U.S. State Department and Foreign Policy

U.S. State Department and Foreign Policy


After the Second World War, Americans wanted to return to their simple lives. However, this was not guaranteed with the presidential decree that America should be pivotal in the world’s reconstruction programs including the Marshall Plan. The program gave rise to the ideology of foreign policy from which it is argued that America pushes for its self-interests in the new world order. Regardless, it is evident that foreign policy safeguards America’s interests and its citizens. As such, government institutions including the U.S. State Department are core to the achievement of the main goals of foreign policy (Tocqueville). The following paper aims to discuss foreign policy concerning the American U.S. State Department succinctly. The paper shall focus on detail aspects of strengths that the U.S. State Department brings to the foreign policy under consideration as well as weaknesses. Moreover, the paper shall discuss elements of the approach that foreign policy does on the State Department and what philosophy it accommodates in connection to the future of policymaking. In conclusion, the paper shall provide a decisive stand on what nature of policymaking does the State Department foster in America.

Foreign Policy

To understand the role that the State Department plays in America’s foreign policy, it is critical to comprehend the boundaries of foreign policy. The central function of the United States government is to carry out relational strategies with almost 200 nations worldwide. The reason is that it determines the relations -both positive and negative- concerning American connection with other countries. For instance, America’s goals on sustaining security and defence are among the goals of foreign policy with neighbouring countries. It is regarded as a national interest which circumvents around the world. Therefore, the founding background of foreign policy is that national interests have to be safeguarded especially after the Second World War.

In the current times, American foreign policy carries out a lot of function and issues. They can encompass establishing as well as maintaining diplomatic relations with other states as well as international institutions such as the United Nations and NATO. For example, peacekeeping missions are often spearheaded by America due to its dominant role in the security council under the United Nations. As a result, American foreign policy encapsulates the aspects of economic issues including trade, travel and business (Tocqueville). Further, America foreign policy is intertwined with humanitarian efforts including disaster relief and foreign aid. To achieve the goals and missions, the United States of America involves all the three branches of the government with an array of governmental institutions.

The United States Department of State (DOS) is defined as a federal executive department that advises the president as well as conduct international relations. Currently, the State Department is led by Mr Mike Pompeo who ascended into office in April 2018 under the Trump Administration. The individual is nominated by the President but, approved by the Senate (Edward and Catie). The office is tasked with numerous duties with central tasks involving the implementation of the foreign policy of the United States of America. These encompass diplomatic missions abroad, negotiations of treaties and agreements with external entities as well as representing the United States in the United Nations meetings including the security meeting.   Within the office, the constitution mandates the members to keep a central foreign policy file. The file contains official communications such as airgrams, telegrams and reports, correspondence, diplomatic notes in addition to other documents related to international relations.

The State Department’s role is to represent the president abroad. Within these representations, the task is to carry out foreign policy decisions that aid in the development of foreign policy around the world. The duties of the office are incomparable to those of other executive and other branches of the federal government including the president (Edward and Catie). There are strengths to which the State Department emphasises aspects of foreign policy and on the other hand, several weaknesses.

State Department Strengths on Foreign Policy

America is perceived as a stabilising factor by numerous nations on aspects of global outreach capacities. The reason for the premise is that America does not have any severe threats when it comes to security unlike nations such as Syria and Arabian countries. Therefore, it is regarded as an active entity when it comes to making policy choices. Support from America can include outreach to nations with a poor military background, decreased number of allies, poor coalitions as well as limited political influence by the native countries (Tocqueville). The ability for nations to perceive that under the new world order, America is always the saving grace is based on its capacity to present competent secretary of a state employee. The ability of the employees allows nations to indulge America’s prowess in areas such as military support or economic support. No country in the world can challenge America when it comes to military aid. America’s spending cannot be paralleled with any other nation in the world. This is regarding countries such as China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, France and Saudi Arabia among others. The State Department can liaise on behalf of America because militarily, America is dominant and aids in keeping global deployment at the current level to tackle issues of global missions efficaciously.

Further, America’s State Department is influential when it comes to policy making in countries such as European nations, Russia, China, Japan and essential regional blocks including Brazil. The State Department is critical when advising the President. The primary functions of the office are to encourage the president as well as conduct negotiations relating to U.S. foreign affairs on behalf of the president. Therefore, the strength of its foreign policy emphasis is on providing a political dominance in any talks. For example, the NATOP led negotiation treaty involving countries of NATO membership and America. The talks have been geared towards bilateral ties with non-NATO members who include European members. From an advantage point, America stands to gain a lot with more allies from the European countries. Therefore, America improves on its influence in NATO meetings including military operations in war-torn countries of NATO membership.

The State Department’s primary role is to provide economic advice and administer improved negotiations on behalf of America (Tocqueville). Currently, America leads in today’s economic gap including gross domestic product per capita as well as economic power compared to nations under the European Union, Japan and the United Arab Emirates. As such, the strength that the State Department influences is the ability to ensure that America remains influential regardless of its recent dethronement from the world’s leading economy. This is considered as a threat to America’s competence in the new world order agenda (Tocqueville). Therefore, America has to sustain trading with emerging economies including Japan and China to equalise the threat. The considerable power leverage that America possesses ensures that the impact remains globally efficient.

Additionally, America’s impact on foreign policy through the State Department is through the drastic influence in strategic influence on other countries. The typical example of the power that America had on the collapse of the Cold war is regarded as the rise of foreign policy. Therefore, this is among the greatest strength that the State Department considers when it comes to foreign policy. The United States of America has to continually prove its influence by improving its ‘smart’ power capabilities. There are carefully crafted messages as well as communications from America’s State Department to the rest of the world. The ability of the country to keep constant networking with other nations ensures that America has a voice when it comes to increasing allies and reducing enemies. This is borrowed from the conventional tools of communication from which media is used as an impactful tool by the State Department to support its endeavours abroad. The current strength of the foreign policy under the State Department is to ensure that the world perceives America as a neutral and accommodating country that is not a bully and a suppressor to other nations (Tocqueville).  The reason for this is because, despite America possessing numerous powers and allies, the downside is that its allies have problems, and so does America. Countries question America’s capability to handle its issues while maintaining that it safeguards those of its allies.

State Department Weaknesses in Foreign Policy

The setback towards the State Department is that its effort may seem self-individualised and not for the good of the nation. The reason is that, with the foreign policy under the State Department, a lot of negotiations are required- which serves as the primary role of the office. Downstream towards ending any talk, there are always winners and losers. In most cases, the argument is that the State Department does not ever get the job done when it comes to fighting for the foreign policy agenda of Americans. Probably, this is because the State Department does not commandeer an entire military troop or navy ships as does the president. According to the constitution, the President is mandated to call out war when he or she presents that America is under threat from its enemy. However, the law stipulates that the president has to table the motion or intent to Congress. The main point is that the State Department may not always deliver the intended purpose of negotiations in the long-run compared to presidential foreign policy gestures.

Another weakness of the State Department concerning the President’s foreign policy is that its negotiation strategies take longer compared to Presidential interventions.  A famous example is the recent meeting between President Trump and North Korea Kim Jong-Un which occurred in 2019. The hope is that the peace talks, as well as the trade talks held between the presidents, may result in humanitarian concepts. This aspect brings forth the downfall of the State Department’s foreign policy consideration. For the longest time, the U.S. State Department has always reported initiating democratic talks that would foster human rights and labour laws fairness and justice. But, the downfall towards President’s Trump visit with President Kim was that Trump had to withdraw the sanctions on the new deals with the president concerning human rights violation and labour sanction laws. The pitfall to the agreement is that the president may take a while longer to reach consensus when it comes to strong-arming North Korea despite it being a landmark deal for America.

Another weakness for the State Department is that it requires sanctions for monetary funds to safeguards its endeavours abroad. The current Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo requires the permission of the Senate committees to sanction the funding of more than $ 40 billion to achieve its goals in South America and Asian countries (Edward and Catie). This determines that the office requires funding approval to commit to their activities. On the other hand, the President’s office and Congress can carry out duties without the intervention of each other (Tocqueville). The reason is that the independence of each office is safeguarded within the constitution. In most cases, the State Department representatives have to engage with the committees and plead their cases. The let down about the process is that it can be tenuous and cannot result in any positive results in the long run due to political influences.

The State Department is plagued with issues relating to economic colonialism which may result in tensions between America and the rest of the world. The initial phase to any foreign policy sanctioned under the State Department is the involvement of military intervention. The goal is to ensure that the office solves and stabilises the economies of the nations that are at war. The problem is that the current popularity of America may not resonate with positivism. Majority of countries loath the exercise that America undertakes to exercise its new world order concept. The ideologies of hard and soft power sometimes reinforce and interferes with the cultural and political stability of another nation. As such, it affects the weight that America poses on the countries placing obstacles of hard powers which America currently faces in regions such as Syria and Afghanistan.

Wilsonian Liberalism

The State Department seems to favour Wilsonian Liberalism. Wilsonian liberalism is defined as the ideological perspective coined by President Woodrow Wilson (Ambrosius).  The philosophy according to the president was that the world was created to foster peace. As such, liberalism intends to favour internationalism from which American history derives its knowledge of international relations with the rest of the world (Ambrosius). The principles underlying Wilsonian Liberalism include an emphasis on self-determination of people, advocacy on democracy and spread of capitalism. Additionally, Wilsonian liberalism emphasises opposition to isolation and non-interventionism and intervention.

The State Department’s primary goal is to ensure that human rights are safeguarded regardless of the extent to which the nation has to do so. Therefore, it is evident that the office utilises the Wilsonian Liberalism with an emphasis on equal opportunity for all (Ambrosius). The point is arguable because foreign policy for America entails pursuit of self-interest where American citizens come first. In line with this, it may be noted that in some cases, America is involved because other nations may be hosts to American citizens who live abroad. Thus, the concept is that based on jus cogens rule, the State Department ensures that the principle of equal rights is adhered to by other nations by strong-arming a lot of economic and military interventions for the countries.

The Wilsonian Liberalism concept stresses on democracy. The idea is seen on occasions where America’s government’s foreign policy is to ensure that other nations follow suit in democratic engagement (Ambrosius). For example, the recent advocacy where President Trump engages in negotiation talks with President Kim where aspects of human rights and labour rights were part of the negotiations. Nonetheless, the discussion determined that the State Department may be incompetent in ensuring such issues are handled and require the intervention of the office of the president. On the other hand, the office fosters on the promotion of capitalism through intervention factors. These are seen in areas such as Turkey and Brazil where America ensures that the countries provide for equality in women employment and production industries that are catered for in American bilateral trade.

The connection that Wilsonian Liberalism and its impact in the future is that it will influence how America correlates with other nations. In the current economic and political environments, America is undergoing a hard power change with entrants such as Japan and China changing the ‘game.’ The State Department has to ensure that America remains pivotal in international endeavours by ensuring that its image is relevant and accommodating to the rest of the world (Ambrosius). Thus, the implementation strategy that involves the use of the Wilsonian Liberalism will ensure that the State Department remains relevant in the current change in economic and political environments. As a result, this may change the position that the State Department will indulge within the coming future. The reason is that the impact that the state department is making is considered to be politically charged. For example, the influence that Mike Pompeo is creating is considered to have President Trump’s backing (Edward and Catie). The downside is that Mike Pompeo may not generate enough votes to engage with the office’s endeavours (Edward and Catie). The reason is based on the fact that most of the committees in Congress are held by Democrats and not republicans (Ambrosius). The process can be frustrating considering that most of the panel hearings do not agree with additional funding for the State Department activities.


The present paper has presented a succinct description on its central thesis: foreign policy and how the State Department performs. In particular, the paper has provided an elaborate delineation on aspects considering the strengths and the weaknesses of the office concerning foreign policy. Additionally, the concept of how the state department performs through the utilisation of the Wilsonian Liberalism and how it may impact its future undertakings. Further, the paper has provided a succinct description of how the State Department may lose its power of decision making due to the politically charged environment that the office is subdued in the current political arena. Therefore, the paper summarises that the State Department is a unique office that has played a pivotal role in promoting America’s foreign policy. The successes are numerous but, countable whereas, the pitfalls are a wide array. Regardless, its primary roles including advising the President of the United States of America have been crucial in solidifying the nation’s foreign policy agenda since its inception.






Work Cited

Edward, Wong and Catie, Edmondson. “Lawmakers Rough Up Pompeo Over Proposed State Department Cuts.” The New York Times, 2019.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol. II (1840) Mansfield and Winthrop, trans. (2000) pp. 617-629

Ambrosius, Lloyd E. “Wilsonianism and transatlantic relations.” Journal of Transatlantic Studies 16.4 (2018): 356-361.