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2010/1 Module Catalogue
 Module Code: POLM024 Module Title: AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY
Module Provider: Politics Short Name: POLM024
Level: M Module Co-ordinator: HOLLAND J Dr (Politics)
Number of credits: 15 Number of ECTS credits: 7.5
Module Availability
Autumn Semester (Semester 1)
Assessment Pattern

Unit(s) of Assessment



Weighting Towards Module Mark


( %)


Essay (2000 words)






Essay (3000 words)










Qualifying Condition(s) 



A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module.



Module Overview

America's role in the world has always been controversial, but since September 11, 2001 and the Bush administration's response to the terrorist attacks of that day, US foreign policy has become a focal point for thinking about contemporary international relations. The first half of this module will introduce students to the different schools of thought on American foreign policy. This will provide students with the vocabulary to then interpret and assess US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. The second half of the module will introduce students to key contemporary issues in American foreign policy.  For instance, we will consider issues such as why President George W. Bush considered it necessary to invade Iraq when his father decided not to and we will examine what impact the Iraq War has had on US perceptions of its role in the world. 



Module Aims

The main aims of this module are to:

  •  Provide students with a theoretical vocabulary by introducing them to the principal debates and traditions of American foreign policy;  
  • Enable students to describe, analyse and understand contemporary American foreign policy.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

 Knowledge and understanding       

demonstrate familiarity with the making and conduct of contemporary foreign policy including the central ideological, theoretical and historical concepts, as well as relevant institutions and personalities;

 ·         demonstrate familiarity with and critical engagement of central texts on foreign policy and be able to distinguish authors, locate their opinions on ideological spectrums and critically assess the validity of their views;

 ·         have the fundamental knowledge necessary to progress further into the field of American foreign policy.

 Cognitive skills

  •  gather, organise and deploy evidence, data and information from a variety of secondary and some primary sources;  
  • develop a reasoned argument, synthesise relevant information, and exercise critical judgement;
  •  manage, and self-critically reflect on, their own learning and make use of constructive feedback;
  • apply theoretical frameworks to policy/empirical analysis.

Practical skills

  •  make appropriate use of information and communications technology  
  • form effective arguments;
  • organise workload to meet deadlines.

Transferable skills

  •  communicate effectively and fluently in speech and writing;
  • work independently and in groups, show initiative, self-organisation and time-management;
  •  use information and communication technology for the retrieval and presentation of information including, where appropriate, statistical or numerical information.

Module Content

·         Introduction. American power and American exceptionalism.

 ·         Theories of American foreign policy and American foreign policy traditions.  Realism, Liberalism and Neoconservatism, and how they relate to Jeffersonianism, Wilsonianism, Hamilitonianism and Jacksonianism.

 ·         Revisionism.  America’s imperial foreign policy and questions of Empire.

 ·         The end of the Cold War and the New World Order.  The foreign policies of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

 ·         The Unipolar Moment.  The foreign policy of President William Clinton and the geo-political context of the 1990s.

 ·         The impact of September 11th 2001.  The foreign policy of George W. Bush before 9-11, the shock that 9-11 induced in American society and the framing of 9-11 as an ‘act of war’.

 ·         The War on Terror.   Interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, counter-terrorism policy at home and the establishment of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

 Beyond the War on Terror.  The module will conclude by considering the foreign policy of President Barack Obama.

Methods of Teaching/Learning
Each week, classes will be run as a two-hour block.  Sessions will begin with a mini-lecture of around forty minutes before moving to seminar discussion.  Each seminar will be structured around contributions from students and input from the module leader.  Students will be expected to contribute actively during discussion, having prepared to answer a specific question based on between one and three key readings for the week.  Three different questions and readings will be set to create a division of labour for the students and maximise learning.  This requires all students to prepare each week for the topic.  The set up of seminars and group work will be discussed during the first class.
Selected Texts/Journals

There is no general text book for this course.  However, one text is especially useful for understanding American foreign policy traditions:





Walter Russell Mead, (2001) Special Providence. American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World, NY: Knopf.
Last Updated
17 September 2010