SOCS 611
American Foreign Policy at the Crossroads: The Challenge of the Post-9/11 Era

Douglas Foyle      

Course Description

As the United States faces an ever-widening array of international challenges in the post-9/11 world, the challenge for the nation is to construct an effective foreign policy to support American interests while dealing with the threat of terrorism and managing the situation in Iraq. To evaluate a framework for the future, the course begins with an exploration of the traditions and processes of American foreign policy. We consider the successes and failures of American foreign policy in the post-World War II period ending with a consideration of the experience in Vietnam. We then focus our attention on the foreign policy process itself and the major actors shaping its formulation. The course concludes with a discussion of the major strategic choices available to policy makers.

Students are strongly encouraged to stay current with foreign policy developments through reading one of the major newspapers (e.g., New York Times or Washington Post) in either the paper or on-line version.

Course Grading

Grades will be based on three short papers (20% each), an essay final (25%), and participation (15%).

Class periods will be devoted to a mixture of lecture and discussion. Students must come to class prepared to discuss the day's assigned reading.

Short Papers

Short Papers: The short papers should be 3-4 pages in length. Students are required to write one paper in each of the three course sections. The paper topic can address any one of the daily discussion questions listed in the class schedule below.

Papers are due in the class immediately following the class in which the material was discussed (e.g., a paper answering a September 20 discussion question is due on September 27).

Papers should be typed, double-spaced, single-sided, 12 point font, 1 inch margins, and stabled together. All pages should be numbered.

References to material assigned for the course can be of the form: (Author Name, page number). Any references to material not assigned for the course should conform to the style outlined in: Kate L. Turabian, A Manual For Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 6th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).

Examples of citation formatting are given through the appropriate link on my homepage.

Take-Home Essay Final: A take-home essay final will be due on December 20. The page limit is 6-8 pages. The question is:

Given what you have learned in this course, do you believe the United States’ national interest is served by the adoption of a clear grand strategy? Why or why not?

In formulating your essay, you might want to consider the historical experience of the United States, the processes by which the policy is formulated, and the options that are available.


Participation will be evaluated based upon the student's contribution to discussion, responsiveness to other students, and quality of insight.


The following books are required reading:

John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment, rev. ed., 2005

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Second Chance, 2007

Robert Gordon Kaufman, In Defense of the Bush Doctrine, 2007

All of the books are on reserve at Olin Library. A number of other readings are available directly from the course Blackboard as indicated on the syllabus.

Course Schedule
I. Approaches to the Study of American Foreign Policy and Its Historical Context
September 20

Course Introduction and American Foreign Policy to 1946

Charles A. Kupchan, and Peter L. Trubowitz. "Grand Strategy for a Divided America." Foreign Affairs 86.4 (July-August 2007): 71. (Blackboard)

Walter Russell Mead, “The American Foreign Policy Legacy,” Foreign Affairs 81 (January/February 2002): pp. 163-76. (Blackboard)

Kupchan and Trubowitz contend that the U.S. is facing a problem of “political solvency” in its foreign policy. Do you agree with their assessment? Why or why not?

Who, if anyone/anything, is/are Kupchan and Trubowitz criticizing in their article? Why do you reach this conclusion?

Do Kupchan/Trubowitz and Mead fundamentally agree or disagree on the main forces driving American foreign policy? Explain.

How would you characterize the readings for today (optimistic, pessimistic, contingent) in their views regarding American foreign policy’s future? Why do you reach this conclusion?

September 27

American Foreign Policy 1947-1953 -- The Origins of Containment

John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment, Chs 1-4.

George Kennan, “Sources of Soviet Foreign Policy” Foreign Affairs 65 (Spring 1987): 852-68. (Blackboard).

Recommended: If you are interested to supplement Gaddis, NSC 68 (Blackboard).

In the Kennen article, how does he believe the United States should respond to the Soviet Union? Is it a military, economic, and/or cultural response he recommends? What evidence in Kennan’s article do you see to support your view?

What were the main factors driving American foreign policy conduct during this period?

Given your reading of the material from today and with the readings from September 20 in mind, is American foreign policy “effective” in responding to the international situation?
October 4

AFP 1953-1968 – The Nuclear Question and Vietnam

Gaddis, Strategies, Chs. 5-8.

John Foster Dulles, “Massive Retaliation” (Blackboard)

Americanizing the Vietnam War by Richard Neustadt– this case will be the basis for discussion. (Blackboard)

Does the United States effectively “answer” the nuclear question posed by this period? Why or why not?

Given the readings for today (and not based on the eventual results of the policy) is Vietnam a logical extension of containment or a misapplication of it?

What are the main components driving American foreign policy during this period?

October 11

AFP 1969-Present – U.S./Soviet Relations, the End of the Cold War, and Aftermath

Gaddis, Strategies of Containment, Chs. 9-12.

Richard Ned Lebow and Janice Stein, We All Lost the Cold War, selections (Blackboard)

Considering the material on the Cold War, do you feel George Kennan’s Mr. X article helped or hindered American interests? Why or why not?

Is the end of the Cold War a testament to the success of American foreign policy? Why or why not?

What are the main components driving American foreign policy conduct during this period?

II. Institutions and Actors
October 18

The Presidency and Congress

Larry George, “Democratic Theory and the Conduct of American Foreign Policy” (Blackboard).

Harold Koh, “Why the President Almost Always Wins in Foreign Affairs” (Blackboard)

James M. Lindsay, “From Deference to Activism and Back Again: Congress and the Politics of American Foreign Policy” (Blackboard)

Donald R. Wolfensberger, “The Return of the Imperial Presidency,” Wilson Quarterly Spring 2002 (Blackboard)

Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann, “When Congress Checks Out,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 2006 (Blackboard)

Derek Chollet and James M. Goldgeier, “The Truman Standard,” The American Interest, Summer 2006 (Blackboard)

Final date for submission of paper 1

Do you feel centralized executive foreign policymaking is an appropriate model for American foreign policy? Why or why not?

Should Congress have a strong role in the formulation of American foreign policy? Why or why not?

What determines the balance of power between the president and Congress?
October 25

25 Public Opinion, the Media, and Elections

Shoon Kathleen Murray and Christopher Spinosa, “The Post-9/11 Shift in Public Opinion: How Long Will it Last” (Blackboard)

Tenpas, “Words vs. Deeds: President George W. Bush and Polling” Brookings Review, Summer 2003 (Blackboard)

Daniel C. Hallin, “The Media, the War in Vietnam, and Political Support: A Critique of the Thesis of an Oppositional Media,” Journal of Politics, Vol. 46, No. 1. (Feb., 1984), pp. 2-24 (Blackboard)

William Quandt “The Electoral Cycle and the Conduct of American Foreign Policy, Political Science Quarterly Vol. 101, no. 5, pp. 825-37. (Blackboard)

With all things considered, do these domestic factors (public opinion, media, elections) fundamentally help or hinder effective foreign policy formulation?

Do public opinion, the media, and elections affect foreign policy formulation? How?

November 1

The Foreign Policy Apparatus (NSC, State, Intelligence)

Graham Allison, “Conceptual Models and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” American Political Science Review Vol. 63 (September 1969): 689-718. (Blackboard) (focus on the main concepts of the organizational and bureaucratic politics models).

Ivo H. Daalder and I.M. Destler, “How National Security Advisers See Their Role” (Blackboard)

Wright and Kessler, “At State, Rice Takes Control of Diplomacy” Washington Post July 30, 2005. (Blackboard)

“How Not to Catch a Terrorist” Atlantic Monthly, December 2004 (Blackboard)

James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans, pp. 73-75 (Blackboard)

Charles Parker and Eric Stern “Bolt from Blue or Avoidable Failure?” Foreign Policy Analysis November 2005 (Blackboard)

How able is the president to overcome bureaucratic obstacles? How much of an impediment, if any at all, is it to presidential power?

How well does the foreign policy system discussed to day work? Why do you reach this conclusion?

With the readings from the last three weeks in mind, is the president fundamentally constrained by the foreign policy system or does the president have a relatively broad hand in the formulation of foreign policy? Why?

November 8

The Military and the Use of Force

Ole Holsti, “A Widening Gap Between the U.S. Military and Civilian Society? Some Evidence, 1976-96” International Security 23 (Winter 1998/99): 5-42 (Blackboard)

Peter D. Feaver and Richard H. Kohn, “The Gap: Soldiers, Civilians, and Their Mutual Misunderstanding” The National Interest 61 (Fall 2000). (Blackboard)

Why is there a “gap” between the military and civilian authorities? Is this a potential problem? Why or why not?

How could the gap between military and civilian officials be rectified?

III. Alternative Futures for American Foreign Policy
November 15

The Bush Doctrine

Kaufman, In Defense of the Bush Doctrine, all.

Final submission date for paper #2

Does the Bush Doctrine allow for political solvency (see Kupchan/Trubowitz from September 20)? Why or why not?

Do you believe the Bush Doctrine can provide the foundation for American foreign policy for the next 50 years (as containment did)? Why or why not?

November 29


Brzezinski, Second Chance, all

Charlie Rose Interviews Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger, and Brent Scowcroft, June 18, 2007 (Blackboard)

Charlie Rose Interviews, Henry Kissinger, March 23, 2007 (Blackboard)

Henry Kissinger, “Spreading Democracy: A Realist’s Assessment of the Freedom Agenda” (Blackboard)

Does realism allow for political solvency (see Kupchan/Trubowitz from September 20)? Why or why not?

What aspects of the Bush Doctrine do realists find most troubling? Why?

December 6


Michael Mandelbaum, The Case For Goliath: How America Acts as the World’s Government in the Twenty-First Century, selections (Blackboard)

Joseph Nye, The Paradox of American Power, selections (Blackboard)

Michael Lind, “Beyond American Hegemony,” National Interest, May/June 2007 (Blackboard)

Do these multilateral approaches allow for political solvency (see Kupchan/Trubowitz from September 20)? Why or why not?

What aspects of the Bush Doctrine do the multilateralists find most troubling? Why?

What aspects of realism do the multilateralists find most troubling? Why?
December 13

Strategic Critiques and Course Conclusion

Andrew Bacevich, The New American Militarism, selections (Blackboard)

Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance, selections (Blackboard)

Immanuel Wallerstein, “The Eagle Has Crash Landed,” Foreign Policy July/August 2002 (Blackboard)

Eugene Gholz, Daryl G. Press, Harvey Sapolsky, “Come Home America,” International Security 1997 (Blackboard) Skim for main points.

Pick one of these perspectives from today. Does the view provide political solvency? (see Kupchan/Trubowitz from September 20)? Why or why not?

Pick one of these perspectives. What is its critique of the Bush Doctrine, realism, and multilateral perspectives?

December 20

Final submission date for paper #3 – if you turn in your paper after the last class meets on December 13, please e-mail your paper to me at

Take-Home Essay Final Due on December 20 – e-mail your essay to me at