Module Aims and Learning Objectives

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America and the World





Politics and International Relations


University of Leicester




18 Feb 2010


Module Aims and Learning Objectives

The primary aim of this learning material is to give you grounding in the issues and ideas surrounding American foreign policy in the contemporary era. The historical context of America’s present world role would be explained, followed by a discussion of the process by which US foreign policy is made, and the dominant themes associated with US policy. These include America’s status as the ‘leading’ power in the international system, as well as the objectives it sets itself in that capacity based on a mixture of its perceived values and interests. Towards the end, there will be a more narrowly focus on recent events, discussing the significance of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and also the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. This learning material aims to help you develop the ability to think critically and constructively about the issues at play in the making of American foreign policy, and about the choices and constraints with which American policymakers contend.

On successfully completion, you should have a thorough grasp of the main theories and concepts in American foreign policy. You will also have developed a range of transferable skills, showing the ability to:

  • read widely in the relevant academic literature,

  • critically analyse primary and secondary source material;

  • discuss and write about many of the salient issues;

  • think critically, analytically and conceptually about these issues and to construct coherent and rigorous arguments;

  • communicate clearly and effectively in discussion forums;

  • function within the discussion forums;

  • study independently.

Module Texts

It is recommended that you read the following text which should provide you with a basic survey of contemporary issues.

  • Michael Cox and Doug Stokes, US Foreign Policy (Oxford University Press, 2008)

Those not already familiar with the workings of the foreign policy process in the United States may also find it useful to consult:

  • Charles W. Kegley and Eugene R. Wittkopf, American Foreign Policy: Pattern and Process, (Thomson/Wadsworth, 2008)

The following policy-relevant journals and magazines offer many articles on US foreign policy.

  • Foreign Affairs

  • Foreign Policy

  • The National Interest

  • The American Interest

  • The American Conservative

  • The Weekly Standard

  • The National Review

  • The Nation

  • The Economist

  • The New York Review of Books

  • The Atlantic

You should also consider the following academic journals, which provide more complex theoretical analysis. They are less easy to read, but you need some of this sort of theoretical depth to take your work to the highest level:

  • American Political Science Review

  • International Organization

  • International Relations

  • International Security

  • Political Science

  • Political Science Quarterly

  • International Affairs

In addition monitor the stories in AT LEAST ONE major American newspaper online every day to keep up with events and ongoing debates. This material covers many contemporary events in which the facts change regularly – staying up to date is crucial to ensure the continued accuracy of what you have learned. The most circulated serious newspapers in America are:

  • The New York Times -

  • The Washington Post -

US Government websites also provide large amounts of relevant material. These include:

  • White House: 

  • State Department: 

  • Dept of Defence 

  • The US Embassy 

You will also find useful work (reports, etc.) on foreign affairs on the websites of American think tanks, of which there are a great many. Each has its own political slant on issues – from right to left; ‘big government’ to libertarian; conservative to liberal – and so you can use them to gain access to a real spectrum of views. Examples of major think tanks are:

  • The Council on Foreign Relations

  • The Brookings Institution

  • The Heritage Foundation

  • The American Enterprise Institute

  • The New America Foundation

  • The New Century Foundation

  • The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

  • The RAND Corporation

  • The Cato Institute

Week 1: American Foreign Policy: Its History and Traditions

Summary of topic

  • The goal of this week's reading is to provide you with some historical context for later sessions. You should use this week to look through the recommended textbook and get a general feel for the topic.

Recommended reading

  • Michael Cox and Doug Stokes, US Foreign Policy (Oxford University Press, 2008), esp. chapters 1-5

  • Charles W. Kegley and Eugene R. Wittkopf, American Foreign Policy: Pattern and Process, (Thomson/Wadsworth, 2008)

  • Walter Russell Mead, ‘The American Foreign Policy Legacy’, Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2002

Pop quiz

  • What are the main issues in US foreign policy?

  • What themes does Mead identify running through American history?.

Week 2: The Making of Policy: Actors, Institutions and Systems

Summary of topic

  • The power to make US foreign policy is divided between a number of actors and institutions. Though in practice the power to make policy lies in the hands of the president more than any other agent, there is also a role for both houses of Congress to influence policy if they have the political will to assert themselves. Further, the executive branch is divided between a number of departments and agencies below the level of the president, all of which have historically competed for policy ‘turf’. Beyond the organs of the US government, there are several other agents and factors that can affect the making of policy, including public opinion, the media and lobby groups. The goal of this week's reading is to make students think about where the power lies in the making of US policy, and to reach some judgements about the relative influence of different factors.

Guiding questions

  • Who makes US foreign policy?

  • Is it possible for Congress to be the leading influence on foreign policy?

  • Is the idea of an ‘imperial presidency’ still relevant?

Recommended reading

  • The Constitution of the United States

  • Margaret G. Herman, and Charles F. Herman, ‘Who Makes Foreign Policy Decisions and How: An Empirical Inquiry’, International Studies Quarterly, 33/4, 1989, pp. 361-387

  • Graham Allison, ‘Conceptual Models and the Cuban Missile Crisis’, American Political Science Review, 63/3, 1969, pp. 689-713

  • Stephen Krasner, ‘Are Bureaucracies Important? (Or Allison Wonderland)’, Foreign Policy, 7, 1972, pp. 159-179

  • Lawrence Freedman, ‘Logic, Politics, and Foreign Policy Processes: A Critique of the Bureaucratic Model’, International Affairs, 52/3, 1976, pp. 434-449

  • Stephen Ambrose, ‘The Presidency and Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, 70/1, 1991, pp. 120-137

  • William C. Banks and Jeffrey D. Straussman, ‘A New Imperial Presidency? Insights from US Involvement in Bosnia’, Political Science Quarterly 114/2 1999, pp. 195-217

  • Paul E. Peterson, ‘The President’s Dominance in Foreign Policy Making’, Political Science Quarterly 109/1, 1994: 215-234

  • Bert A. Rockman, 'Reinventing What for Whom? President and Congress in the Making of Foreign Policy', Presidential Studies Quarterly, 30/1, 2000, pp. 133-154

  • James M. Lindsay, ‘Deference and Defiance: The Shifting Rhythms of Executive-Legislative Relations in Foreign Policy', Presidential Studies Quarterly, 333/3, 2003: 530-546

  • Bruce W. Jentleson, 'The 'Pretty Prudent Public: Post Post-Vietnam American Public Opinion and the Use of Military Force', International Studies Quarterly, 36/1: 1992, pp. 49-74

  • Bruce W. Jentleson and Rebecca L. Britton, ‘Still Pretty Prudent. Post-Cold War American Public Opinion on the Use of Military Force’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 42/4, August 1998: 395-417

  • Samuel P. Huntington, ‘American Ideals Versus American Institutions’, Political Science Quarterly, 97/1, Spring 1982

  • Y. Shain, 'Ethnic Diasporas and US Foreign Policy', Political Science Quarterly, 109/5, 1994-95, pp. 811-841

Pop quiz

  • What does the Constitution have to say about who controls foreign policy?

  • What is ‘the bureaucratic model’ of decision-making?

  • What government departments and agencies play a role in making foreign policy?

Week 3: How Powerful is America? Leadership and Empire in a Unipolar World

Summary of topic

  • Since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the period 1989-91, the United States has been by a huge distance the most powerful single state in the international system. This status as the ‘sole superpower’ has meant that world order has largely been understood by reference to perceived American dominance. For some, this has been a good thing, offering an opportunity for the United States to use its exceptional strength to reshape the world for the better. For others, America’s position as a ‘hyperpower’ has given rise to imbalance in the international system, an excess of unconstrained influence on the part of a single state. There has also been a good deal of debate concerning the best way to think about America’s world role: is it a global ‘hegemon’; is it an ‘empire’; is it a global ‘leader’? This seminar will encourage you to discuss just how powerful the United States was during the post-Cold War period and today. It will also invite you to consider the consequences of American power for the international system, and to consider what the best concepts are for understanding America’s global role.

Guiding questions

  • Is the United States an ‘imperial’ power?

  • Did the United States waste the ‘unipolar moment’ at the Cold War’s end?

  • What are the limits to America’s power?

Recommended reading

  • Charles Krauthammer, ‘The Unipolar Moment’, Foreign Affairs, (America and the World 1990/91)

  • Robert Kagan, 'Power and Weakness,' Policy Review, 13/2, June/July 2002
    William C. Wohlforth, ‘The Stability of a Unipolar World’, International Security 29:1 (summer 1999), pp. 5-41

  • Zakaria, Fareed, ‘The Arrogant Empire’, Newsweek, (March 24, 2003, US edition), p.18

  • Mann, Michael,“The first failed empire of the 21st century”, Review of International Studies, 30:4 (2004), p.631

  • Mallaby, Sebastian, “The Reluctant Imperialist”, Foreign Affairs, Mar/Apr 2002, 81:2, p2-7

  • Dimitri K. Simes, “America's Imperial Dilemma”, Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec 2003, 82:6, pp. 91-102

  • Cox, M. “The Empire’s Back in Town: Or America’s Imperial Temptation – Again”, Millennium, 32:1 (2003), pp. 1-29

  • Cox, M. “Empire by denial: the strange case of the United States”, International Affairs, Jan 2005, 81:1, p15-30

  • Cox, M., “Empire, Imperialism and the Bush doctrine”, Review of International Studies, 30:4, 2004,, p.585

  • Joseph S. Nye Jr, ‘The Decline of America’s Soft Power: Why Washington Should Worry,’ Foreign Affairs, May/June 2004

  • Ikenberry, G. John, ‘America's Imperial Ambition’, Foreign Affairs, Sep/Oct 2002, 81:5

  • Mandelbaum, Michael, ‘The Inadequacy of American Power’, Foreign Affairs, Sep/Oct2002, 81:5

  • Brooks, Stephen G. and Wohlforth, William C., ‘American Primacy in Perspective’ Foreign Affairs, Jul/Aug 2002

  • Nye, Joseph S., ‘The American National Interest and Global Public Goods’, International Affairs, 78:2, April 2000, pp. 233-244

Pop quiz

  • What does the phrase ‘unipolar world’ mean?

  • What are the areas in which the US is strong compared with other states?

  • Which scholars think that America is an ‘empire’ and which ones disagree?

Week 4: Trade, Aid and Profit: The Political Economy of American Foreign Policy

Summary of topic

  • One of the most important features of the America’s relationship with the world is economic interdependence. The United States depends heavily on access to natural resources and markets all over the globe to sustain the prosperity of its economic system, while the rest of the world in turn relies on the United States as a major component in the operation of the global economic system. The United States has been the leading nation in sustaining the architecture of the global capitalist system since World War II, and plays a major part in the operation of most of the world’s important economic institutions, such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and the Group of Eight (G8). For as long as there has been analysis of US foreign policy, there have been those who have suggested that economic forces are the chief driver behind American actions. This seminar will invite you to think about the role of the United States in shaping the global economy, and the role of economic considerations in determining the policy of the United States.

Guiding questions

  • Is economic gain the main driver of US foreign policy?

  • Is the United States in control of the global economic system?

  • What do you think America’s priorities are with regard to the global economy?

Recommended reading

  • Ian Jackson, ‘The Geopolitics of President George W. Bush’s foreign economic policy’, International Politics, 44:5, 2007

  • Narottam Gaan, ‘The United States, globalization and the international system: economic and political challenges’, International Studies, 43:3, 2006

  • Richard Higgott, ‘US foreign policy and the ‘securitization’ of economic globalization’, International Politics, 41:2, 2004

  • Daniel H. Levy and Stuart S. Brown, ‘The Overstretch Myth’, Foreign Affairs, Mar/Apr, 2005

  • Brad Setser and Nouriel Roubini, ‘How Scary is the Deficit?’, Foreign Affairs, Dec. 2005

  • C. Fred Bergstein, ‘Foreign Economic Policy for the next President’, Foreign Affairs, Mar/Apr, 2004

  • Peter G. Peterson, ‘Riding for a Fall’, Foreign Affairs, Sep/Oct, 2004

  • Robert Gilpin, ‘ Globalization, nation-states, transnational corporations, international organizations, and international governance: the dynamics of the new international economy’, Studia Diplomatica, LVII:1, 2004

  • Judith Goldstein, ‘Ideas, institutions and American trade policy’, International Organization, 42:1, winter, pp. 178-216

Pop quiz

  • Why does the international economy matter to the United States?

  • What are the international economic institutions is the United States a major player?

  • Is the US economy today in a strong position or a weak one?

Week 5: Conquest of Spirits: American Efforts to Promote Freedom and Democracy

Summary of topic

  • From its foundation, the United States has been viewed by its leaders as the embodiment of the Enlightenment values of liberty and representative government. A much more controversial question has been whether and how the US Government should seek to encourage the spread of those values to other parts of the world. In the 20th century, the promotion of universal ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ on a global level became an established part of the rhetoric of American foreign policy. Countless interventions in the affairs of other nations have been justified with reference to this objective. Such interventions in others’ affairs have varied in scale, and have been political, economic and military. They have sometimes occurred in the immediate vicinity of America’s own borders, and sometimes in regions far from the United States. In this session you will consider the importance of this element of American foreign policy: both as a component in America’s history, and its continuing role today. You will be invited to discuss the role of ‘democracy promotion’ in recent US foreign policy. You will also discuss whether the promotion of an idealised set of liberal values is a core part of American national identity or a misguided and hypocritical approach to foreign policy that it would do well to abandon.

Guiding questions

  • Is American leaders’ use of the rhetoric of liberty and democracy cynical?

  • How successful has the US been at furthering the spread of liberal democracy?

  • Should the United States give up on the idea of spreading democracy and mind its own business?

Recommended reading

  • George W. Bush, ‘Second Inaugural Address’, Jan 2005,

  • G. John Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter, Forging a World of Liberty Under Law, final report of the Princeton Project on National Security, 2006,

  • Adam Quinn, ‘‘The Deal’: The balance of power, military strength and liberal internationalism in the Bush National Security Strategy’, International Studies Perspectives, 9:1, Feb 200

  • Adam Quinn and Michael Cox, ‘For Better, For Worse: How America’s foreign policy became wedded to liberal universalism’, Global Society, 21:4, winter 2007

  • G. John Ikenberry, "Why Export Democracy?: The 'Hidden Grand Strategy' of American Foreign Policy'" The Wilson Quarterly, 23:2, Spring 1999

  • Thomas Carothers, ‘The backlash against democracy promotion’, Foreign Affairs, Mar/Apr 2006

  • Jonathan Monten, ‘The Roots of the Bush Doctrine: power, nationalism and democracy promotion in US strategy’, International Security, 4:29

  • John Lewis Gaddis, ‘A Grand Strategy of Transformation’, Foreign Policy, Nov/Dec 2002

  • Condoleezza Rice, ‘Rethinking the National Interest: American Realism for a new world’, Foreign Affairs, Jul/Aug 2008

Pop quiz

  • Why does the international economy matter to the United States?

  • What are the international economic institutions is the United States a major player?

  • Is the US economy today in a strong position or a weak one?

Week 6: Friends, Enemies, Rivals: US Relations with Europe, Russia and China

Summary of topic

  • All sovereign states are equal in theory, but in reality some are a good deal more equal than others. In managing its relations with the world, the United States needs to concern itself most with a handful of key relationships with the most powerful actors in the world. In this session, we will consider arguably the three most important ones: with ‘Europe’ (meaning especially the European Union), Russia and China. The strength of the transatlantic relationship was one of the key pillars of the international order during the Cold War, but in recent years questions have been raised concerning the future health of relations between America and Europe in the absence of a common threat. During the Cold War, Russia was the United States’ chief rival for power and influence in the world, before losing its superpower status with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the communist system more generally. As Russian has sought to redefine its international role in recent years, important questions remain as to whether it can form a reliable bond of alliance with the United States, or if the two will inevitably slip back into rivalry and enmity. Meanwhile, the rise of China has been one of the great national success stories of the last two decades. With China’s economic growth apparently equipping it to surpass the United States in the long term as the world’s richest and most powerful nation, one of the most important issues for the future of world order will be how both nations manage the process of China’s ‘rise’ relative to the US. This session will invite you to consider the likely course of these crucial great-power relationships over the coming years.

Guiding questions

  • Can the transatlantic relationship ever recover the closeness that defined it during the Cold War?

  • Are the United States and Russia heading for another Cold War?

  • Should the United States react to the rise of China as a threat or an opportunity?

Recommended reading


  • Robert Kagan, ‘Power and Weakness’, Policy Review, 113, Jun/July, 2002

  • Mike Smith, ‘Between Two Worlds? The European Union, the United States and world order’, International Politics, 41:1, pp. 96-117

  • John Peterson, ‘Is the Wolf at the Door This Time? Transatlantic relations after Iraq’, European Political Science, 5:1, 2006

  • James P. Rubin, ‘Building a New Atlantic Alliance: restoring America’s partnership with Europe’, Foreign Affairs, Jul/Aug, 2008


  • Council on Foreign Relations Task Force, ‘Russia’s Wrong Direction: What the United States Can and Should Do', March 2006

  • Dmitri K. Simes, ‘Losing Russia: The Costs of Renewed Confrontation’, Foreign Affairs November/December 2007

  • Dmitri Trenin, ‘Russia Redefines Itself and its Relations with the West’, Washington Quarterly, Spring 2007

  • Michael McFaul, ‘Liberal is as Liberal Does’, American Interest, Mar/Apr 2007


  • G. John Ikenberry, ‘The Rise of China and the Future of the West’, Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb2008

  • C. Fred Bergstein, ‘A Partnership of Equals’, Foreign Affairs, Jul/Aug 2008

  • Zbigniew Brzezinksi and John J. Mearsheimer,’Clash of the Titans’, Foreign Policy; Jan/Feb2005

  • Rosemary Foot, ‘Chinese strategies in a US-hegemonic global order: accommodating and hedging’, International Affairs, 82:1, p.77

  • David M. Lampton, ‘The Faces of Chinese Power’, Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2007

Pop quiz

  • Why did several Western European states fall out with the United States in 2002-03?

  • Why does Russia harbour resentment against the United States?

  • Does the United States have friendlier relations with China today than forty years ago?

Week 7: 9/11 and Its Consequences for American Policy

Summary of topic

  • The terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, had a profound impact on American leaders’ approach to national and international security. The threat of non-state actors, which had existed for a long time, rose enormously in its perceived importance: a small group of individuals, without the resources of a state to call upon, could apparently mount a terribly damaging attack upon a nation state. This also gave a new urgency, some felt, to longstanding concern about the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), capable of causing extreme levels of harm in the wrong hands. These fears led to the declaration of a ‘war’ on terrorism, and a reconfiguration of America’s relationships with other powers based on their perceived willingness to cooperate with this agenda. Decisions made by the United States based upon the logic of this ‘war’ – including military interventions in foreign countries, the introduction of detention without trial and ‘coercive’ interrogation methods, and some curtailing of civil liberties at home – have had a major impact on how the United States is perceived internationally, and how it perceives itself. In this session, you will be invited to reflect upon the nature of 9/11’s effects on America and its relationship with the world, and to ask whether it should be regarding as a significant landmark in the world history.

Guiding questions

  • Did 9/11 make a profound difference to America’s relationship with the world?

  • What were the consequences of Bush’s decision to declare a global ‘war on terror’?

  • Is the terrorist threat to Americans exaggerated?

Recommended reading

  • Melvyn P. Leffler, ‘9/11 and American Foreign Policy’, Diplomatic History, 29:3, 2005

  • Melvyn P,. Leffler, ‘9/11 and the Past and Future of American Foreign Policy’, International Affairs , 79:5, 2003

  • Michael J. Boyle, ‘The War on Terror in American Grand Strategy’, International Affairs, 84:2, 2003

  • John Mueller: ‘Is There Still a Terrorist Threat? The myth of the omnipresent enemy’, Foreign Affairs, Sep /Oct 2006

  • Kenneth Roth, ‘After Guantanamo’ Foreign Affairs May/June 2008

  • Philip K. Gordon, ‘Can the War on Terror be Won?’, Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec, 2007

  • Peter R. Neumann, ‘Negotiating With Terrorists’ Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb, 2007

  • Daniel Byman, ‘US Counter-terrorism options: a taxonomy’, Survival, 49:3, 2007

  • Richard Jackson . ‘Language, policy and the construction of a torture culture in the war on terrorism’, Review of International Studies 2007 (7), v.33 (no. 3), p353

  • Richard Jackson, ‘Constructing Enemies: ‘Islamic terrorism’ in political and academic discourse’, Government and Opposition 2007 (Summer), v.42 (no. 3), p394

  • Peter D. Zimmerman and Jeffrey G. Lewis, ‘The Bomb in the Backyard’, Foreign Policy, Nov/Dec 2007

  • Thomas J. Badey, ‘US Counter-terrorism: Change in approach, continuity in policy’, Contemporary Security Policy, 27:2, 2006

  • Neta C. Crawford, ‘ The road to global empire: the logic of U.S. foreign policy after 9/ 11’, Orbis, 48:4, 2004

Pop quiz

  • What happened on September 11 th, 2001?

  • Why did President Bush declare the fight against terrorism to be a war?

  • Have there been any more terrorist attacks since 9/11?

Week 8: War in Iraq: The View from Washington

Summary of topic

  • The decision to invade Iraq in March of 2003 was controversial at the time and has become no less so in the years since. The justification for the initial invasion has been one source of controversy, with disagreement over whether the Bush administration was motivated by (among the main suggestions) suspected Iraqi WMD programmes, an ideological desire to spread ‘democracy’, or the scale of Iraqi oil reserves. There have also been numerous disputes since 2003 regarding the appropriate form and duration of the occupation, the number and tactics of American troops, and the timing and circumstances under which American forces might eventually leave Iraq. The consequences America’s time in Iraq – for the United States, the Middle East and for Iraqis themselves – appear to be immense, and continue to unfold. This session will allow students to discuss this important event from a variety of angles: the causes of the war, the good and bad decisions made during its execution and its consequences for the world.

Guiding questions

  • Why did the Bush administration decide to invade Iraq?

  • Was the Iraq war an inherently bad idea, or just poorly executed?

  • Might the United States still ‘win’ in Iraq, and if so will it have been worth the cost?

Recommended reading

  • Report of the Iraq Study Group (‘Baker-Hamilton’)

  • Toby Dodge, ‘The causes of US failure in Iraq ' , Survival , 49:1, Spring 2007

  • Larry Diamond, ‘What Went Wrong in Iraq’, Foreign Affairs, Sep/Oct, 2004

  • Melvyn R. Laird, ‘Learning the Lessons of Vietnam’, Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec 2005

  • Stephen Biddle, ‘Seeing Iraq, Thinking Saigon’, Foreign Affairs, Mar/Apr 2006

  • Richard Betts, ‘What the Intelligence Community Got Right About Iraq’, Intelligence and National Security, 23:3, 2008

  • Martin Smith, ‘US bureaucratic politics and the decision to invade Iraq’, Contemporary Politics, 14:1, 2008

  • James Fearon ‘Iraq’s Civil War’, Foreign Affairs, Mar/Apr, 2007

  • Steven Simon, ‘The Price of the Surge’, Foreign Affairs May/June 2008

  • Stephen Biddle, Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack, ‘How to Leave a Stable Iraq’, Foreign Affairs, Sep/Oct, 2008

  • Colin H. Kahl, ‘In the crossfire or the crosshairs? Norms, civilian casualties and US conduct in Iraq’, International Security, 32:1, 2007

  • Christopher Hemmer, ‘The lessons of September 11 th, Iraq and the American pendulum’, Political Science Quarterly, 122:2, 2007

  • Shirley V. Scott and Olivia Ambler, ‘Does Legality Really Matter? Accounting for the decline in US foreign policy legitimacy following the 2003 invasion of Iraq’, European Journal of International Relations, 13:1, 2007

Pop quiz

  • When did the United States invade Iraq and how long did it occupy it for?

  • Who has been fighting with whom in Iraq during the war there?

  • What is the current US government policy in Iraq?

Week 9: Conclusion: America’s World Role: Past, Present and Future

Summary of topic

  • This final session will allow you to build on the topics discussed throughout this teaching material to reach considered opinions regarding America’s world role. Based on what you have learned over the preceding weeks, you should offer you own analyses of America’s world role in the past and present, and to offer educated speculation on the likely course of future events.

Guiding questions

  • Do you think that the United States is, and will continue to be, the world’s leading power?

  • What are the most important challenges facing America today?

  • Does the United States need to change the way it deals with the world?

Recommended reading

  • Michael Cox 'Still the American Empire', Political Studies Review, 2007, vol. 5

  • Christopher Layne, 'Impotent Power?', National Interest, Sept/Oct 2006

  • Joel Kotkin, ‘Down for the Count, Again’, American Interest, Nov/Dec, 2006

  • Adam Quinn, “‘The Great Illusion: Chimeras of Realism and Isolationism in Post-Iraq US Foreign Policy”, Politics & Policy, 36:3, Sep 2007

  • Fareed Zakaria, ‘The Future of American Power’, Foreign Affairs, May/Jun 2008

Pop quiz

  • What are the main schools of thought on the future of US foreign policy?

  • Why do some scholars think America is in decline?


E-tivity 1: Access and Socialisation


  • Introduce yourself to your peers and familiarise yourself with the use of our forums.


  • Tell us about something you have done on the Internet (maximum 10 lines) that you couldn’t have done in any other way, or could not have done within the same timescale or the same budget. One example might be locating and buying a particularly obscure book. 'Sign' your message with the name you'd like to be called during this course (e.g. Billy or Catherine), and post it to the E-tivity 1 forum.


  • Please comment on at least one other person’s description.


  • You will be able to post messages to a forum and post replies thereby engaging with your fellow students.


  • We recommend you spend a minimum of 30 minutes on this e-tivity, although you are encouraged to continue to converse with your peers.

E-tivity 2: Information Retrieval at the Library


  • To access e-resources and use a bibliographic database to find an article from an academic journal.


  • Choose an appropriate information resource or database to find an article from any academic journal on:

    • ‘Traditions in American Foreign Policy’

Go to the E-tivity 2 forum and post the full bibliographic details by … (state the date and time). Remember; be precise and accurate, as your colleagues will need to find the article.


  • After this, return to the forum and please provide a brief analysis (400 words maximum) of the major argument in an article someone else has posted, before partaking in any subsequent discussion in the relevant forum.


  • You will be able to search an information resource and identify and access an article, and post the required bibliographic information, as well as beginning to analyse its content and share your thoughts.

E-tivity 3: Text Critique I


  • To analyse this well-known article and identify its major attributes:

    • Robert Kagan, 'Power and Weakness', Policy Review, 13/2, June/July 2002.


  • Please read the above article and then provide a brief analysis of it (maximum 400 words) to the E-tivity 3 forum by… (Provide a deadline).


  • In the E-tivity 3 forum please post comments on your peer’s assessments by way of sharing your own articulation on the article, between… (Provide a deadline).


  • You will be able to analyse the content of a scholarly article and share your thoughts on it.


  • We recommend you spend as much time as is necessary to read the article; up to 2 hours composing your analysis; and as much time as you are able participating in the forum.

E-tivity 4: Essay Plan


  • To provide you with bespoke guidance to complete your module essay.


  • Please compose a plan of between 800-1000 words (not including suggested bibliography of a minimum of 10 sources) for an essay chosen.

  • Please submit your plan by… (Provide deadline) as an attachment in an email to your tutor.

  • Where relevant be aware of the sources identified in the weekly readings.


  • Mindful of the need to avoid plagiarism, and that everybody will have their own take on this, please feel free to spend as much time as you are able discussing your approach in the E-tivity 4 forum.


  • You will have a clear idea as to the strengths and weakness of the approach you intend to undertake for your essay.


  • We recommend you spend a minimum of 6 hours researching sources relevant to your essay topic and up to 2 hours composing your plan.

E-tivity 5: Text Critique II


  • To analyse a well-known article and identify its major attributes.

  • Your source will be identified in the feedback to your essay plan for E-tivity 4.


  • This e-tivity has two parts.

  • First, please read the suggested source and then post its full bibliographic reference and a brief analysis of it (maximum 400 words) in the E-tivity 5 forum by …(Provide deadline).


  • Please post comments on how you think your reading of this article informs your essay. Your wider reading will also be relevant here, especially if the source that has been recommended represented a different school of thought from your initial reading.


  • You will be able to analyse the content of a scholarly article in relation to your own essay and share your thoughts on it.


  • We recommend you spend as much time as is necessary to read the article; up to 2 hours composing your analysis; and as much time as you are able participating in the forum.

E-tivity 6: Module Essay


  • Capstone exercise bringing together elements of the weekly readings and building upon the e-tivities to illustrate you have understood key aspects of the field of America and the World.


  • Write a 5000 word essay a illustrating your analytical abilities from the list of questions below.

  • Your essay questions:

  • Is the president ‘the decider’ when it comes to US foreign policy?

  • Do we still live in a ‘unipolar’ world, dominated by American power?

  • ‘US foreign policy is driven by the pursuit of economic gain.’ Discuss.

  • Is spreading liberal democracy essential to making the United States more secure?

  • Which is likely to be the more important of America’s relationships over the next decade: that with China, Russia or Europe? Explain.

  • Was 9/11 a decisive turning point in the history of American foreign policy?

  • What were the most important mistakes made by the Bush administration with regard to its invasion, occupation and reconstruction of Iraq?


  • You will have met the learning objectives of this learning object.

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