Choosing to Lead

Understanding Congressional Foreign Policy Entrepreneurs

Choosing to Lead

Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: 38 tables Published: July 2009

History > U.S. History, Politics > International Relations, Political Science

Shedding new light on how U.S. foreign policy is made, Ralph G. Carter and James M. Scott focus on “congressional foreign policy entrepreneurs,” the often unrecognized representatives and senators who take action on foreign policy matters rather than waiting for the executive branch to do so. These proactive members of Congress have undertaken many initiatives, including reaching out to Franco’s Spain, promoting détente with the Soviet Union, proposing the return of the Panama Canal, seeking to ban military aid to Pinochet’s regime in Chile, pushing for military intervention in Haiti, and championing the recognition of Vietnam. In Choosing to Lead, Carter and Scott examine the characteristics, activities, and impact of foreign policy entrepreneurs since the end of the Second World War. In so doing, they show not only that individual members of Congress have long influenced the U.S. foreign policy-making process, but also that the number of foreign policy entrepreneurs has grown over time.

Carter and Scott combine extensive quantitative analysis, interviews with members of Congress and their staff, and case studies of key foreign policy entrepreneurs, including Frank Church, William Fulbright, Jesse Helms, Edward Kennedy, Pat McCarran, and Curt Weldon. Drawing on their empirical data, the authors identify the key variables in foreign policy entrepreneurship, including membership in the Senate or House, seniority and committee assignments, majority or minority party status, choice of foreign policy issues, and the means used to influence policy. By illuminating the roles and impact of individual members of Congress, Carter and Scott contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the broader U.S. foreign policy-making process.


Choosing to Lead offers an important challenge to those who dismiss the legislature’s continued importance in shaping the course and conduct of American foreign policy. It will be of interest to scholars of Congress, the presidency, and foreign policy alike.” — Douglas L. Kriner, Perspectives on Politics

“[A] refreshingly balanced look at the role of Congress in foreign policy making. . . . Choosing to Lead is a critical read for any scholar who wishes to understand the trends of collective congressional foreign policy making, as well as the nuances of foreign policy leadership, activity, and policy making of individual members of Congress.” — Melody Huckaby, APSA Legislative Studies Section Newsletter

“One of the great contributions of this study is that it richly shows what Presidents know and what foreign policy scholars . . . tend to miss: Congress and its members are actively involved in this policy area and require a great deal of time and attention from the administration as a result. . . . Hopefully [Carter and Scott’s] important work will pave the way toward greater cooperation between congressional scholars (who might now be more inclined to study foreign policy) and students of foreign policy (who often ignore Congress) and lead us to a far richer understanding of the U.S. foreign policy process.” — Patrick J. Haney, Congress and the Presidency

“One of the greatest strengths of their work is the examination of congressional activity during the entire postwar era, which they divide into the Cold War consensus, Cold War dissensus, and post-Cold War eras. . . . Recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, and research collections, members of Congress.” — A. D. McNitt, Choice

“This study is a valuable contribution to the literature on American foreign policy making. This is partly because of its theoretical arguments: its thesis implies that political scientists should reconsider some of their accepted truths about US foreign policy making.” — Zim Nwokora, Australian Journal of Political Science

“I now see the foreign policy-making process in a different light than I did before reading Choosing to Lead. Ralph G. Carter and James M. Scott show that Congress can and regularly does play an important role in foreign policy making. In the future, foreign-policy analysts will have to consider that role rather than assume that only the Oval Office matters.” — A. Cooper Drury, author of Economic Sanctions and Presidential Decisions: Models of Political Rationality

“Two scholars reveal here the fascinating stories of enterprising American lawmakers who’ve exerted extraordinary personal influence in the making of American foreign policy. Sometimes unnoted in contemporary writings and occasionally unappreciated, some were surprisingly successful and some stunningly selfless. Choosing to Lead is historically significant and interestingly written.” — Jim Wright, Former Speaker, U. S. House of Representatives


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ralph G. Carter is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Texas Christian University. He is a co-author of Making American Foreign Policy and the editor of Contemporary Cases in U.S. Foreign Policy: From Terrorism to Trade.

James M. Scott is Professor and Head of the Department of Political Science at Oklahoma State University. He is the author of Deciding to Intervene: The Reagan Doctrine and American Foreign Policy, also published by Duke University Press; co-author of The Politics of United States Foreign Policy and American Foreign Policy: Pattern and Process; and editor of After the End: Making U.S. Foreign Policy in the Post–Cold War World, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface vii

1. Beyond the White House: Bringing Congress into the Foreign Policy Picture 1

2. From Problem to Policy: A Theory of Congressional Foreign Policy Entrepreneurship 24

3. Surveying the Landscape: Congressional Foreign Policy Entrepreneurs since World War II 52

4. The Rising Tide: Entrepreneurship in the Cold War Consensus Period, 1946–1967 77

5. Players in the Game: Entrepreneurship in the Cold War Dissensus Period, 1968–1989 115

6. Contending with the Thaw: Entrepreneurship in the Post-Cold War Period, 1990–2000 154

7. After 9/11: Entrepreneurs into the 21st Century 205

8. Part of the Landscape: Conclusions on the Entrepreneur Effect 221

Notes 247

Bibliography 255

Index 287
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4503-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4490-2
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