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The Politics of United States Foreign Policy

The Politics of United States Foreign Policy

Eighth Edition

August 2023 | 536 pages | CQ Press

What are the factors that shape and determine the foreign policy choices of the United States? The Politics of United States Foreign Policy helps students consider the players, processes, and politics that drive US decisions and involvement in foreign policy. Blending substance, theory, and stimulating analysis, James Scott and Jerel Rosati emphasize that society, government, and global forces play a role in the struggle over competing values when it comes to foreign policymaking. The book discusses historical patterns, the president’s ability to influence both at home and abroad, and the tension between democracy and national security. 

The Eighth Edition has been updated to cover developments since the end of the Trump administration, the transition to the Biden administration, the challenges of changing international and domestic contexts, and the increasingly partisan political environment. It also incorporates key recent national and international developments, including the global pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, US global reengagement, and competition between the US and key rivals like China and Russia. 

Part I Introduction: The Context of US Foreign Policymaking
Chapter 1 Understanding the Politics of US Foreign Policy
Chapter 2 The Global and Historical Context: Power, Role, and Politics on the World Stage
Part II Government and the Policymaking Process
Chapter 3 The President and White House Leadership
Chapter 4 Understanding the Foreign Policy Bureaucracy: The Department of State
Chapter 5 Understanding the Foreign Policy Bureaucracy: The Department of State
Chapter 6 Understanding the Foreign Policy Bureaucracy: The Intelligence Community
Chapter 7 Managing the Foreign Policy Bureaucracy: The National Security Council System
Chapter 8 The Foreign Economic Bureaucracy and the National Economic Council
Chapter 9 Congress and Interbranch Politics
Chapter 10 Explaining the Politics and Processes of Foreign Policymaking
Part III The Society and Domestic Politics
Chapter 11 The Public and Foreign Policy
Chapter 12 Interest Groups and Foreign Policy
Chapter 13 The Media and Foreign Policy
Part IV Conclusion
Chapter 14 Patterns, Processes, and Foreign Policymaking


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Online resources included with this text:

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Of all the foreign policy textbooks on the market, this one is the best at balancing a discussion of institutions, history, and politics. If you want to teach foreign policy with only one book, this is probably the best one.

Jacob Wobig
Wingate University

A solid, comprehensive, and practical guide to how American foreign policy is actually made.

Dennis Jett
Penn State University and Former U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique and Peru

This book provides an in-depth view of the internal governmental factors that shape United States foreign policy. Students will find the deep-dive into the policy-making process fascinating.

John Ross
Fort Hays State University

This is a comprehensive and thorough discussion of the U.S. structure and mechanisms which influence our foreign policy.

Lydia Andrade
University of the Incarnate Word

A comprehensive, detailed, and well-written introduction to how foreign policy gets made in the United States.

Ronald Lee
Rockford University
Key features


  • Further development and integration of the new analytical/conceptual framework introduced in the Seventh Edition to examine and understand the complex and shifting politics of US foreign policymaking.
  • Timely updates to cover developments since the end of the Trump administration and the first years of the Biden administration woven into every chapter.
  • Expanded and updated attention to the challenges of changing international and domestic contexts and their impact on the foreign policy agenda, foreign policy orientations, executive branch structures, legislative-executive interactions, societal concerns and engagement, and the increasingly partisan and polarized political environment in which US foreign policy is made.
  • New and updated figures, tables, maps, and other supporting material.
  • New, revised, and updated boxed features, with each box ending with critical thinking questions to spur analysis and discussion. A Closer Look boxes consider significant issues or developments in more detail. A Different Perspective boxes explore competing or alternative viewpoints. Chapter-ending Think About This boxes prompt reflection and engagement and facilitate critical thinking.
  • Streamlining and focusing the text for readability, strategically condensing more historical sections to amplify the more current context, resulting in a leaner, more accessible book that is more tightly presented even as it maintains breadth and depth of coverage.


  • Discussions of what the United States has done, does, and might do help students evaluate the merits of one policy decision over another, while also examining how and why those choices are made.
  • Examples and historical context aid students in understanding the nature of the institutions involved, the dynamics of the process, and the larger themes addressed.
  • Theory and practice are integrated and discussed throughout the book.
  • International and foreign economic policymaking is addressed in a full chapter and integrated throughout the textbook.
  • Overviews and summaries are provided in the introduction and concluding section of each chapter. 
  • A Closer Look boxes consider important trends, key figures, and theoretical perspectives in more detail, including the pendulum effect, the role of the Vice President in foreign policy, foreign assistance and nation building, cyber threats and more! Each box includes a critical thinking question to spur analysis and discussion.
  • A Different Perspective boxes highlight significant controversies in foreign policy, including the gender and race discrimination in hiring and personnel systems, asymmetrical warfare, checks and balances in the intelligence community. Each box includes a critical thinking question to spur analysis and discussion.
  • Key terms are listed at the end of each chapter under the headings Key Concepts and Other Key Terms, which divide the terms into those concerned with theory and those with practice.

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