Who Determines U.S. Foreign Policy?

W.J. Astore

The Golden Rule Applies

Who determines U.S. foreign policy?  The question seems simple enough.  According to my go-to source, the AI chatbot ChatGPT,

U.S. foreign policy is made by the President, with the assistance and advice of the National Security Council and the State Department, and with the approval of Congress. The President has the power to negotiate treaties and executive agreements, and to appoint ambassadors, while Congress has the power to approve or reject treaties and executive agreements, and to confirm ambassadors. The National Security Council and the State Department are responsible for providing the President with advice and information on foreign policy issues.

That’s how many people see it.  Except it doesn’t work that way.  More than anything, America is an oligarchy rooted in capitalism and driven by greed and profit.  Foreign policy, therefore, is most often driven by powerful corporate interests, especially those tied to the military, hence President Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex.  When looking at foreign policy, one must always factor in the interests of Wall Street and its small army of lobbyists and especially powerful corporate interests in fossil fuels and similar trillion-dollar industries.

Again, when looking at U.S. foreign policy, its decisions and commitments, one should first ask, Cui bono?  Who benefits the most from the decisions made?  Second, one should keep in mind the golden rule, as in they who have the gold make the rules.  Presidents, Secretaries of State, ambassadors, and the like come and go, but the moneyed interests remain.  And with “dark money” now endemic in politics, it’s difficult to parse exactly who is giving what to whom.

I don’t mean this as a great revelation.  In the 1950s C. Wright Mills wrote of the “power elite,” which I cited in an article on greed-war.  This is what Mills had to say:

the high military, the corporation executives, the political directorate have tended to come together to form the power elite of America … a triangle of power [that is] the key to any understanding of the higher circles in America today.

C. Wright Mills knew the score

That power elite largely drives and determines U.S. foreign policy today.  Recall as well that the Pentagon budget today (almost $860 billion) is 14 times greater than the State Department (roughly $60 billion).  Basically, State is a tiny branch of the Pentagon.  I wonder who calls the shots?

We’d like to think we the people have some say over foreign policy.  Don’t we elect our members of Congress?  Don’t we elect our president?  But when both parties are thoroughly corporatized, when both respond to lobbyists and special interests while ignoring the rest of us, the truth is we essentially have no choice and no influence.

That truth can be hard to believe because we like to think we have some agency.  But we have none.  Even so, the power elite will pretend that our opinions matter, even as they resolutely ignore them.  Consider the most important foreign policy decision any nation can make: whether war is to be declared and our troops are to be sent off to fight and die.  We haven’t made that decision as a nation since December of 1941.  Every war America has fought since World War II has been undeclared.  That should tell us something about who’s in control.  Hint: It’s not us.

The rich and powerful will tell you and sell you what “truth” to believe in.  So, we’re told and sold the idea that Joe Biden is making vitally important decisions in the White House, even as Joe nowadays has trouble reading from a teleprompter.  We’re told and sold the idea that Congress represents our interests when it most definitely doesn’t (as the Princeton Study proved).  We’re told and sold the idea that America cares about fostering democracy in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Ukraine, but a bit of digging reveals the real forces and interests at play, such as oil, pipelines, strategic metals, market dominance, and the like.

Look, I’ve taken standard college courses on U.S. foreign policy.  I learned a lot from them.  But even in college I didn’t learn much about the colossal power of America’s military-industrial complex; the enormous influence of mega-corporations; the way in which foreign policy is shaped by economic profit and the pursuit of resources, some of which is captured in that old saw that “What’s good for General Motors is good for America.”

Well, GM may have waned in influence, but other industries and financial interests have taken its place. Again, if America’s foreign policy decisions confuse you, clarity should come when you ask yourself, who benefits (not you, of course), and when you remember the golden rule, as in they who have the gold make the rules.

19 thoughts on “Who Determines U.S. Foreign Policy?

  1. Apropos of Gold and “Rules” for obtaining power through the exploitation of its possession . . .

    Boobie Theory of the Seizure Class
    (from Fernando Po, U.S.A., America’s post-literate retreat to Plato’s Cave)

    The teenage clotheshorse maiden weeps
    Enduring further slights
    The boys won’t line up on the porch
    Or call on Thursday nights
    (The cool-kid-of-the-moment swears:
    “This mother really bites!”)

    The poor don’t fork out princely sums
    Or lay out table fare
    Esteemed by connoisseurs who make
    Of each meal an affair
    So who would dine with those of us
    Who find the cupboard bare?

    As Veblen said, the scholars yearn
    To do their master’s will
    Accustomed to a style of life
    Their incomes can’t fulfill
    And so they gravitate to wealth
    For which they gladly shill

    To motivate the lower class
    To do the filthy deed
    The Pet Press pundit scribes will pen
    A solipsistic screed
    A yellow plaque upon the fangs
    Which makes the gums recede

    The Boobie Seizure Class, it seems,
    On three crude strands depends:
    On emulation, dominance,
    And animism’s blends:
    Assorted spook religions that
    “Explain” why freedom ends

    No toxic cocktail ever brewed
    Can slake the bloody thirst
    Of those who wish to take their bad
    And have us do its worst
    To kill some hapless foreigners
    So that they’ll hate us “first”

    The Pet Press nanny sycophants
    Transcribe the boss’s views
    And put them into their own mouths
    Reporting them like news
    As “sacred” as the hymnals found
    In precinct churches’ pews

    Embedded for a byline they
    Write for the Army’s ease
    A splendid little war they think
    Needs just the proper tease
    “Support the troops” they now intone
    Just do it overseas

    The fanboy tough guys need a shield
    Behind which they can hide
    While jeering at the ones who choose
    Their time awhile to bide
    Refusing to approve a war
    For just the “winning” side

    Yet never has the Yellow Press
    Refused to praise the Lord
    If any chance they saw to add
    To their paymaster’s hoard
    And something for themselves as well
    If they just climb on board

    So tales of daring courage brave
    Must fill the printed page
    Until a mass hysteria
    Is all the roar and rage
    And symbol rulers ascertain
    That brains no thoughts engage

    The Sacred Symbol Soldier thus
    Appears to cloak the greed
    In made-up propaganda tales
    For those who on him feed
    He always wins the battles but
    No one his tale will heed

    The users of this symbol have
    No patriotic creed
    They love him for his usefulness
    But can’t abide his need
    The Symbol Soldier only serves
    When none can see him bleed

    One day his status changes to
    The veteran who knows
    Who won’t tell lies to cover up
    The crime of war that grows
    With each exalted croaking by
    A Seizure Class that crows

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2006

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you for the kind comments, Mr Hoffmann. The above poem — or verse essay, as some would prefer — owes its title and much of its substance to The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), by Thorstein Veblen: as, for example, his Introduction to Chapter I:

        “The institution [i.e., habits of thought] of a leisure class is found in its best development at the higher stages of barbarian culture . . . [where] so soon as the group comes into contact with hostile groups, the divergence of function will take on the developed form of a distinction between exploit and industry.”
        In such a predatory group of hunters … aggressive assertion of force and sagacity . . . is not to be accounted productive labor, but rather an acquisition of substance by seizure. . . . any effort that does not involve an assertion of prowess comes to be unworthy of the man. As the tradition gains consistency, the common sense of the community erects it into a canon of conduct; so that no employment and no acquisition is morally possible to the self-respecting man at this cultural stage, except such as proceeds on the basis of prowess — force or fraud.

        So, in a brief answer to Bill Astore’s rhetorical question, those who determine U.S. foreign and domestic policy do so as members of a leisure class most adept at the “acquisition of substance by seizure,” or, in other words, “on the basis of prowess — force or fraud.” Hence, Seizure Class.

        So much for the substance of the poetic polemic. As for why I chose to compose it in verse rather than expository prose, I can offer only:

        Melodious Mnemonics

        Many words can make a mess
        For meaning neither more nor less,
        But some arrangements stick around
        Because the brain remembers sound.

        So if I had to make a choice
        Between the letter and the voice
        I’d choose to sing a nonsense song
        Instead of meaning something wrong;

        For in my little slice of life
        I’ve witnessed mostly stupid strife
        Perpetuated by the frauds
        Who claim they speak for unseen gawds.

        And I have learned to discount words
        As mostly smelly little turds
        Whose meaning no one seems to know
        Except that from them corpses grow,

        Attracting hordes of thirsty flies
        Who drink their fill from crying eyes
        While “meaning” pours from moving lips
        And falsehood-scribbling finger tips.

        So, yes, I’ve heard both long and short,
        And read much, too, of either sort.
        But still, when words have had their say
        It takes a tune to make them stay.

        Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2010

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Good interview. I particularly appreciate your comments about us needing to remember that we are citizens and that we need to be alert, knowledgeable, and united.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘Leopards vs. the Russian Bear. Alert Memorandum for the President’
    SUBJECT: Leopards vs. the Russian Bear
    Decisions in an Intelligence Vacuum

    Dear President Biden:

    We are aware that the just-reported decision to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine responds to Berlin’s coy insistence that “you go first.” Now Leopard tanks from Germany and other allies will also be sent. Trouble is that those few that make it into Ukraine will be late to the party.

    What your advisers should have told you is that none of the newly promised weaponry will stop Russia from defeating what’s left of the Ukrainian army. If you have been told otherwise, replace your intelligence and military advisers with competent professionals – the sooner the better.

    It has long been clear that you have not been adequately briefed on two issues of major importance: (1) the war in Ukraine, and (2) the strategic partnership between Russia and China. We chose this genre of “ALERT MEMORANDUM” because we want to prepare you for a major shock. Russia’s winter offensive is about to roll over the Ukrainian army. At that point, unwelcome choices will have to be made. Off-ramps must be sought – again, the sooner the better.

    Your intelligence advisers seem blissfully unaware of what is coming. Still less do they appear able to offer you options to head off further disaster for Ukraine without still more dangerous escalation. As for China, the partnership with Russia is now so close that there is now a risk of a two-front war with two strong nuclear powers strongly supporting each other against the U.S.

    Escalation Dominance…………………………………………..


    What boggles my mind watching all this unfold from CanaDa!
    It was just August 2021 the Pentagon was insisting they were WINNING the slomo 20 year WAR, waged by the most expensive Military Force in the History of Nations, against Afghanistan, one of the POOREST Nations on Earth and the US POWER ELITES saw nothing wrong with that picture. After all, it was just Money and Business and American jobs!

    The Reality of August 2021 exposed the BIG LIE the US was winning in Afghanistan, and wants Americans and the World to think they are winning the US WAR with Russia over Ukraine in NATO.
    What boggles my mind is Americans still believe everything the Pentagon and its Proxy Ukraine says, without thinking or questioning? To question would be considered disloyal and UN-American like a Russian troll questioning the WAR?

    The $2,000,000,000 cost of that US WAR MACHINE was steady income for 20 years to the US Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex.

    Never saw this conflict in these terms before seeing it here Today, “Leopards vs. the Russian Bear”
    I’m a WAR baby born May 21, 1944, but since I’ve been able to think, I was inundated with the free press propaganda telling me to fear the Russian Bear.

    Has this World finally arrived at the Moment of Truth so to speak?


  3. The Noble Prize winning playwright Harold Pinter summed it up pretty well:

    “The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

    Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.

    It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

    I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It’s a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, ‘the American people’, as in the sentence, ‘I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.’

    It’s a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words ‘the American people’ provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don’t need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it’s very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.”


    Liked by 2 people

    1. breath-arresting, JAV. thank you for posting pinter’s courageous and penetrating hortation. his incisive wit and perspicacity were matchless… no bromidic blandishments extruding from pinter’s mouth or pen… particularly when commenting on the clattering automatons in political purlieux, or the iniquitous pathologies of accumulating vast wealth and commensurate conspicuous consumerism.


  4. This article is more than 8 years old
    ‘It’s not Russia that’s pushed Ukraine to the brink of war’
    The attempt to lever Kiev into the western camp by ousting an elected leader made conflict certain. It could be a threat to us all

    The threat of war in Ukraine is growing. As the unelected government in Kiev declares itself unable to control the rebellion in the country’s east, John Kerry brands Russia a rogue state. The US and the European Union step up sanctions against the Kremlin, accusing it of destabilising Ukraine. The White House is reported to be set on a new cold war policy with the aim of turning Russia into a “pariah state”.

    That might be more explicable if what is going on in eastern Ukraine now were not the mirror image of what took place in Kiev a couple of months ago. Then, it was armed protesters in Maidan Square seizing government buildings and demanding a change of government and constitution. US and European leaders championed the “masked militants” and denounced the elected government for its crackdown, just as they now back the unelected government’s use of force against rebels occupying police stations and town halls in cities such as Slavyansk and Donetsk.

    “America is with you,” Senator John McCain told demonstrators then, standing shoulder to shoulder with the leader of the far-right Svoboda party as the US ambassador haggled with the state department over who would make up the new Ukrainian government……………………………………………..



  5. ‘German Leopards: More Killing, Collaterals, No End in Sight. With a Historic Perspective on Germany’s Repeated Role in Attempting at Conquering Russia’
    German Leopards are sent to Kiev – so “Der Spiegel” (24.1.2023) – Chancellor Scholz has decided for more killing against all odds. Against the vast majority of the German people. Against the will of the vast majority of the people of the west. Against the vast majority of the people of the world.

    Nobody wants war, only the war profiteers. And the mega-rich, megalo-psychopaths. The WEF-people, so to speak. The “controlleurs” par excellence. The elites chosen few, maybe extraterrestrials, who are privileged wanting to safe our planet, à la John Kerry – see his speech at the WEF Davos 2023:

    And why do we, the People, allow the war profiteers and those megalo-psychopaths who want to control the world and its resources with the ill-begotten riches, anyway debt-based riches, money worth anything, only because we, The People, accept it – tolerate these megalos, warmongers, war maker and outright murderers?

    In order to tyrannize us, the dark cult — the Death Cult, you may as well call them — has to cull us people down to an easily manageable size, do away with the useless eaters, so to speak (Harari-Schwab-speak), so the ever-diminishing non-renewable resources will last longer for their, the Death Cult’s, ever more luxury-vaganza.

    That’s why they need war, have been living off wars – big wars, for more than the last century.

    Those are the ones who call War Peace and Peace War.
    Because for them war is peace of mind. They are never touched by war, yet war brings them ever and always more riches, ill-begotten resources. We know that. But they don’t care…………………………..



  6. There is no doubt Dr. Jordan Peterson is Capitalizing on his popularity. The U of T tried to make him heel, but he doesn’t need them.
    He’s currently on Tour in CanaDa and booked the 18,650 seat Canadian Tire Centre, home of the Ottawa Senators and it’s 95% sold out.
    At the ground level in front of the Stage, the closest seats cost $950 each to the lowest cost in that exclusive area being $160 ea.
    The highest levels are sold out, but the cost of seats just below that level cost $90 each.
    He’s doing much better financially than having tenure at Toronto University, or working as a Psychologist for the government within CanaDa’s Health Care System.

    In this video he’s talking like a Politician using his Psychology training. The firewood piled in his living room is an example. He is clear, precise and exact is saying what he wants to say and says it in a way I have to agree with his outlook.

    Hopefully he’s raking in so much cash to start a new Political Party in CanaDa and take on Trudeau, that wicked Globalist, and weak Vassal to the US in it’s unilateral WAR to hold onto it’s slipping Global hegemony for the sake of money and the Canadian Economy dependant on the US Economy!
    Power corrupts and Trudeau just can’t see following the US on it’s Path to win at ALL COSTS, there will be no US or Canadian Economy left.
    He does not have the balls or Integrity of Pierre Trudeau.


  7. Another perspective of what’s really happening in this Money driven World,

    I believed that the threat to petro status would ultimately be spurred on by a proxy war between East and West:
    “World economic war is the real name of the game here, as the globalists play puppeteers to East and West. It is a geopolitical crisis they will have created to engineer public support for a solution they predetermined.”

    Back then I thought that such a proxy war would be initiated in the Middle East, possibly in Iran. However, it’s clear that Ukraine is the powder keg the globalists have chosen, at least for now, with Taiwan being the next shoe to drop.

    In the years since I made these predictions the relationship between Saudi Arabia, Russia and China has grown very close. Arms deals and energy deals are becoming a mainstay of trade and this has led to a quiet but steady distancing of the Saudis from the dollar. This past week, the dominoes were set in motion for dollar collapse when Saudi Arabia announced at Davos that they are now willing to trade oil in alternative currencies.

    In response, Xi Jinping pledged to ramp up efforts to promote the use of the Chinese yuan in energy deals. This falls in line with another article I wrote in 2017 titled ‘The Economic End Game Continues,’ in which I described how conflict with Eastern nations (China and Russia) would be exploited to create a catalyst for the end of the dollar’s petro status.

    The importance of the Saudi announcement cannot be overstated; this is the beginning of the end of the dollar. The dollar’s world reserve status is largely dependent on its petro-status. Without one, you cannot have the other. This is almost the exact same dynamic that led to the implosion of the British Sterling decades ago as the global petro currency which resulted in the rise of the dollar to take its place.

    This time, though, it will not be a single foreign currency that takes on the role of world reserve, it will be a basket currency system controlled by the IMF called Special Drawing Rights, along with a single global digital currency that is yet to be named but is now under development.

    The consequences of the loss of reserve status will be devastating to the US economy. It is the only glue holding our system together – The ability to defer inflation by exporting it overseas is a superpower only the US enjoys. The Fed can print money perpetually if it wants to in order to fund the government or prop up US markets, as long as foreign central banks and corporate banks are willing to absorb dollars as a tool for global trade. If the dollar is no longer the primary international trade mechanism, the trillions upon trillions of dollars the Fed has created from thin air over the years will all come flooding back to the US through various avenues, and hyperinflation (or hyperstagflation) will be the result.

    This dynamic is already in play, as foreign holders of US debt and dollars have been dumping them at record pace since 2017. The process continues at a time when the Federal Reserve is cutting it’s balance sheet and raising interest rates, which means there is no longer a buyer of last resort.

    This may be why multiple foreign central banks have renewed their purchases of gold reserves and are once again stockpiling precious metals. They seem to be well aware of what is about to happen to the dollar, while THE AMERICAN PUBLIC IS KEPT IN THE DARK……………………………………………………………..



  8. I see clearly what the authors are saying in the report above concerning this MATERIAL World, but I also interpret it through this perspective,
    No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and MONEY.
    That’s a straight line going through all the People, from the richest to the poorest within their means.
    We know from the same record, from God’s perspective, the poor widow who gave pennies, gave more than the rich man giving more out of his abundance.

    Since that choice was pointed out, God has let People make their own free will choices without coercion, but we have arrived at the Day of Reckoning, reaping what Humanity has sowed the last 2000 years knowing that choice.


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