on intermestic issues, the domestically oriented agencies feel they have very large interests at stake, a "lead" role for the State Department cannot be effectively maintained.
This leaves one other option-use of the Cabinet itself. A few remarks on that topic are required as a preliminary to the second proposal made here.
Quite apart from questions of foreign policy, it is generally agreed that Presidents ought to make more use of their Cabinets as deliberative bodies. But many factors conspire against that result. By and large, individual Cabinet officers perform satisfactorily in administering the programs of their departments, but the President's needs are much greater. He needs advisers who share his integrated perspective; Cabinet members tend to be Balkan. He needs monitoring and evaluation of program performance; Cabinet members run the programs that need to be monitored. He needs initiative; Cabinet members tend to defend. The President needs to sort out priorities among multiple objectives and multiple claimants; Cabinet secretaries are themselves competitive claimants. He needs buffers between the White House and special interests; the departments are organized along the lines of special-interest constituencies, and often become conduits for those interests. As a consequence, Presidents in modern times have found that they had to deal with each Cabinet member individually (or even not at all) and have turned for advice, initiative, evaluation and coordination to a large and growing White House staff. Everyone agrees in principle that that is bad.
Can anything be done to improve this situation and in the process contribute to a more rational handling of intermestic issues? Two changes would help a great deal.
First, the Cabinet need not sit en banc but can often work better in panels, grouped by subject. The Cabinet is too large to function well as a deliberative body. Moreover, most issues do not engage the interests of all Cabinet members. There may be some educational dividends for Cabinet members who are uninvolved in a matter to sit silently through a debate between two or three others, but the cost is so high in lost time and frustration that the gain is not worth the candle. Indeed, the requirement of full attendance reduces presidential resort to the Cabinet. Some formal structures that already exist are really Cabinet panels. The National Security Council is one, and the Domestic Council is another. Others can be created on a standing basis or ad hoc.
The second change required is the creation of a separate Cabinet Staff. The Cabinet Staff (which should be very small-not more than ten or twelve people) would not be a staff called upon to deal substantively with policy matters. It would serve exclusively as an engine to convert the Cabinet into an effective deliberative body. To that end, the Cabinet Staff would be assigned two primary functions: to identify, develop, and set the timing for the agenda of issues to be considered by the Cabinet, or panels of the Cabinet; and to see to it that each agenda item is properly briefed by the departments, that the important questions and policy options have been sensibly laid out, and that necessary documentation has been predistributed to all interested departments and agencies. The Cabinet Staff Director would report directly to the President.
A major job for the Cabinet Staff would be to match the right issues with the right Cabinet panels, to see to it that Cabinet members know what agenda items are coming up, and to be sure that Cabinet members are invited to attend when they can be useful and are not required to attend when their interests are peripheral. However, the duties of the Cabinet Staff should not include the task of action follow-through on Cabinet decisions. Once the Cabinet decision has been reached and responsibility for action has been fixed upon one or more departments or agencies, it should be up to the Office of Management and Budget (and ultimately to the President's chief of staff and the President) to see to it that the relevant department or agency carries out its orders.
INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC AFFAIRS COUNCIL
Assuming a Cabinet that is accustomed to meeting in panels, and that has a Cabinet Staff of the sort described, there should be created one such panel on a standing basis to deal with intermestic issues-the International and Domestic Affairs Council (IDAC). Security issues will continue to be handled by the NSC.4
Some Cabinet members, such as the Secretaries of State and Treasury would be permanent members of IDAC. Other members would vary with the agenda issue on the table. The Concorde issue would, for example, require the participation of the Secretary of Transportation. The Secretary of Interior and the Secretary of Defense would have a stake in the issue of the Trans-Canada pipeline. On trade matters, the Secretaries of Commerce, Agriculture and Labor would be key participants.
The panel contemplated here bears a family resemblance to the NSC, and the resemblance carries as far as the conclusion that a special assistant (but not the National Security Adviser) should chair IDAC in the absence of the President or Vice President. One resists this conclusion, because it implies another major presidential assistant, but it seems to be the only feasible answer. The precise function of IDAC is to struggle with issues on which parochial departmental interests divide the Cabinet; only the presidential perspective is sufficiently far above the departmental fray. Any cross-departmental issue that cannot be resolved within IDAC will ultimately have to be decided by the President in any case.
The NSC analogy must not, however, be overextended. In particular, it is not part of the present proposal that the presidential special assistant who chairs IDAC should develop an independent staff capability. One purpose behind the creation of a Cabinet Staff is to install a vehicle that will bring to bear the staffs of the departments and head off the buildup of super-staffs at the White House level. IDAC must be made to work through the substantive staff work of the departments, with the Cabinet serving only to orchestrate and array the material.
In intermestic matters, the task of policy integration must be done somewhere in the executive branch. Trade-offs and development of truly national policy cannot take place within a department. The NSC makes no sense at all as a forum for such issues. No one favors a future explosion in White House staff and intra-White House decision-making. There being no IDAC for this purpose today, it will have to be invented. Its future is further brightened by the fact that no obvious political or bureaucratic impediment blocks its creation.
It was earlier noted that it is essential that the executive branch treat the proposed Joint Congressional Committee on International and Domestic Affairs very seriously. By whom should executive presentations be made to the Joint Committee, and how? If the key congressional chairmen are expected to assemble for the purpose, shall the executive branch send less? I think not. In at least some circumstances, the departmental secretaries who comprise IDAC should appear as a group before the congressional committee chairmen who comprise JCIDA. The novelty of that prospect should not deter. What more dramatic way could be found to project politically to the Congress and, in those meetings that are open, to the public and the media, that foreign affairs and domestic affairs are one, that in today's world the United States will often have to sacrifice Y to gain X, and that the government is a unity, pursuing national objectives, and not simply a sum of special interests? The power of that demonstration might have the most extraordinary effects upon the conduct of the Congress itself.
Moreover, while part of our problem with intermestic issues lies within the legislative branch and part lies within the executive branch, a large part of it lies in the extraordinary fact that we have no machinery of any kind for conducting a sensible relationship between the two branches of government. In domestic affairs that has proved to be an arrangement we can live with. In traditional international affairs, it has proved to be an arrangement we can live with-but just barely. In tomorrow's intermestic affairs it will be an arrangement we cannot live with.
UNITED STATES COUNCIL ON INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC AFFAIRS
I therefore offer as a third proposal (first drawing a breath in recognition of its radical nature after 187 years of constitutional history) that it is time that the logic of the situation not only be noted but followed. If IDAC is discussing intermestic issues across departmental barriers and the Joint Committee is discussing the same issues across committee barriers, is it really precluded by Montesquieu that the members of IDAC and the members of the Joint Committee might from time to time sit down together to discuss the same issues? When the Joint Committee and IDAC meet together in joint session they would compose the United States Council on International and Domestic Affairs, the first such permanent joint body in the nation's history.
I do not invite operating problems, not to say constitutional challenges, by proposing that the United States Council be given any decisional responsibility or any line operating responsibility. This proposed new conjoint vehicle would be a consultative forum only. It is designed to do that which we have no way to do today, and which we must find a way to do-to consider mixed domestic and international issues in the round, and to do so in both the legislative and executive branches. To cite a currently active example, when it became clear that a worldwide negotiation on the Law of the Sea was about to be convened, the conjoint executive-congressional Council proposed here would have been the right forum in which to preview the dozens of tangled foreign and domestic issues that are at stake in the Law of the Sea Conference-issues involving the nation's navy, merchant marine, fisheries, energy sources, extractive industries, environment, and political relationships, especially with the Third World.
The obvious candidate for the chairmanship of this conjoint congressional-executive body is the Vice President, the only officer we have who has one foot planted in the executive branch and one in the Congress-and who has the advantage (for present purposes) of being an overexperienced and underemployed chairman.
The saying on Capitol Hill is that "The executive branch always wants us in on the crash, but never lets us in on the take-off." The statement is now a cliché, but clichés become so because they are essentially true. It is a fact that we have no ordered way for the executive branch and the legislative branch to talk to one another about foreign policy questions and to do so in advance. The executive branch cannot converse with 535 members of Congress. The decline of towering authority figures within the Congress has meant that it is no longer possible for the President to secure congressional advice and cooperation by having a few informal chats with a handful of leading figures. As the international agenda increases in complexity, we now have no alternative but to construct formal vehicles for interchange and interface, and the pressure of events demands that we construct those new channels quickly. A conjoint two-branch United States Council for International and Domestic Affairs, even though meeting only occasionally, would provide that vehicle.5
Though Proposals I and II are politically feasible, they will obviously raise some functional operating problems. Who, for example, would determine that a particular issue represents such a mix of international and domestic considerations that it should go to IDAC and the Joint Committee? The problems inherent in Proposal III are more profound. The question is not whether the United States Council could be convened. It could. The problem is whether such a joint body could be made to work together. Would executive branch officers level with their congressional counterparts in discussing serious current policy matters? Would the members of the Joint Committee deal responsibly with confidential information on, for example, U.S. bargaining positions in international negotiations? Given the time pressures on the daily lives of Cabinet secretaries and congressional committee chairmen, is it futile to hope that any arrangement would engage their attention sufficiently to deal in an orderly way with complex multifaceted questions?
The answer to these, and similar, questions lies not in detailed procedural responses but in several fundamental propositions.
(1) We really must understand that the subjects under discussion here are neither abstract nor peripheral. We are not talking about marginal improvements in governmental efficiency. The simple truth is that our present institutional arrangements for framing foreign policy outside the national security field cannot cope successfully with the international agenda that the flow of current history is forcing upon us.
The storm flags are flying. Our structural inability to deal with international/domestic energy issues is one signal. Congressional amendment of the Soviet trade agreement is another. Congress' inadvertent indictment of Venezuela as a member of OPEC is another.6 Whatever the merits or demerits of particular policies on these matters, each represented a recent failure to develop and sustain a consistent national policy in dealing with other countries.
Consider the Law of the Sea Conference, soon to meet for its fourth session over a period of as many years and involving over 150 negotiating countries. Over the objections of the State Department, Congress has already made a major unilateral change in law in the midst of the negotiations. When, at last, a treaty of some kind emerges, it must go to the Senate for two-thirds approval. We cannot simply hand the treaty-complex and controversial-to the Senate and expect them to ratify it mechanically. On the other hand, the United States cannot live internationally with a working procedure under which 34 Senators (or fewer) can at the last moment reject out of hand the delicately balanced product of four years of multilateral bargaining. We must instead find ways to engage the two branches in a serious manner before and during the negotiations.
The Law of the Sea is but one example. The flow of the new international agenda, largely made up of intermestic issues, has barely begun. We have no choice but to adjust ourselves to deal with these conditions. The particulars of the three proposals made here are not critical. But their basic elements are responses to the three fundamental components of our problem with intermestic issues. The Congress must find a way to draw on multiple constituencies and still combine the responses into an aggregate; the executive branch must do the same; and the two branches must interface continuously and in advance of, not after, policy decisions.
Action along these lines has become imperative. Obstacles there will be-mainly grounded in conservatism and habit-but they simply must be met as they arise, and overcome.
(2) There have been times when the behavior of the State Department, and executive branch, has implied that they consider the Capitol to be inhabited by victims of arrested development or worse, and that the Congress may rightfully be called upon not only to endorse, but to cheer any foreign affairs action proposed or taken by the executive branch. In turn, there have been members of the Congress whose expressed attitude toward the State Department has been open hostility and toward the executive branch has been "Don't ask me what to do. You figure out what to do, and if I don't like it I'll kick hell out of you later." Intelligent governance of the nation does not require that the executive branch and the legislative branch agree with one another on every major issue-though a little agreement now and then is nice. But-as in other marriages-if our government of separated powers is to function successfully, both parties must be determined that it will work, and must work at creating ways to make it work.
(3) The emergence of the new international agenda will force the United States to face up repeatedly to a weakness in its governmental structure that is of the most fundamental character. All nations contain clashing pluralistic interests within themselves. But to a unique degree, the machinery of government of the United States has been expressly designed to institutionalize pluralism, to divide power, to increase the number of possible vetoes, and to give strong leverage to small interest groups. The United States will, in the future, be engaged in an endless process of international negotiation about matters of major national importance. Our foreign policy positions in these negotiations must be developed and pursued with an eye for the collective interest of the nation as a whole and not the particularistic interest or viewpoint of this or that subgroup. The largest single challenge facing responsible political leadership in the United States today is the need to communicate to the public at large and to subconstituencies that the first interest of the government must be-and the primary interest of every citizen should be-to keep the ship of state on a course that is satisfactory not necessarily to each passenger but to most of those on board.
Many issues in international negotiation can only be resolved by trade-offs involving packaged linkages between unrelated items. To pry open a foreign market for exports of U.S. agricultural commodities may require opening the U.S. market to imports of foreign industrial products. Such trade-offs can often produce net results that are strongly beneficial to the collective national interest of the United States but may disadvantage the interests of some U.S. domestic subgroups. In such situations, and they occur daily, an organized special interest group that fears prospective disadvantage will seek to summon the aid of members of Congress or key officials in executive branch departments. Where the political balance in a Congressman's district is close, and such an interest group is locally strong, he must listen to the group attentively or decide that political life no longer interests him.
Congressmen and executive officials do not willfully subordinate the broader interests of the nation to the pressures of a particular economic group, religious or ethnic element, or industry. But politically they often have no choice. A major objective of any organizational reform of the Congress should be to strengthen the institutional supports and incentives for members of Congress to respond to national policy perspectives and not simply to local policy perspectives. For the member of Congress who chooses to subordinate national perspectives, and deliberately plays to his own local gallery only, changes in the institutional machinery of the Congress will be immaterial. But members of Congress who would prefer to vote on the basis of the national perspective are in need of, and eager for, buttressing support against pressures of particular interest groups in their own communities. Those members of Congress would be greatly helped by the three integrative bodies proposed here, particularly the Joint Committee on International and Domestic Affairs.
In sum, these three proposals would help the Congress to consider international/domestic issues in the round, would encourage the development of educated congressional leadership and would assist the Congress in arriving at balanced positions. They would help the executive branch do the same thing, vitalize the functioning of the Cabinet, and make it possible to draw on the differing perspectives of the separate departments and their constituencies. The proposals would improve the working relationships between the two branches of government and would help both branches fend off special interest subconstituencies striving to harness the nation's policy to their own ends. Both branches would be helpful in their goal of developing through open democratic procedures foreign policies that will best serve the interests of the republic as a whole.
That would be quite a harvest to reap from three procedural steps that can be taken at substantially zero political and dollar cost.
1 Of course, other broadly granted constitutional powers bear upon the authority of the Congress and the President in the conduct of foreign affairs; for example, Congress' authority to raise and support military forces, to borrow money on the credit of the United States, to regulate immigration and naturalization, and to punish piracies and felonies on the high seas and offenses against the law of nations.
2 Ideally, too, the Joint Committee would have an opportunity to review or comment on the work output of conference committees where a legislative proposal falls within the jurisdiction of the Joint Committee. But that is a refinement, and, given the way the conference committee process works, will perhaps never be a practical possibility.
3 The evident inference to be drawn is that the Department of State stands in need of redefinition of mission, major changes in its pattern of operations, overhaul of its personnel practices and recasting of the way the Department fits into other components of government, federal and local, appointive and elective. But that is another article-or book.
4 Authors Graham Allison and Peter Szanton in their forthcoming Council on Foreign Relations book, Remaking Foreign Policy: The Organizational Connection, also argue for greater use of the Cabinet, and their careful analysis is recommended reading. Their suggested solution, however-elimination of the NSC and creation of an Executive Committee of the Cabinet-strikes me as far less feasible politically, more rigid, and more difficult to manage than the narrower proposal made here for an adjustable IDAC with a jurisdiction that is limited and supplemental to that of the NSC.
5 What about the national security field? Would it not also make sense to create a congressional Joint Committee on National Security and then to bring that Joint Committee together periodically with the National Security Council to form the United States National Security Council? Yes, it would be a good idea and it should be done. But the need for that move is less acute. First, following Vietnam, both branches are more sensitized to the problem of cooperation in national security matters. Second, I believe the major responsibility for national security matters lies with the executive branch, and will gravitate there over time. Third, congressional-executive communications are better in the national security area than in other areas. And, finally, despite the life-or-death character of national security issues, their complexity and the need for interrelating them with domestic policy are not as great as in the case of intermestic issues.
6 I omit items taken from the national security field, such as congressional action on arms for Turkey and the Saudis.