The Constitution and the Conduct of American Foreign Policy

In This Review

The Constitution and the Conduct of American Foreign Policy

Edited by David Gray Adler and Larry N. George
University Press of Kansas, 1996
396 pp. $45.00

An excellent scholarly compendium of 14 essays focusing on the wide gulf that has developed in the last 60 years between constitutional principle and governmental practice in the conduct of foreign affairs. Like most constitutional scholars, the authors take a restrictive view of presidential authority, relying on the founders' intentions and early foreign policy to make their case that unilateral presidential control of foreign relations "poses a grave threat to our democratic society and is without constitutional warrant." Their approach minimizes the checks that do exist on executive unilateralism and underestimates the costs that would ensue from greater congressional activism and judicial oversight, but the argument from constitutional design presented here is, on its own terms, quite compelling. It is odd indeed, as one contributor notes, that the Reagan administration should have combined an expansive view of executive power with homilies regarding the strict construction of the Constitution -- but perhaps no stranger than that liberal critics should insist on confining the executive in eighteenth -century fetters while embracing a view of the powers of the national government far beyond the dreams of eighteenth -century ambition.

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