Skip to main content

US Foreign Policy (PO379)

Programme content

Is the United States really the most powerful nation on earth? Does the US live up to its self-image as a "Force for Good" in the world? Why does the US seem to threaten or use military force so frequently in its foreign policy? What does US President Donald Trump mean when he says his administration is pursuing an "America First" foreign policy? You can address these and other questions about the role of the US in the world on this final year module.

In the first term, the module introduces the main theoretical and conceptual debates concerning US foreign policy; focuses on the institutions and processes of US foreign and defence policy-making; analyses the individual, governmental, societal and external sources of US foreign policy; and offers opportunities for understanding and explaining the place of the US within the international system and its relationship with other states and non-state actors. In the second term, several contemporary issues and challenges facing the US in its foreign relations are analysed including the relationship with Russia and Europe, the perceived threat of international terrorism, the war against so-called Islamic State, the use of drones for targeted killing, policy toward the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Asia, the role of soft power and popular culture in US foreign policy, and the degree to which the US remains a significant actor in international affairs.

Academic aims:

  • to develop an understanding of the origins and development of US foreign policy;
  • to explore the main theoretical and conceptual approaches to US foreign policy making, its domestic and external sources, and the institutions and processes involved;
  • to analyse a number of contemporary US foreign policy issues.

Students should be able to demonstrate an advanced knowledge of the theoretical and conceptual debates germane to an understanding of the role of the US in the international system. Evaluate critically the characteristics of and issues raised by key facets of US foreign and defense policy-making and their consequences. Students should also have developed their presentation skills, research skills, and abilities to work independently and as part of a group.