Foreign Policy Instruments

The decisions or outputs of U.S. foreign policy vary from presidential directives about conducting drone strokes to the size of the overall foreign relations budget passed by Congress, and from presidential summits with other heads of state to U.S. views of new policies considered in the UN Security Council. In this section, we consider the outputs of foreign policy produced by the U.S. government, beginning with broadly focused decisions and then discussing more sharply focused strategies. Drawing this distinction brings some clarity to the array of different policy outcomes in foreign policy. Broadly focused decisions typically take longer to formalize, bring in more actors in the United States and abroad, require more resources to carry out, are harder to reverse, and hence tend to have a lasting impact. Sharply focused outputs tend to be processed quickly, are often unilateral moves by the president, have a shorter time horizon, are easier for subsequent decision-makers to reverse, and hence do not usually have so lasting an impact as broadly focused foreign policy outputs.

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