The Presidency and Military Aid

My name is David Glickstein – I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and I am studying Political Science, Music Performance, and Latin.

Since the Truman administration, presidents have used military aid to achieve American interests abroad, acting as a critical foreign policy tool during the Cold War. Most scholarship before the dissolution of the Soviet Union attributed efforts to fight communism as the best indicator of which countries receive military aid, and how much. However, once the Soviet Union collapsed, the post-Cold War presidents and congresses have continued and even increased military aid, challenging the link between aid and containment.

Surprisingly, there is little scholarship on predictors of U.S. military aid allocation. Of existing scholarship, researchers focus on qualities of the recipient countries, examining traits such as human rights, regime or government type, relationships with terrorist organizations, or population size. To the contrary, I will examine the degree to which domestic politics impacts allocation of military aid and will specifically examine the influence of presidents’ foreign policy agendas on allocation.

Generally speaking, presidents (particularly modern presidents) have broad powers when it comes to foreign policy, as they are even allowed to use force without immediate congressional approval under the War Powers Act. When it comes to foreign aid, however, budgets must still go through Congress, meaning presidents have limited powers over this particular component of foreign policy. Accordingly, this is certainly a field that merits scholarly attention with regard to presidential powers.

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