Checks and balances were built into the new government’s power to direct and control foreign affairs. The president would be the nation’s “Chief Diplomat.” Though those words do not appear in the Constitution, it is undisputed that the president represents the country on the world stage. But his power in this role was not meant to be unchecked. While the president can negotiate treaties with other nations, he needs the “advice and consent” of the Senate. Further, the House of Representatives has the power to appropriate any funds needed to bring treaties into effect.
International Relations and the Constitutional Separation of Powers
In 1787 the Constitution granted significant new powers to the central government, including those traditionally held by sovereign nations. In response to Anti-Federalist concerns about a too-powerful central government, James Madison explained that the new system of government was designed to work with human nature.
War and Constitutional Separation of Powers
The U.S. Constitution divides war powers between the president and Congress. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention were focused on creating a government powerful enough to protect liberty, but not so powerful that it would threaten liberty. They worked carefully to craft the war powers of the new government, knowing that history was full of examples of war, so that war powers were necessary, but also of rulers who had abused the power and endangered liberty in order to make war.
The President as Commander in Chief
The Constitution gives the power of declaring war solely to Congress, while the president serves as commander in chief of the U.S. military. What does commander in chief mean? As American citizens, it is our responsibility not only to stay informed about the domestic and international uses of our military, but also to make thoughtful judgments about the wisdom and prudence of each use. Is it the responsibility of free people to spread freedom around the world? What about the responsibility to, at a minimum, refrain from sustaining tyranny? Should the military ever be used against American citizens?
For all of human history, people have desired things that people in distant lands possessed in abundance. From Australian opals to Chinese silk, Greek olive oil to French wine, Peruvian textiles to Florida oranges, from South African diamonds to Cuban tobacco, we have always wanted access to the best things different places around the world have to offer.
As World War II raged, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Tehran Conference in 1943. At this war strategy meeting, Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill decided—among many other things—that a new body should be formed to replace the League of Nations and that the United States would be a part of the new body. In 1945, representatives from fifty nations met in San Francisco to write a charter for the new organization, the United Nations (UN).
Challenges of American Citizenship in the new Millennium
There is no way the Constitution will work if the people lose their virtue. Almost every Founding Father said or wrote something along these lines. A self-governing polity can only succeed when it is composed of individuals who can govern themselves. And if the people do not control themselves, they will either descend into self-destructive anarchy or come together in support of a dictator or despot emerging to embody their collective greed and lust for power. They would vote to give him more and more power, even as they congratulated themselves on their wisdom.