This book is a history of the State Department but, more broadly, of the American foreign policymaking process. It narrates the development of both the decision-making institutions and the content of policy from the founding of the republic through the administration of President Ronald Reagan. Few understand how the American system of international policy is different from that of virtually every other country in the world nor, indeed, how it works at all.
The American system is a pluralistic one in which the media and Congress play an important role; in which alliances are formed and battles waged between agencies and even individuals. There is also the historic American reluctance to become engaged in international affairs set off against the challenges and demands made on the United States increasingly in the twentieth century.
The importance of this approach was brought home to me when I was giving a lecture at an American university and a professor specializing in U.S. foreign policy loudly explained that he had no interest in how policy was actually made and implemented. Since then the theoretical orientation in teaching and studying this subject has been intensified and many of the basic principles of diplomacy have either been abandoned or are no longer understood. The book was published by Oxford University Press in 1985 and a paperback, which went through two printings, in 1987.