Accueil CEIM / Accueil GGT / Chaire Raoul-Dandurand en études stratégiques et diplomatiques / A Cold War-like Consensus ? Toward a Theoretical Explanation of U.S. (...)

A Cold War-like Consensus ? Toward a Theoretical Explanation of U.S. Congressional-Executive Relations Concerning National Security Policy After 9/11

16 mars 2004 , par Frédérick Gagnon

Paper prepared for the International Studies Association (ISA) Conference in Montreal, Canada, March 17-20, 2004.


Comparing three theoretical approaches to congressional-presidential interplay in foreign policy, this paper argues that the most useful and convincing theoretical explanation of congressional deference to the George W. Bush administration national security policy focuses on three variables : a) Congress’s perception of the existence of a global threat to U.S. national security ; b) presidential success in foreign affairs ; and c) the presence of an undivided government in Washington (with both Congress and White House controlled by the same party). Of the three variables, a) seems to be the most significant important. Thus, this paper concludes that the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington have created the conditions for a Cold War-like consensus in the United States. The general agreement that international terrorism is a global threat that needs to be fully assessed by the U.S. government reverts back to the Cold War pattern with respect to national security affairs of a dominant presidency and a compliant Congress in U.S. legislative-executive relations. In the near future, Congress may assert its foreign policy powers to a greater degree if the White House experiences difficulties with the global war on terrorism or if the Democratic Party regains control of the Senate and/or the House of Representatives. However, it seems that as long as Congress perceives that U.S. national security is threatened by the “global and urgent threat” of terrorism, the presidency will be able to concentrate national security powers in its own hands.

Paper prepared for the International Studies Association (ISA) Conference in Montreal, Canada, March 17-20, 2004.


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