US Foreign Policy - PO958

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Brussels Spring
View Timetable
7 20 (10) DR B Savic







• Introduction: basics of Foreign Policy Analysis through theory (realist, liberal, constructivist, critical approaches) and specific models (rational choice, organizational, bureaucratic, psychological-behavioral)
• Narratives of American exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny, frontier spirit, post-nationalism, and declinism (and implications for FP "isolationism", “adventurism”, and “interventionism”)
• Governmental structures and actors in US foreign policy
• Domestic politics and transnational pressures shaping US foreign policy
• Abandoning isolationism (decisions to intervene in the world wars)
• Cold War (focus on social, material, and ideational origins)
• Vietnam War: foreign embroilment and shattering effects on domestic US politics
• US Foreign Policy in Central America (Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, Salvador, Grenada, etc.)
• Global War on Terror: genealogy, transformations and effects on US foreign policy commitments and practices
• Second Gulf War (Iraq 2003-2011)
• War in Afghanistan 2001-
• Contemporary challenges: pivot to Asia, Russia's resurgence, nuclear diplomacy, terrorism, and revolution in military affairs


This module appears in:

Contact hours

The module is built around 12 lectures and 12 one-hour seminars


Spring Term

Method of assessment

There are two components to a student's final mark in this module.
First, seminars will be used to facilitate "small group" discussions (of up to four students) and, drawing on them, regular and reasoned peer assessment within each “small group”. Every student will keep a confidential peer assessment journal, whereby she/he will quantitatively evaluate her/his peers’ in-class performance in and contribution to weekly and topic-specific small-group discussions. Each weekly mark in the journal will be accompanied by a brief explanation and reasoning behind it. In the final week of class (week 12), each student will independently and confidentially calculate her/his own average mark for each of her/his small-group peers and thereupon submit her/his weekly-updated journal to the module convener for review and final-marking purposes. The convener will supervise the peer assessment process overall and within each small group, including briefing students on the marking system, and will make the final decision on individual peer-awarded grades. Students will be explicitly dis-incentivized from coordinating with one another during the weekly peer assessment process in order to avoid grade inflation across the student cohort. This will be achieved by including the convener’s regular supervision of small-group discussions and algebraic mechanisms aimed at correcting those grades that the convener deems coordinated. All students will be fully informed of these discincentives to coordination. This component will count as 20% of a student’s final mark.

Second, students are expected to write a research essay of approximately 5,000 words addressing a foreign policy topic, trend or a question discussed in lectures, seminars and/or the assigned readings. Essays are expected to demonstrate one’s ability to think conceptually and use theory and specific analytical models in argumentation. This component will count 80% toward a student’s final mark.

Indicative reading

Campbell, David (1998) Writing Security. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press
Smith, Steve; Hadfield, Amelia and Dunne, Tim (2012) Foreign Policy: Theories, Actors, Cases. 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Stephanson, Anders (1995) Manifest Destiny: American Expansion and the Empire of Right. Hill and Wang
Goldstein, Gordon M. (2008) Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam. New York: Henry Holt
Darnton, Christopher (2014) Rivalry and Alliance Politics in Cold War Latin America. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press
Eichenwald, Kurt (2012) 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars. New York: Simon Schuster
Chandrasekaran, Rajiv (2012) Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan. London: Bloomsbury Publishing
Ahmad, Muhammad Idrees (2014) The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
Dueck, Colin (2015) The Obama Doctrine: American Grand Strategy Today. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Inbar, Efraim and Rynhold, Jonathan (2016) US Foreign Policy and Global Standing in the 21st Century: Realities and Perceptions. New York: Routledge

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

8.1 understand, independently research and critically evaluate contemporary debates on the formulation and practice of foreign policy of the United States in broader international, theoretical (such as Political Realism or Two-Level Games), spatial (geopolitical) and historical contexts

8.2: understand and critique leading policy and normative ("ideological") frameworks used to describe and interpret the politics and practice of US foreign policy (e.g. neoconservatism, liberal internationalism, non-interventionism, isolationism, etc.)
8.3: understand and critique various historical and popular discourses of “Self” that have informed the politics and practice of US foreign policy (e.g. American exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny, frontier spirit, post-nationalism, declinism, etc.)
8.4: analyse the politics of American foreign policy in a manner informed of the formal decision-making apparatus and various governmental and non-governmental actors and structures
8.5: assess and understand the role of international institutions and regimes (e.g. the UN, NATO, IMF, World Bank, nonproliferation regime, WTO, bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements, etc.) in constraining and enabling the politics, articulation and pursuit of US foreign policy goals and strategies
8.6: identify the practical and ethical problems and political and practical limits of US foreign policy goals, strategies and instruments (e.g. support for democracy abroad, maintaining bilateral and multilateral alliances, unilateral intervention, humanitarian intervention, nation and state building abroad, or the use of ISTAR, drones and precision bombing in the War on Terror, etc.)

9.1: work with theoretical knowledge and recognize theory as integral to the realities of diverse social spaces
9.2: reflect upon the ethics of the scholarly work done in their broader discipline in general as well as in their own work
9.3: analyse complex, incomplete or contradictory areas of knowledge and make carefully constructed arguments
9.4: command a level of conceptual understanding that will allow them to critically evaluate research, policies, and practices
9.5: reflect upon and critique their work
9.6: use the internet, bibliographic search engines, online resources, and effectively conduct research
9.7: engage in academic and professional debates and conversations with others
9.8: show and grow independent learning ability required for further study or professional work

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