Recent debate about U.S. policy with respect to Lebanon,Central America, and South Africa suggests that the UnitedStates may be entering a new phase in the recurring conflictbetween Congress and the executive branch over the control offoreign affairs. This conflict does not merely involve constitutional or partisan political matters--as important asthose might be--but reflects competing conceptions about substantive policy issues.
The current White House occupant is seeking to weaken oreliminate congressional restraints imposed on the executiveduring the 1970s, in order to regain the flexibility he believesis necessary to pursue America's cold war objectives. His congressional opponents are attempting to preserve those constraintsnot simply to enhance the power and prestige of the legislativebranch, but because they fear that an unfettered president maypursue policies that would contravene fundamental American valuesor again plunge the United States into ill-advised militaryinterventions. As before in our history, the conflict willlikely determine the substance of American foreign policy, aswell as which branch shall chart its course.