Date of Award

Spring 6-10-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. John L.S. Daley,

Second Advisor

Dr. Kelly A. Woestman,

Third Advisor

Dr. Mark J. Peterson


The purpose of this study is to identify the environment that presidents operate within to develop international relationship goals. The environment itself forms a system which exerts a great influence, is largely responsible for, and expresses the foreign policies that presidents choose. Five elements define this system: the geopolitical situation, the actions of the prior administration, Congress, the election cycle, and the American domestic situation (GPACED). This work demarcates the elements of GPACED, and their potential impacts on polices, and demonstrates its influence through five historical case studies spanning six presidential administrations. The National Security Act of 1947, and its subsequent amendments altered the nature of foreign policy development by establishing a body for presidents to consult to make foreign policy decisions. The case studies demonstrate that GPACED applies significant influence on foreign policy. This pressure compels presidents to undertake strategies not of their choosing, or prevents them from executing their desired courses of action. Historical analysis establishes that GPACED follows a predictable pattern within the term limits of each presidency. Those policies judged as successes normally occur early in a president’s term in office. GPACED prevents presidents from implementing chosen policies near the end of their administrations. The Geopolitical Environment, and Congress are the two most influential elements of the system on foreign policy. This study concludes that GPACED has greater influence over the direction of United States foreign policy than the stated goals of the president, who ultimately receives credit, or blame for America’s international relations.



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