Unrestricted Presidential Foreign Policy
Eisenhower was an internationalist and moved ahead of conservative Robert A. Taft for that reason by the GOP leadership in 1951. This successor to FDR and Truman would not relinquish control of United States foreign policy to Congress and helped organize opposition to the Bricker Amendment in 1953. For reference, Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution provides that the President “shall have the Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur . . .”
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Unrestricted Presidential Foreign Policy
“[Eisenhower] usually had Democratic support for an activist, presidentially-dominated foreign policy. Many of his fellow Republicans, however, had a lingering fear from the Roosevelt-Truman years of the chief executive’s preeminence in international affairs. Such Republicans – basically the Midwestern and Western, formerly [Robert A. Taft supporter], element in the GOP – furnished most of the support for the effort to limit presidential power in foreign policy. That effort took the form of the Bricker Amendment.
As early as 1951 Republican Senator John Bricker of Ohio had introduced a constitutional amendment which, though taking several different forms over the next three years, retained three main provisions: (1) The executive branch could enter into no treaty that conflicted with the Constitution. (2) Any treaty, to become effective as internal law in the United States, must have supporting legislation “which would be valid in the absence of a treaty.” (3) In addition to the constitutional requirement that two-thirds of the Senate must approve a treaty, Congress would gain the power to reject or regulate all executive agreements with foreign countries just as if they were formal treaties.
Although Bricker had originally offered his amendment out of opposition to Democrat foreign policy, especially the Yalta agreements, he revived the measure early in the Eisenhower administration with the backing of a majority of Republican senators. The amendment also had the support of the American Bar Association, the American Legion, the American Medical Association, and other powerful organizations.
It was the second article . . . evocation of States’ rights — that generated the greatest controversy, rallied the opposition in both parties, and eventually caused the amendment’s demise. The administration could charge that the “which” clause, by forcing the State Department to square every treaty with existing laws in every State, would reduce foreign policy to its feeble condition under the Articles of Confederation.
Contenting himself with platitudes and suggestions for compromise, Eisenhower shrewdly left the major attack on the Bricker Amendment in the hands of the State Department. Privately . . . Eisenhower exploded, “I’m so sick of this I could scream. The whole damn thing is senseless and plain damaging to the prestige of the United States.”
As the debate over the amendment dragged through 1953 into the next year, the administration finally succeeded in organizing the “internationalist” opposition inside and outside Congress. In the end the administration narrowly won its case [and defeated the amendment].
The failure of the Bricker Amendment left the Eisenhower administration with a relatively free hand in foreign policy. Building upon the inherited frameworks of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organization of American States (OAS), the ANZUS treaty with Australia and New Zealand, and various bilateral pacts, Secretary [John Foster] Dulles brought into being an elaborate global system of alliances. Supplemented by more bilateral treaties, the expanded American alliance system encircled and pointed SAC’s nuclear power at the hearts of the Soviet Union and mainland China.
Moreover, while they paid more heed to congressional opinion than would their successors, the President and Secretary of State were usually able to commit American armed forces whenever and wherever they perceived a threat to the global status quo.
Finally, the Central Intelligence Agency, with Eisenhower’s full approval and indeed enthusiastic support, vastly broadened its role and functions. Under Director Allen Dulles the CIA went beyond its original statutory responsibility for gathering data on conditions in foreign countries (i.e., espionage) and became a powerful instrument for implementing American policy and objectives.
On a number of occasions the CIA intervened clandestinely in the internal politics of other nations, sometimes to shore up shaky regimes favored by the United States, or at times to subvert and overthrow objectionable governments. The first occasion was in Iran within six months after Eisenhower entered the White House . . . [when] key portions of the American national security bureaucracy had come not only to share the British view of overthrowing [Mohammed] Mossadeq was necessary to insure Western access to Iranian oil, but to believe that Mossadeq was sympathetic to his country’s Marxist Tudeh party and was moving into the Soviet orbit.
After Mossadeq refused to give in to the new administration’s threats to withdraw its aid, the CIA began working undercover to bring him down. Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of Theodore Roosevelt and the CIA’s top covert agent in the Middle East, operated closely with the American Military Assistance Mission in Tehran, the Iranian capital.
Late in August the Mossadeq government capitulated, [pro-Western Shah Mohammed Riza Pahlevi] made a triumphant return, and an army general friendly to the Western powers was installed as premier.”
(Holding the Line: The Eisenhower Era, 1952-1961, Charles C. Alexander, Indiana University Press, 1975, pp. 71-74)