Political Science at Huntingdon College
Huntingdon College: Political Science | Courses | Syllabus | What's New?
PSC 303: International Relations
James McCormick, US Foreign Policy & Process:
Learning Objectives, Essay and Discussion Questions
(Note: Extracted pages from Instructor's Manual by Jeremy Lewis for 2/e.
Adapted for the third edition: Reagan & Bush chapters combined, Clinton added.)
Prof. Jeremy Lewis, revised 9 Jan 2004.



Chapter 1:

America's Traditions in Foreign Policy



Learning Objectives:

To understand:



Critical Thinking Skills: Essay and Discussion Questions.
1. In what sense is the US "exceptional" in foreign policy?

2. Describe the historic tensions between moralism and realism in US foreign policy. Which has dominated? Which will dominate in the 1990s, if any?

3. Which periods of US history have been ones of isolationism and which of interventionism? Which has been more successful, and why?

4. In the post-cold war era, is isolationism or interventionism likely to dominate, and what does that tell us about US military force structure requirements?




Chapter 2:

America's Global Involvement and the Emergence of the Cold War



Learning Objectives:

To understand:



Critical Thinking Skills: Essay and Discussion Questions.
1. What caused America's rise to globalism in the mid-twentieth century?

2. Was the US or USSR the primary cause of the cold war, and why? Does it matter to current policy?

3. Should Truman have taken a different policy than the containment of communism, and what circumstances led to that policy?

4. How close to nuclear war did the superpowers come during the cold war, and in which incidents lay the greatest risk?




Chapter 3:

The Cold War Consensus and Challenges to it.



Learning Objectives:

To understand:




Critical Thinking Skills: Essay and Discussion Questions.
1. During the period usually known as the "cold war," was there really a bipolar world, and what were its characteristics?

2. Which were the dangerous and safer periods of the cold war, and why?

3. How much of the world actually fell into one or the other armed camp during the cold war? Did it stay the same from 1945 to 1989?

4. Did cold war thinking and the domino theory blind (a) US policymakers and (b) military planners to the realities of the Vietnamese conflict?




Chapter 4:

Nixon's Realism and Carter's Idealism in American Foreign Policy



Learning Objectives:

To understand:

Critical Thinking Skills: Essay and Discussion Questions.
1. Discuss the tensions between idealism and realism in US foreign policy. Give examples of each.

2. Was Nixon a realist and Carter an idealist? Did their rhetoric match their real policy?

3. Should foreign policy be created in response to the need to face up to centers of power abroad, or rather in response to American desires to improve the state of the world through a quest for morality?

4. Evaluate the successes and failures of the Nixon and Carter administrations' foreign policies. Which one better served US interests, and why?

5. What are the difficulties in evaluating the performance in foreign policy of different US administrations? What should be the standards? Give examples from the 1970s.




Chapter 5:

The Reagan & Bush Administrations and the Cold War's End.  [Combined in 3/e]



Learning Objectives:

to establish an understanding of:



Critical Thinking Skills: Essay and Discussion Questions.
1. Explain the central tenets of the Reagan Administration's foreign policy. Was Central America placed ahead of the Middle East and of the USSR, and if so was this a wise policy?

2. To what degree was the Reagan Administration consistent in its foreign policy? In what senses could it be described as "hawkish" or "dovish"?

3. Did the Reagan Administration merely build upon the last two years of the Carter Administration, which increased military spending 3% per year above inflation, and ceased support of the Sandinistas?

4. Can the Reagan Administration be blamed for building up military spending too fast, only to cause increasing budget deficits and hence force the military into deep cuts later, when the inability to pay for such spending became evident?

5. Was the Reagan Administration actually responsible for changes in the U.S.S.R.'s posture? To what degree was its military buildup based on a false apprehension of strong Soviet capabilities?

6. How were the Bush administration's foreign policies descended from a pattern of beliefs?

7. Was the Bush administration reactive to world events, or proactive in setting a course for US foreign policy?

8. How can the US adapt to the end of the cold war? What are the prospects for a New World Order of the type President Bush described?

9. What if anything does the Persian Gulf War tell us about the utility of force for the US in the next decade?

10. What was the Bush administration's response to the fall of the communist empire in Eastern Europe, and how adequate was that response?




Chapter 6: THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION: FOREIGN POLICY AFTER THE COLD WAR [Added in 3/e]



Learning Objectives:

To understand:



Critical Thinking Skills: Essay and Discussion Questions.
1.  In what sense if any did the Clinton administration hold a consistent set of foreign policy principles?

2.  Was a return to idealism in 1993 more than mere rhetoric?

3.  In what ways did the Clinton administration develop economic security -- and did this mean more than simply opening up trade?

4.  How did the Clinton administration redirect defense strategy after the cold war?

5.  How was the promotion of democracy tied to enlargement?

6.  What were the frustrations and successes of Clinton's intervention abroad?

7.  How did the Clinton adminstration attempt to reshape the US military?






Chapter 7:

The President and the Making of Foreign Policy



Learning Objectives:

To understand:



Critical Thinking Skills: Essay and Discussion Questions.
1. What factors have caused the rise of the executive in foreign policy matters?

2. Is the congress capable of acting decisively in foreign policy?

3. What electoral incentives if any does the congress have for overseeing foreign policy in the executive branch?

4. Why should presidential actions be checked by the Supreme Court, the unelected branch?

5. To what degree are presidential powers spelled out in the constitution? How well did the Founders set out a framework for foreign policymaking in the twentieth century?




Chapter 8:

Congressional Prerogatives and the Making of Foreign Policy.



Learning Objectives:

To understand:




Critical Thinking Skills: Essay and Discussion Questions.



1. Has there been a resurgence of congressional influence on foreign policy, and if so has it been truly effective?

2. Is it possible for the congress to lead foreign policy and for the executive to provide a check against that activity?

3. Have administrations which have confronted congress been more successful than those which cooperated with congress?

4. If there were a constitutional test case over the war powers act, what would be the decision?

5. Has the congress been successful in attempts to limit presidential war activity through the power of the purse, and what have been the examples?

6. Was there a trend in the 1980s towards a stronger executive vis a vis congress, or merely one instance?




Chapter 9:

The Diplomatic and Economic Bureaucracies: Duplication or Specialization?



Learning Objectives:

To understand:




Critical Thinking Skills: Essay and Discussion Questions.
1. What has been the nature of the state department, and why are presidents frequently frustrated by its role in policymaking?

2. How has the role of the NSC changed over time?

3. How have the State Department and the NSC competed over foreign policy, and what is likely to be the balance between them in the next ten years?

4. Why do presidents often rely on the NSC staff rather than the State Deparrtment?

5. "The State Department is too stable and the NSC is too unstable." Discuss fully, iwth examples.




Chapter 10:

The Military and Intelligence Bureaucracies: Pervasive or Accountable?



Learning Objectives:

To understand:




Critical Thinking Skills: Essay and Discussion Questions.
1. What are the leading organizations in the executive branch dealing with the use of force abroad? How are they structured in a chain of command?

2. Which agencies of intelligence and miltiary operations have tended to be more influential in the postwar US, and how has this equation altered over time?

3. How have administrations attempted to shift between an hierarchical organization of intelligence and foreign policy agencies and a "matrix" or interagency style of organization? Which has worked better?

4. What have been the weaknesses in the US application of the theory of civilian control of the military since the second world war?

5. What does the Iran contra affair tell us about the relation between congress, the executive and covert operations?

6. What is the role of covert operations staff in a representative democracy?

7. Should the US place more emphasis on electronic intelligence, or shift resources towards human spying and covert operations? What kinds of information can each provide, and how reliable is each?




Chapter 11:

Political Parties, Bipartisanship, and Interest Groups



Learning Objectives:

to understand



Critical Thinking Skills: Essay and Discussion Questions.
1. Was the Vietnam War a watershed in bipartisan support for U.S. foreign policy? Or, was the end of the Cold War really the watershed?

2. What are the elements of the U.S. foreign policy lobby? Which is most influential: the bureaucracy, leading politicians, ethnic lobbies, the military-industrial complex, or another element?

3. Can an open democracy such as the U.S. really develop a consistent and coherent foreign policy in the light of the many competing lobby groups and partisan discord?

4. Eisenhower warned in his Farewell Address of the rise of a military-industrial complex. What did that mean? Could such an actor really dominate U.S. foreign policy? Could it really threaten democracy?




Chapter 12: Public Opinion: Moodish or Stable? [3/e added Media]

Learning Objectives:

To understand:



Critical Thinking Skills: Essay and Discussion Questions.
1. Is U.S. foreign policy shaped by an elite or by public opinion?

2. Is public opinion in the U.S. isolationist or interventionist?

3. Does public opinion tend to constrain or to mobilize U.S. foreign policy makers?

4. To what degree is public opinion on U.S. foreign policy stable over time, and to what degree is it coherent? Can it ever be the dominant influence on U.S. foreign policy?




Chapter 13:

American Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War Era



Learning Objectives:

Critical Thinking Skills: Essay and Discussion Questions.
1. What are the differences of opinion on foreign policy held within the elite?

2. How far apart are the opinions of elite and mass on U.S. foreign policy?

3. How could a new U.S. foreign policy consensus be established, and what would it require?

4. How useful is the elite/mass distinction to understanding the causes of foreign policy, relative to the theory of competing groups or lobbies?