The foreign policymaking process and international outcomes in the Reagan era

Date of Completion

January 1997


History, United States|Political Science, General|Political Science, International Law and Relations




The role of Congress in the making of foreign policy continues to draw criticism, as many judge its involvement as hindering the prospects for successful negotiations at the international level. This dissertation reevaluates this premise by examining the foreign policymaking process during the Reagan era, 1981-1989, and the effect of this process on the course and outcome of international negotiations. I examine three separate foreign policies, arms control with the Soviet Union, trade with Japan, and the Middle East peace process, to determine how the policymaking process proceeded and to what effect.^ More specifically, I hypothesize that the greater incidence of compromise between factions in Congress and the executive branch increases success at the international level. To test this assertion, the policymaking process for the three foreign policies is evaluated, with particular interest in identifying factions in Congress and their interaction with the executive branch. I then examine the course of negotiations at the international level, determine the overall success or failure of the negotiated outcomes, and assess the impact of the domestic policymaking process on the course of negotiations and on their outcomes. I found that a domestic process characterized by significant compromises between the executive branch and factions in Congress fostered more successful outcomes internationally than a process dominated by a single political actor. The least successful foreign policy outcomes occurred when one branch or coalition dominated the policymaking process and no significant instances of compromise occurred between political actors. ^