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2021 Spring


Steve Kashkett
For information about registration please contact our admissions.

This course will explore the role of the United States as a global superpower with particular emphasis on the changes that have occurred since the election of President Donald Trump. Although there have always been policy shifts when the U.S. presidency has switched between Democratic and Republican administrations, many of the basic themes of U.S. foreign policy had previously remained largely constant throughout the post-World War II period… until the 2016 election. Using mostly contemporary readings from newspapers, journals, and think-tank publications, students will analyze the current evolution in U.S. positions on key issues such as trade, nuclear weapons, counterterrorism, immigration, human rights, and global climate change. We will also focus on radical shifts in the Trump administration’s approach to certain regions of the world, notably Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Considering that the Biden administration will have taken office just before the start of this semester and will be defining its foreign policy in real time as we go through the course, we will examine the changes that will be likely under this new Democratic administration in coming years.

Grades will be based on three things:

1. A final exam that will include questions on each subject area of U.S. foreign policy.
2. A short analytical paper OR a 10-minute oral presentation that each student will prepare and present to the class on a specific U.S. foreign policy issue.
3. Attendance and active participation in class discussions.

Please see individual weekly lesson summaries for more detail.  The readings for each lesson will be uploaded into the "section" attached to each lesson.

Here is the course outline:

1. Introduction and overview

Feb 5

Review of course syllabus. Discussion of the basic themes of traditional U.S. foreign policy – security, containment of Russia, counterterrorism, support for Middle East peace process, human rights, democracy, promotion of free trade, environment, respect for rule of law. Reflections on U.S. relationship with the world during previous administrations. What are the core assumptions underlying the Trump “America First” approach to the world?

2. U.S. foreign policy towards Europe

Feb 12

Discussion of changes in the U.S. administration’s approach to Europe, including questions regarding commitment to NATO, attitude towards Russia and Ukraine, trade with EU, Brexit, central European energy issues. Impact of U.S. import tariffs and interpersonal tensions between U.S. president and European leaders.

3. U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East

Feb 19

Discussion of changes in the U.S. administration’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Syrian civil war, Saudi Arabia, Iran. Particular focus on the impact of U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord and assassination of Iranian general, as well as U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and endorsement of Israeli sovereignty over most Palestinian territory.

4. U.S. foreign policy towards Asia

Feb 26

Discussion of changes in the U.S. approach to North Korea and China, with particular emphasis on Trump’s overtures to North Korea, summit meeting with Kim Jong-Un, and challenges to Chinese economic practices.

5. U.S. policies on international security

Mar 5

Discussion of changes in the U.S. administration’s attitude towards the use of military force abroad and its positions on nuclear proliferation, nuclear weapons control, and chemical/biological weapons. Impact of threats to withdraw from international treaties.

6. Counterterrorism

Mar 26

Discussion of the U.S approach to the fight against international terrorism, particular Islam-based terrorism, under the current administration. Impact of Trump’s policy decisions and public statements on Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

7. Human rights and democracy promotion

Apr 2

Discussion of the shift in U.S. values regarding human rights, civil liberties, the rule of law, and the promotion of democracy around the world. Impact of Trump’s public statements dissociating foreign policy from human rights concerns, praise for authoritarian regimes, and support for the use of torture.

8. Immigration and refugees

Apr 9

Discussion of changes in the U.S. position regarding the migrant crisis in Europe/Middle East as well as the Trump administration’s conflict with Mexico over immigration and border control. Impact of a less welcoming United States to asylum seekers and the U.S. withdrawal from the Global Compact on Migration.

9. United Nations and multilateral diplomacy

Apr 16

Discussion of changes in the U.S. approach to the United Nations and other multinational organizations. Impact of the U.S. decision to withdraw from UNESCO and the U.N. Human Rights Council.

10. Global climate change

Apr 23

Discussion of the dramatic shift in the U.S. administration’s policy towards environmental concerns, including the denial of global climate change and the reluctance to enforce strict laws limiting greenhouse gases and industrial pollution. Impact of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.

11. Foreign perceptions of U.S. leadership under Trump

Apr 30

Discussion of the differences in the way the U.S. government is viewed from abroad and the changing image of the U.S. as a superpower and as a leader of the democratic world, as a result of the current foreign policy decisions. Impact of these perceptions on strategic alliances and on willingness to follow U.S. diplomatic initiatives.

12. Conclusion: long-term impact

May 7

Discussion of the potential long-term effects of the changes in U.S. foreign policy under the Trump administration. In each region and issue area, will these shifts result in a permanent realignment of the U.S. position, or will U.S. traditional foreign policy return under future administrations?

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