Sample Paper on Presidential Leadership in Foreign Policy-Making


The use of executive orders by the Presidents of the United States has been one of the considerations made in evaluating their foreign policy competencies. As such, different presidents score differently with regards to their use of executive orders based on the justifications for the use of such orders. The executive order gives the president the fastest and easiest way to pass a policy as they are the only authority required. However, presidents mostly act either independently, or as part of a plan that has been pre-discussed in the Senate or Congress, or even as part of the president’s executive responsibility as the commander-in-chief or as described by the constitution on the executive powers. President Donald Trump has used executive orders expansively since his inauguration as the president of the United States, always with the objective of bringing about potentially positive change to the country. An example of such executive order is executive order number 13903 on combating human trafficking and online child exploitation in the United States. This executive order was signed on the 31st of January 2020 with a constitutional basis and justifiable arguments. The ensuing sections of this paper describe the role of the president in making the policy associated with this executive order; the constitutional, philosophical, and biblical evaluation of the executive order; and a conclusion and statement of cogency of that order.

Policy Role

Section 2 of the United States Constitution describes the presidential role in foreign policy development and implementation. From this section, the president works either independently or in accordance with his mandate as the commander in chief. As the commander in chief, the president is responsible for passing all policies related to national safety and security. National security is defined as the defense of all elements of a nation-state including its people, infrastructure, the economy, and its institutions.[1] Previously, national security was perceived only within the context of military protection, but this has since changed with the emergence of many cross-boundary threats and non-state actors.[2] The government uses various tools including diplomacy, political and economic power, and power projection, among others. Power projection is mostly through the exhibition of power based on tools such as the executive order system, economic sanctions or any other procedures. The president acts in accordance with his constitutional power to sign any executive orders and/or policies that foster national security through elimination/reduction of threats to cyber-security, crime, environmental security, and energy security among others.[3] Accordingly, executive order 13903 can be considered to be part of the presidential decisions aimed at improving national security through crime reduction.

The executive order communicates the policy on the consideration of human trafficking as a form of slavery, whose outcomes include fueling criminal activity and exposing national security to threats. Accordingly, the order stipulates that the country’s law enforcement, pursuant to Trafficking Victims Protection Act, would make a deliberate effort to identify cases of human trafficking for sex and labor and to punish the involved individuals.[4] The policy is divided into six different sections. The first sections describe the policy in general and the justification for its signing namely, the rampant increase in cases of child and women trafficking in the United States in recent years. The second through sixth sections each addresses a particular element of human trafficking. For instance, the second section describes the intention to strengthen the responsiveness of the federal justice system to trafficking cases. The executive commits to having resources assigned to handling human trafficking cases as soon as they occur to avoid delays. The third section communicates the mandate to prosecute those who engage in the online exploitation of children. This is based on the emergence of social networking sites through which one can gain access to even children and effectively convince them to engage in different practices. The responsibility of the executive here includes protecting the victims of child and human trafficking as well. This is presented in the fourth section of the executive order, which refers to protecting the victims of child and human trafficking with the specification that all departments directly linked to the justice system in relation to crime, would work together to ensure adequate protection is offered. The fifth section focuses on the prevention of human trafficking through education partnerships; while the sixth section gives the general provisions.

The President’s arguments in support of the decision to issue the executive order are well-founded both in the constitution and in his mandate as the president of the United States. The federal and state justice systems provide laws that can be used indiscriminately to help in cases of human and/or child trafficking. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act is one such law. The aim of the act was to foster collaboration between the United States federal systems and the international laws on human trafficking in order to monitor, suppress, and punish any occurrence of such incidences.[5] Executive order 13903 mentions this particular act as one of the underlying constitutional guidelines that mandate presidential action with regards to the executive order. The trafficking victims protection act gives the implication that the country is not only aware of the vulnerability to protection but also that it has the mandate to protect potential victims from human trafficking. Executive order 13903 therefore, provides a strong buttress for the trafficking victims protection act by extending the role of the state and federal justice system beyond victim protection. The executive command provides guidelines for handling criminals as well as preventing the occurrence of such crimes, besides enhancing responsiveness to such crimes.[6] The rationale given by the president concerning this executive order is also sufficient justification for the law. The increase in the number of cases of people complaining about vulnerability and the emergence of cyber-based forms of crime, constitute sufficient motivations for a law that would curb child and human trafficking for all reasons.


From the president’s narration of the factors behind his executive order, it is evident that he not only acted right but also in accordance with the U.S constitution. The constitution gives the president executive power to authorize actions that protect national security. One element of national security is the security of the people of the nation. Additionally, human trafficking not only provides funds for crime escalation through organized criminal activity but also is in itself a crime. The constitution’s commitments to fighting crime and to maintaining national security are both encompassed in the presidential executive order 13903. Additionally, the U.S constitution does not give express guidelines for the prevention, responsiveness to human trafficking, and the protection of victims and vulnerable children from online exploitation.[7] However, the constitution, still through the mandate to promote national security, focuses on cyber-crime as an emerging form of criminal activity.[8] The executive order section on protecting children from online exploitation thus reflects the spirit of the constitution. These arguments show that the executive order was not only well-thought-out but also functions to satisfy one of the needs for which the constitution allows the use of executive orders. Wigton describes presidential executive orders as a sort of fast-tracked solution to complex problems, which can be applied in the event of a congressional intransigence or merely to fast-track policymaking.[9] Considering the context of executive order 13903, the increased prevalence of human trafficking warrants fast-tracking of policy as a solution to the complex problem that is human trafficking and exploitation for sex and/or labor.

From the philosophical perspective, the presidential executive order would be considered from the perspective of different ethical theories. The utilitarian and the Kantian ethical perspectives are selected herein as examples to confirm the philosophical soundness of the president’s decision underlying executive order 13903. The utilitarian perspective considers an action as right if it results in the greatest benefits for the greatest number of people.[10] In this particular case, there are already international laws and United Nations stipulations around the prevention of human trafficking and international commitment to the same. These international regulations and commitments purpose to confirm the universality of the need for laws preventing human trafficking and helping the victims of the vice. Accordingly, by acting in accordance with his mandate to protect national security, the president acted in the interest of the human trafficking victims, the international communities as well as the people of the nation who may feel vulnerable especially with the increasing cases, thereby promoting maximum benefits for the greatest number of people. From the Kantian perspective, morality is defined by the categorical imperative comprising of universality and the consideration of humans as an end rather than a means to an end.[11] Both of these conditions are satisfied, showing the moral acceptability of the executive order. The consideration of the fight against human trafficking as an international concern shows its universality, while the focus on the victims as an end confirms the second imperative.

The protection of the vulnerable is also encumbered in the Biblical teachings regarding social life. One principle that is soundly entrenched in the Bible is the golden rule, namely to do unto others as one would wish done unto him/her. Preventing harm is another area that the Bible is clear on, particularly to children. In terms of sexual exploitation of children, the Bible says that anyone who makes children transgress is unworthy of God’s kingdom. Moreover, there are various instances in which the Bible shuns fornication, theft, and any such activities. It is deduced, therefore, that any action, decision, or direction that fosters alignment with the will of God is acceptable. The executive order 13903 that protects the vulnerable, punishes wrongdoers, and fosters responsiveness among the responsible authorities, is thus aligned to the will of God and is acceptable.

Conclusion and Cogency

Executive order 13903 exhibits significant cogency with regards to the management of human trafficking cases for whatever reason. Unlike previous laws in relation to human trafficking that were restricted to victim protection, executive order 13903 addresses all elements of human trafficking including both physical and online exploitation; for sex and labor purposes and the treatment of both victims and perpetrators, hence giving the U.S law enforcement a more expansive role in the prevention of human trafficking. U.S President Donald Trump acted in accordance with the general perception of human trafficking as a vice in all its forms to develop this order. As such, the executive order has been established to be sound not only constitutionally but also philosophically and Biblica


Donohue, Laura K. “The Limits of National Security.” ACLR, vol. 48, (2011): pp. 1573-1756.

Executive Office of the President. “Combating Human Trafficking and Online Child Exploitation in the United States.” Federal Register, (5 February 2020): pp. 6721-6723.

Masters, Jonathan. U.S. Foreign Policy Powers: Congress and the President. Council on Foreign Relations, (2 March 2017).

McCartney, Steve and Parent, Rick. Ethics in Law Enforcement. BCampus, 2015.

Misselbrook, David. “Duty, Kant, and Deontology.” BJGP, vol. 63, no. 609, (2013): pp. 211.

National Archives. “The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription.” The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

Stein, Amy L. “A Statutory National Security President.” FLR, vol. 70, no. 6, (2018): pp. 1183.

Wigton, Robert C. “Recent Presidential Experience with Executive Orders.” PSQ, vol. 26, no. 2, (1996): pp. 473-484.

[1]Amy L. Stein, “A Statutory National Security President,” FLR, vol. 70, no. 6, (2018): pp. 1183.

[2] Laura K. Donohue, “The Limits of National Security,” ACLR, vol. 48, (2011): pp. 1573-1756.

[3]Jonathan Masters, “U.S. Foreign Policy Powers: Congress and the President,” Council on Foreign Relations, (2 March 2017).

[4] Executive Office of the President. “Combating human trafficking and online child exploitation in the United States.” Federal Register, (5 February 2020): pp. 6721-6723.

[5] Ibid., 6721.

[6] Ibid., 6722.

[7] National Archives, “The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription,” The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

[8] Ibid.

[9]Robert C. Wigton, “Recent Presidential Experience with Executive Orders,” PSQ, vol. 26, no. 2, (1996): pp. 473-484.

[10] Steve McCartney, and Rick Parent, Ethics in Law Enforcement, (BCampus, 2015).

[11] David Misselbrook, “Duty, Kant, and Deontology,” BJGP, vol. 63, no. 609, (2013): pp. 211.