Class Warfare Blog

January 23, 2017

The Constitution and American Foreign Affairs

Filed under: History,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 10:36 am
Tags: , ,

There is almost a constant cry about what the U.S. should “do” about China, or ISIS/ISIL, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or … or …. Quickly, what does the Constitution say about conducting “foreign affairs”? Go ahead, look, I’ll wait <waiting …>.

So, you found out it says very little. According to one source:
The Constitution., has certain explicit passages dealing with the foreign affairs power. Specifically, the President is given authority to make treaties, to which the Senate is given the authority to advise and consent (Article 11, Section 2). The President is made Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy (Article II, Section 2); but the Congress is given the authority to raise and support armies, and to provide and maintain a Navy (Article 1, Section 8, Clauses 12 and 13). The Congress alone is given the power to declare war* and—in a much overlooked provision—the Congress is given authority to define offenses against the law of nations and to set punishments for them (Article I, Section 8, Clause 10).
Source Thomas J. “An Understanding of Constitution’s Foreign Affairs Power” (here)

So, the Constitution says very little about foreign affairs. In fact, the founders wanted us to have very little interaction with other countries except in the form of trade. They saw Europe’s intermingling alliances and treaties as a source of almost continuous conflict and war. They felt that if we were “neutral” and treated with one and all the same in trade (no “special nation” scheme status for them), that we would escape the trap of “foreign entanglements.”

Mr. J. continues:
In addition to these explicit provisions, there are also certain powers that flow merely from the fact that the United States is a sovereign nation. Justice Sutherland, writing in United States v. Curtiss-Wright E2Mort Corp., 29 U.S. 304, in 1937, observed that “The investment of the federal government with the powers of external sovereignty did not depend upon the affirmative grants of the Constitution.”

Uh, oh.

In essence the “law” gives the President the power to meddle in “foreign affairs” to their heart’s content as long as he doesn’t start a war or enter into a treaty without Congressional approval. And the Congress passed the War Powers Act and then looks the other way when it is violated. Oh, and President Bush declared a War on Terror (never authorized by Congress except in that it keeps allocating funds for it) and President Obama didn’t change that “policy” with the minor fact that the battlefield is the entire globe.

And … Trump.




  1. I have some interesting numbers for you. Consider that in a year of “high terrorism” in Europe like 2016, with a population of 743 million there were less than 200 terrorism related deaths. Meanwhile in Africa with a population of 1.2 billion, there were 2900 hippopotamus related deaths. That means that even if terrorism doubles or triples in Europe- it’s still more likely that an African will die by hippopotamus than that a European die by terrorism 😀


    Comment by The Pink Agendist, née Mr. Merveilleux — January 23, 2017 @ 12:29 pm | Reply

    • You are oh, so right. We estimate risks very poorly. When we were all terrified that our TV sets were bombarding us with radiation (they did more so in the “old days”) no one pointed out that if you walked by a brick wall once a day you got more radiation from the brick wall than from any TV set.

      On Mon, Jan 23, 2017 at 12:29 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:



      Comment by Steve Ruis — January 23, 2017 @ 1:02 pm | Reply

    • Oh my! So glad I don’t live in Africa. Dangerous place!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Nan — January 23, 2017 @ 6:11 pm | Reply

      • Americans don’t care about Africa, unless it is about strategic materials for our war machine … then we care.

        On Mon, Jan 23, 2017 at 6:11 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:



        Comment by Steve Ruis — January 23, 2017 @ 8:58 pm | Reply

        • You mean like hippopotamuses?


          Comment by Nan — January 23, 2017 @ 9:09 pm | Reply

          • Only to the extent that they kill and maim. More dangerous than terrorists they are, so I say build a wall of hippos. Let ’em swim in the Rio Grande. That’ll keep the terrorists out!

            On Mon, Jan 23, 2017 at 9:09 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:



            Comment by Steve Ruis — January 23, 2017 @ 9:28 pm | Reply

      • LOL!


        Comment by The Pink Agendist, née Mr. Merveilleux — January 24, 2017 @ 6:48 am | Reply

    • Lol!


      Comment by persedeplume — January 25, 2017 @ 9:07 am | Reply

  2. Well, what else can you expect from a document written at the time when it took several weeks just to get to the nearest sovereign country? Now you can trade with, talk to, and even bomb a foreign country without even leaving your chair.


    Comment by List of X — January 24, 2017 @ 12:18 am | Reply

  3. The world is of course a smaller place since the constitution was first written but your point has merit none the less.


    Comment by lbwoodgate — January 24, 2017 @ 9:08 am | Reply

    • One has to ask wny ISIS/ISIl, which is half way around the globe has anything to do with us or our interests … other than to be seen as the world’s policemen.

      On Tue, Jan 24, 2017 at 9:08 AM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:



      Comment by Steve Ruis — January 24, 2017 @ 9:22 am | Reply

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