module specification

GI5060 - American Foreign Policy (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title American Foreign Policy
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Social Sciences
Total study hours 150
 
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   1,000 word briefing paper
Coursework 50%   2,000 word essay
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Monday Morning

Module summary

This module is designed to acquaint students with the constitutional, institutional, and political frameworks within which contemporary foreign policies of the United States of America are formulated and executed. It allows students to understand the American foreign policy process by studying the USA’s role in several international issue areas. The module explores the role that global issues play in contemporary American foreign policy, in so doing illustrating the complexities and difficulties faced by US decision makers as they formulate and implement foreign policy.

The module begins with a survey of the American foreign policy process. Topics examined include: international political forces; the Presidency and Congress; democracy, bureaucracy and national security; interest groups; public opinion; and the media. Subsequent sections of the module examine: the role of power and force in today’s world; the challenges to American power from economic globalisation; human rights and the role of moral principles in American foreign policy; the debate surrounding multilateral and unilateral foreign policies; and the future of American foreign policy in the 21st century.

Module aims

The broad aim of this module is to develop a grounding in the fundamentals of US foreign policy making in the context of contemporary international relations and in particular to:
  • Analyse policy making institutions and historical precedents underlying US foreign policy, and to grasp the way those precedents affect America’s approach to global events since the end of the Cold War and the attacks of 9/11.
  • Assess the processes and limitations of US foreign policy making, the contemporary challenges facing the world and the American role in dealing with them, and the expectations of US influence in the world in coming years.
  • Place American foreign policy within the larger theoretical frameworks and approaches to international relations.

 

Syllabus

The syllabus is divided into two parts:

  • PART I: Origins, Institutions and Actors. This includes: Themes in American Foreign Policy; The Cold War and its Aftermath; The Institutions of US Foreign Policy: the Constitution and the three branches of the US national government; The Policy Process I: Executive Branch Agencies; The Policy Process II:  Interest Groups, the Media and Public Opinion.
     
  • PART II: New and Recurring Global Challenges for US Foreign Policy. This includes: US Security and Power in the Post Cold War World and post 9/11 era: The Nature of Power and Threat Perceptions; Unilateralism and Multilateralism in US National Security Policy; Trade, Investment and Globalisation; Ethics and Human Rights; American Foreign Policy in the 21st Century.

Learning and teaching

Teaching consists of a weekly two hour lecture followed by a one hour tutorial. Lectures will involve a combination of taught lectures, videos and the use of first hand documents and websites. During the module seminars will combine a variety of methods including discussion based on pre-set questions and role plays. Blended Learning will be a key component of the module. Lecture notes and first hand documents for use in class will be posted on line, as will web links for academic and governmental websites, as well as video links.  Some recorded material by the module tutor may also be made available on line.

Materials for use in class will be posted at least one week in advance on line to allow students to prepare and reflect on the subject. Questions for seminar discussion will be available from the beginning of the module via the Module Booklet available on the VLE, which will include a list of resources students can use to answer the questions and study the subject in greater depth.

A formative piece of work in the form of a group role play on a contemporary issue facing American foreign policy makers will take place mid-module to enable students to reflect on their understanding of the subject matter to date in order to put in place learning strategies for the remainder of the module. The role play will be peer-reviewed in class. The role play will enable students to think and act as practitioners.

There will be two summative components.

The first will be a short briefing paper dealing with a specific issue facing US foreign policy makers. Students will be expected to consider solutions to the issue they choose, presenting the arguments for and against, and recommending a course of action. This will enhance employability by encouraging students to use theory and empirical evidence to offer solutions to specific problems.

The second component is a summative essay which will provide students with the opportunity to submit a major piece of work of their choosing on a key element of the module. This will enable students to develop writing and research skills whilst reflecting on what they have learnt.

An activity week will also be included in the syllabus to expand on subject-specific knowledge and skills.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of this module students will be better equipped to:
  • Understand the aims and processes of American foreign policy making.
  • Understand the nature and limitations of US international influence.
  • Understand the relationship between US foreign policy and international relations more generally
  • Evaluate news reports about US foreign policy and official US government statements related to foreign policy and international relations (including both primary and secondary sources).
  • Communicate effectively in speech and writing (for example, writing an essay using commonly accepted standards of definition, analysis, grammatical prose, and documentation).
  • Use research skills, including the ability to synthesise and analyse arguments and exercise critical judgement.
  • Work independently, demonstrating initiative, self-organisation and time-management, as well as co-operating with other students to achieve common goals.

Assessment strategy

A formative piece of work in the form of a group role play on a contemporary issue facing American foreign policy makers, which will be peer reviewed in class, will take place mid-module to enable students to reflect on their understanding of the subject matter to date in order to put in place learning strategies for the remainder of the module. This will encourage the development of a variety of employability skills including: research involving information retrieval from a variety of resources; analysing and advocating solutions to problems; developing a reasoned argument; exercising critical judgement; and collaborating with others towards a common goal. In addition, the group role play will invite students to think and act as a practitioner.

The first summative piece is a short briefing paper dealing with a specific issue facing US foreign policy makers. Students will be expected to consider solutions to the issue they choose, presenting the arguments for and against, and recommending a course of action. This will enhance employability by encouraging students to use theory and empirical evidence to offer solutions to specific problems.

The second summative component is an essay which will provide students with the opportunity to submit a major piece of work of their choosing on a key element of the module. This will enable students to develop further many of the employability skills introduced during the formative assessment, in addition to writing, reflecting on what they have learnt and making use of constructive feedback.

Bibliography

Cox, M., and Stokes, D., eds., (2012) US Foreign Policy, 2nd ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dueck, C. (2015), The Obama Doctrine: American Grand Strategy Today, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Haass, R. (2017) A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order, New York: Penguin Press.
Jentleson, B. (2014), American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century,
5th ed., New York: Norton.
Mearsheimer, J. & Walt, S., (2016) ‘The Case for Offshore Balancing: A Superior USA Grand Strategy’, Foreign Affairs, July/August.
Moran, A. (2015), ‘The United States: Finding a Role in the Post- Cold War and Post-9/11 World’, in Malik, S. et al, International Security Studies, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Moran, A. (2017) ‘Barack Obama and the Return of “Declinism”: Rebalancing American Foreign
Policy in an Era of Multipolarity,’ in Ashbee, E. and Dumbrell, J., The Obama Presidency and the
Politics of Change, London: Palgrave.
National Intelligence Council, (2017) Global Trends: Paradox of Progress, at www.dni.gov/files/images/globalTrends/documents/GT-Full-Report.pdf
The USA’s National Security Strategy 2015 available at www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/2015_national_security_strategy.pdf.
Nye, Joseph, (2015), Is the American Century Over?, Cambridge: Polity.

On-line resources include key American foreign policy journals such as: Foreign Policy at www. foreignpolicy.com; Foreign Affairs at www.foreignaffairs.org; and The Washington Quarterly at www. twq.elliott.gwu.edu. There are also media sites such as The International Herald Tribune at www.iht.com, The Washington Post at www.washingtonpost.com and The New York Times at www.nytimes.com. Many now have apps for smart phones/tablets, some of which are free. A growing number of e-books are also available.

Other indicative websites include:
The White House at www.whitehouse.gov.
The National Security Council at www.whitehouse.gov/nsc.
The U.S. Department of Defense at www.defense.gov.
The US Department of State at www.state.gov .
The Central Intelligence Agency at www.cia.gov.
The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations at www.foreign.senate.gov.
The United States House of Representatives Committee on International Relations at www.house.gov/international_relations.