Political Science 363/International Studies 363

United States Foreign Policy

Summer 2017


Bill Newmann, Political Science program

Office Hours: 318 Founders Hall: Monday and Wednesday 2:00-3:00 or By Appointment

Phone: Office: 828-2076

e-mail: wnewmann@vcu.edu

Newmann's home page: www.people.vcu.edu/~wnewmann with links to other Newmann syllabi and other fun stuff.



This course serves as an introduction to US foreign policy. We’ll start with the basics (the structure of the US foreign policy bureaucracies and basic theories of how we think about US national interests), but we will we proceed from there to tackle the challenging issues (dealing with potential great power rivals such as China; the threat from middle powers who reject international norms such as Iraq under Saddam Hussein or the current Iranian regime; and 21st century threats from non-state actors such as al-Qaeda).   Underneath it all will be two simple questions.  First, how do we define the threats to the US?  Second, what should be the US role in the world?  Politicians, scholars, think tanks, lobby groups, the media, and the public have generated a number of potential foreign policy priorities, including: spreading democracy, opening closed economies, fostering basic human rights in other nations, responding to humanitarian tragedies, ending civil or ethnic wars, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, deterring the rise of rival great powers, maintaining regional balances of power, ensuring US hegemony, counterterrorism, and even reducing the US role in world affairs in an effort to concentrate on the problems at home.  We’ll be studying the interplay of those priorities an, how they change from time to time, and the way priorities are decided. The course will focus on the following: 

National Security Decision Making Process: We will examine the wild and wacky world of foreign policy decision making. People think that issues as serious as nuclear weapons policy or armed intervention are decided upon in the most solemn and analytical manner. I wish. Foreign policy decision making often resembles a bunch of three-year-olds in a sandbox fighting over the only pail and shovel. Understanding the way decisions are made is perhaps the single most important aspect of analyzing foreign policy. Many people think that there really is no US foreign policy, only a process that churns out half-decisions, non-decisions and useless compromises. By the end of the semester you will be familiar with the policy making process and all the institutions, Departments, and Agencies involved.

The Cold War Years: In examining the period of intense competition with the USSR, we will focus on the emergence of the two antagonists in the late 1940s and 1950s; US involvement in Vietnam; detente and arms control during the Nixon years; the fall of detente and the collapse of arms control during the Carter years; and the renewed Cold War of the early Reagan years. The focus is two-fold: the ways in which the US and USSR formed a competitive, yet in many ways cooperative relationship. In the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev had begun the restructuring of the USSR, a restructuring that would eventually reshape the world. We will examine the Reagan and Bush administrations' responses to the changes within the USSR and the changes around the world that followed.

US Foreign Policy after the Cold War: Finally, we will explore the range of possibilities for the future in terms of a number of issues: the rise of economic priorities; the issue of intervention and peace operations; human rights and democracy; great power rivals to the US; and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. We will try to answer the big picture questions: What world role should the US assume after the Cold War? Are there economic threats facing the US that are as challenging as the political-military threat of the old USSR? How should the US organize and use its military assets after the Cold War? Is China the next great rival to the US?

Post-9/11 and the Future of US Foreign Policy: Has the terrorist attack on the US changed everything we know about foreign policy or has it simply added to the complexity of the challenges the US faces as the only remaining superpower?  What are the threats the US must deal with: terrorist attack, radical ideologies, authoritarian states, economic challengers, economic institution building?  What is the proper US role in the world: building democracies, rolling back the spread of anti-democratic and anti-American ideologies, the rise of rivals to the US (China, India, EU), building better global governance based on US values?  For example, what is more dangerous: a capitalist and authoritarian China or the failures of public education in Pakistan or the spread of infectious disease in poor nations? 

Within each of these categories we will address these key issues:


In the class readings we will pay special attention to US policy in the Middle East and US relations with China.


For an extensive list of governmental and non-governmental sources of information on foreign affairs click here: Links to Websites on foreign policy and national security. Some of these links may be in a state of flux because of the transition to a new administration. I will try to keep them updated, but if anything changes or disappears, let me know.


You need to read them. The books are available at the Virginia Book Company on Shafer St. or the VCU Bookstore.  If anyone has problems getting access to the texts, for any reason, let me know as soon as possible so you don't get too far behind in the reading. As indicated below, some are on reserve at Cabell Library)

·         Stephen Sestanovich. Maximalist (New York: Vintage, 2014) On Reserve


A guideline for the readings: There are aspects of US foreign policy that you should give special attention as you do your readings. They affect every debate over US foreign policy and it is probably a good idea to understand how they relate to major issues and events when it comes to the final exam: (1) Decision Making: US foreign policy does not just happen. Men and women make those decisions and that process is important in shaping the actual substance of US foreign policy; (2) Intervention Policy: The US picks and chooses what type of world events have bearing on US national interests and in which events it will take an active role. On what basis does the US make those decisions? How has the US definition of national interest changed over the years and have the criteria for involvement in international events changed? (3) Cold War vs. Post-Cold War vs. War on Terrorism: How have the definitions of US national interests evolved? (4) Domestic Politics: Are the definitions of national interest and the content of US foreign policy based upon the threats the US faces or on domestic political contests and trends that influence the perceptions of those threats?


Grading System: Grades will be determined through the following:

Map Quiz

(Printable Blank Maps)

May 31

5% of the grade

Exam 1

June 19

30% of the grade

Research Paper

Paper Topic June 5

Paper Due July 5

35% of the grade

Exam 2

July 12

30% of the grade

How do you calculate your grade? Use the percentages from the above table. So, if you received the following grades, you would calculate your grades in the following manner:

I give you this very detailed formula for a number of reasons. You should never be unaware of what your class average is. You can calculate it at any point in the semester. If your grade is not what you'd like it to be, you should know, and you should come see me about it. Do not come to me after Exam 2 and say that you're having trouble in the class. It's too late at that point. But any time in the semester that you feel you are having trouble, or not doing as well as you feel you should, come talk to me. During my office hours and by appointment I am happy to talk to you about the class


Grading scale: I use a typical scale: A = 90-100; B = 80-89; C = 70-79; D = 55-69. Borderline grades are considered in the following manner.

·         If your grade is 69.5, 79.5, or 89.5 or higher, then you may be a candidate for a round up to the higher grade (Notice those numbers in the sentence; do not ask for a higher grade if your average is a 68 or 78 or 88 or lower; those are not borderline averages).

·         You may become a candidate if your grades are borderline and if your grades have been going up during the semester.

·         That means that if you are borderline, but your last exam is lower than the previous exams (you are between a B and C, but your third exam is a C for example), you will probably get the lower grade.

·         If you are borderline, and your last exam is higher than the previous exams (you are between a B and C, but your third exam is a B), you may get the higher grade.

·         Another factor I consider is the typical grade you receive. Let’s say we have four grades for the class and three are grades of B and one is a C (bad day) and your average is a 79.6, you are a candidate for receiving a B.  If you have four grades and three are grades of C and one is a grade of B, you are probably not a candidate for the higher grade

·         There is no extra credit for this class.  Please do not ask.



Research Paper: Paper Topics are due June 5. The paper is due July 5 in hard copy at the beginning of class or it is late.  I will review rough drafts, outlines, and even completed papers, if handed in by June 28.  This is not required, but an opportunity for you let me review your paper and get it back to you so you can use my comments to rewrite your paper.  The following instructions are important. Please pay attention to them.  If you don't you will wind up hurting your grade:  

·         LATE PAPERS: The late penalty is ten points per day, meaning that after class begins your paper, if a 95, is now an 85, after two days it is a 75, after three it is a 65, and so on down to zero.



EXAMS: The exams will be short answer and essay. At least one week before the exam I will out a review sheet on line. It will be linked to the syllabus below this paragraph. In general, the review sheets should be used as your study guide for the exam. The review sheet will include some terms that are from the readings only, so that you can go back and review those items from the readings. Once you have the review sheet, feel free to ask me questions about the terms. This is the best way to study for the exam. If you understand the terms on the review sheet, you can define each one and see how each one relates to the larger concepts and issues we've discussed in class, you should do just fine on the exam. The exams will consist of short answer/identifications and one essay. I will give more details on the exams in class as we approach the first exam.


Review One




Note: For the first few weeks the readings will be ahead of the class lectures. Make sure you keep up, though. If you do not do the readings you will quickly be lost and you'll be in serious trouble on the first exam. The dates below are the dates when you should have finished the readings (except for the first week of course). 

Important Note: There will not be class sessions on June 5 and 7.  I will be out of town.  The lectures for those classes will be audio lectures will be linked to the syllabus and up on Blackboard under Course Documents. Until we get rolling, I won’t know how many of the audio lectures we’ll need to use or where in the audio lectures we’ll need to start. I will let everyone know exactly how much of the audio lectures we are going to need as we get there. Sometimes it takes a minute or so for the audio to boot up, so give it some time. Most importantly, you should listen to those lectures before the class of June 12 or you will be lost.  The audio lectures we’ll use will be roughly the same length as the two classes we’ll miss. Pretend they are a class lectures and listen to them as if you had gone to class.  This is convenient and simple and if you don’t listen to them, you won’t understand any of the lectures after those classes and you’ll be lost on the exam. I’ll know you didn’t listen to the lectures and then we’ll both be sad (also I can track to see who listens to the lectures).



Day 1: May 22 Introduction and Decision Making

·         Sestanovich, Prologue, Chapters 1-2



Day 2: May 24 Decision Making and US Foreign Policy before WW II



Day 3: May 31 Early Cold War

·         Map Quiz

·         Sestanovich, Chapters 4-5

·         Rothkopf, Chapter 5

·         Pre-WW II Foreign Policy PPT

·         Early Cold War PPT

·         Audio Lecture Early Cold War 1, 2, and 3

·         Audio Lecture Early Cold War 4 and 5

·         Audio Lecture Early Cold War 6



Day 4: June 5 A Strategy of Intervention (No Class; use audio lectures)

·         Paper Topics Due (Email them to me)

·         Sestanovich, Chapter 6-8 (145-209)

·         Rothkopf, Chapter 6 (108-137)

·         Cold War Strategies Intervention, Engagement, Confrontation (use this presentation for the next three classes)

·         Audio Lecture Intervention

·         Audio Lecture Post-Vietnam Changes



Day 5: June 7 The Strategy of Détente (No class; use audio lectures)

·         Sestanovich, Chapter 8 (209-218)

·         Bacevich, Chapters 1-4

·         Audio Lecture Nixon and Detente



Day 6: June 12 Strategy of Confrontation

·         Rothkopf, Chapter 8

·         Bacevich, Chapter 5



Day 7: June 14 The End of the Cold War

·         Sestanovich, Chapter 9

·         Bacevich, Chapters 6 and 7 (for exam two)

·         End of the Cold War



Day 8: June 19 Bush 41 and a “New World Order?”

·         Exam 1

·         Rothkopf, Chapter 9 (for exam 2)

·         Bush 41 PPT





Day  9: June 21 Bush, Clinton and the Search for a New Foreign Policy

·         Sestanovich, Chapter 10

·         Rothkopf, Chapter 10

·         Clinton PPT




Day 10: June 26 The Dilemma of China

·         Christensen, Chapters 1, 2, and 3

·         China PPT



Day 11: June 28 Bush 43 and Post-9/11 World

·         Last Day for Turning in Rough Drafts of the Paper (optional)

·         Christensen, Chapters 4 and 8

·         Bacevich, Chapters 11, 12 and 13

·         Bush 43 PPT



Day 12: July 3 Iraq and Afghanistan and Beyond

·         Bacevich, Chapter 14

·         Kitfield, Chapters 8-12

·         Iraq War PPT



Day 13: July 5 Obama Foreign Policy

·         Paper Due

·         No Readings

·         Obama PPT



Day 14: July 10 Trump Foreign Policy: The End of World Order? The Return of Russia?

·         Kitfield, Chapters 13-Epilogue

·         Trump PPT



Day 15: July 12 Exam 2




Where can you find information on international affairs?

This is the questions students always ask me: “Where do I find good information on international affairs. I’m looking for something unbiased and something that doesn’t always look at the world through American eyes (as in how do these developments affect the US).


Here’s the short answer: For day by day coverage of events in the world:

  1. BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/.   On a day-by-day basis, no other news organization covers the world as well.  It has separate pages for most regions, links to past stories, links to data bases, all kinds of information that will get you up to speed on anything.
  2. World News Network: http://wn.com/. This is a site which covers day-by-day events by creating links to major news papers around the world.  So if something is happening in Pakistan, for example, there will be several links to stories about the event from web-based sources in S. Asia, E. Asia, Europe, N. America…  It also has links to regional windows with coverage that is more focused.  It even has links to issue-specific compilations of links on various issues.  For example, the science page has sections for stories on AIDS, Biotech, cloning…
  3. For terrorism and counterterrorism check out The Long War Journal: http://www.longwarjournal.org.  It is a project of the Foundation for defense of Democracies, a non-partisan project, that keeps track day by day of events related to terrorism around the world.


On a weekly basis:

The Economist: www.economist.com.  This is a Britain-based weekly which covers world politics and world business.  There really is nothing else like it in the comprehensive nature of its coverage.  You can also buy it on the newsstand, but the web is free.  It covers world politics very well.


Long Term Views of Crisis and Conflict:

International Crisis Group: www.crisisweb.org.  This is the International Crisis Group, a non-profit organization that studies, analyzes, and makes recommendations about how to resolve various crises in the world.  There is nothing better for the in-depth examination of current world events and the dilemmas of problem solving and peace making.  It has reports (30-50 pages), briefings (10-30), and a weekly briefing (Crisis Watch), which you can get on the web site or sign up for e-mail delivery.



VCU Policies

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