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US-Lebanese Relations  

Emily I. Whalen

Lebanon is a relatively minor country in US foreign relations, lacking any significant resources or symbolic importance for Washington. Yet the history of the Lebanese-US relationship is an illustrative example of the consequences of US foreign policy, highlighting the contours of the US role in the international system. The history of Lebanese–US relations falls into four eras. The first period was mostly driven by private individuals, while the second period saw Lebanon undergoing significant changes as the United States competed with the Soviet Union. In the third period, Lebanon’s devastating civil war served as a stage upon which the United States stepped into its role of global hegemon. Finally, during the early 21st century, relations between the United States and Lebanon have faltered, as Lebanon’s post–civil war political system tacks between crisis and paralysis. Lebanon’s fate as a small nation in the US-led international system of the late 20th and early 21st centuries paints an evocative portrait of US power. To the extent that its relationship with the United States is generalizable, Lebanon serves as an illustration of the costs of maintaining a particular version of the global status quo. Despite its relative insignificance, Lebanon offers a valuable perspective on the impact of US foreign policy.

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The Role of Congress in the History of US Foreign Relations  

Clay Silver Katsky

While presidents have historically been the driving force behind foreign policy decision-making, Congress has used its constitutional authority to influence the process. The nation’s founders designed a system of checks and balances aimed at establishing a degree of equilibrium in foreign affairs powers. Though the president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the country’s chief diplomat, Congress holds responsibility for declaring war and can also exert influence over foreign relations through its powers over taxation and appropriation, while the Senate possesses authority to approve or reject international agreements. This separation of powers compels the executive branch to work with Congress to achieve foreign policy goals, but it also sets up conflict over what policies best serve national interests and the appropriate balance between executive and legislative authority. Since the founding of the Republic, presidential power over foreign relations has accreted in fits and starts at the legislature’s expense. When core American interests have come under threat, legislators have undermined or surrendered their power by accepting presidents’ claims that defense of national interests required strong executive action. This trend peaked during the Cold War, when invocations of national security enabled the executive to amass unprecedented control over America’s foreign affairs.