POL S 321 A: American Foreign Policy

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
to be arranged
* *

Syllabus Description:

Matt Chase illustration for Foreign Policy (2018)Is the Pax Americana over? 

Over the past twenty years, there have been many changes that have challenged US international primacy and raise questions about the nature and use of American power and continued global leadership in the Twenty-first Century.

The question of decline arises periodically and has become especially relevant in the face of the retrenchment towards a more isolationist stance in response to the 911-era wars and the rise of increasingly assertive economic and strategic competitors, non-state actors, and matters of global health. 

This quarter we will critically analyze the historical development of U.S. foreign policy. Proceeding chronologically, we will trace the enduring values, interests, institutions, and processes of American foreign policy to throw into relief modern elements of continuity, change, and chronic contradiction. We will end by considering contemporary challenges to American Hard and Soft Power as they shape the twenty-first-century international environment and bear on the question of decline. 

Special notes

Asynchronous Online Learning: This is an asynchronous online course with pre-recorded lecture materials and deadlines for papers and discussions. This approach emphasizes flexibility and self-pacing within established deadlines. It works best for students needing to accommodate family, work, and other academic demands and those taking courses from different time zones. The instructional team is available for one-on-one meetings in addition to established office hours. 

OPTIONAL Weekly Live Meeting: The instructor will hold a live meeting each Monday evening from 18:30 to 19:20 to present weekly themes and address any questions from students. These are optional, and recordings will be posted in Canvas for later viewing. 

Optional "W" CreditThis course may satisfy the University Writing Credit requirement; see the syllabus for details on the "W" credit option. 

For POLS Majors: This class counts for Field C or D requirements and is a required course for the Security Option in the major; see the Political Science Major Information page for details. 

General Method of Instruction + Assessment

Course Materials: Recorded lectures, documentaries, podcasts, textbooks, and readings drawn from the foreign policy literature and popular press. 

Assessments: Students in this class will write three 5-7 page critical response papers and participate in weekly group discussion (graded). Writing Credit Option is available.

Instructional Team

Instructor -  Robin Datta
Best Contact -   rdatta@uw.edu  
Office Hours - TBD
Location - Online (Email to arrange web conference )

Teaching Assistant - Megan Erickson
Best Contact -   meganke@uw.edu
Office Hours - TBD
Location - Online (Email to arrange web conference )

Texts and Materials

Kaufman, Joyce P. A Concise History of U.S. Foreign Policy , 4th Edition. Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. Print. ISBN: 9781442270459. Text is available in ebook format from the publisher and the UW Library.

Additional readings are listed in a shared Google Doc available through Canvas. These readings may require off-campus authentication with your UW NetID.

Recommended Preparation and Learning Goals

Students should have a general awareness of the historical development of the International System and the core International Relations Theory (Idealism/Constructivism, Realism, and Liberalism). 

Regular reading of foreign policy news and opinion is encouraged; Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy , two foreign policy journals, are highly recommended.

When you have finished this course, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate an understanding of the historical development of US Foreign Policy;
  • demonstrate an understanding of the role that culture and ideology played, and continues to play, in the conceptualization and conduct of US Foreign Policy;
  • demonstrate a better understanding of the impact of political pluralism and stakeholder politics on the development and the conduct of US Foreign Policy; and
  • use the lessons of history to consider contemporary challenges in foreign policy.

Official Course Syllabus

Use this link to access a google doc of the course syllabus. 

Catalog Description: 
Constitutional framework; major factors in formulation and execution of policy; policies as modified by recent developments; the principal policymakers - president, Congress, political parties, pressure groups, and public opinion.
Department Requirements: 
International Relations Field
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
April 14, 2021 - 10:59pm