POLS 381: The U.S. and Latin America

Fall 2006, DuSable 252: TTh 2:00-3:15 p.m.


Gregory D. Schmidt                                                                         Office Hours: M 10-12, 3:30-4:30                                                                                   

(assisted by Mr. Vasu “Jack” Srivarathonbul)                                                         W 3:30-4:30                                                                               

 Office: Zulauf  426 (enter through 415)                                                                 & by appointment

 Phone: 753-7039                                                                              E-mail: gschmidt@niu.edu  


This class provides an overview of almost two hundred years of interaction between the United States and other sovereign states in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), with an emphasis on more recent events.  Roughly the first half of the course will be devoted to an historical overview of relations between the United States and Latin America through the end of the Cold War.


After the midterm our attention will shift to inter-American relations during post-Cold War period.  Thus, we will conclude the course with a discussion of contemporary issues, such as trade and economic integration; illicit drugs; democracy, populism, and anti-Americanism in the hemisphere; the rise of Hugo Chávez and the waning days? months? years? of Fidel Castro; and Latino immigration to the U.S.


Course Requirements and Policies


1. Attendance.  Regular attendance is expected.  If you do not attend class, you will not do well.  Moreover, you risk missing unannounced quizzes (see below).


2. The Learning Environment.  I am committed to the principle of active learning.  For me, this means that learning cannot take place without students' active involvement in, commitment to, and responsibility for their own education.  Hence, it is important that students conduct themselves in ways that indicate respect for the learning community and the learning process. 


Faced with declining classroom decorum in recent years, the Undergraduate Committee of the Department of Political Science has encouraged faculty to state explicit expectations regarding behavior in their syllabi.  Please be advised that each occurrence of the following during class time may result in the deduction of one point from your final course average:


a. Leaving the room, unless the instructor has previously agreed or there is an emergency, such as a fire alarm or tornado alert.  If you must leave early for any other reason––including going to the restroom––please do not return during that class period.  (An additional half point may be deducted if you come back).


b. Allowing your cell phone to ring more than once during the semester.  (If there is a true emergency that may necessitate receiving a call, please let me know before class.)


c. Using a cell phone for conversation, text messenging, or as a camera.  


d. Using any other electronic device, except a laptop to take notes or a tape recorder to record the class.


e. Engaging in private conversations once class has started.


f. Reading the newspaper, studying for another class, or undertaking some other activity that is not related to this course.


g. Eating or falling asleep.  (Students may discreetly drink non-alcoholic beverages).


h. Listening to music or the radio, even with headphones or earphones.


i. Smoking (All NIU classrooms are smoke-free environments).


j. Any other behavior that is coarse, rude, noticeably inattentive, or inconsiderate of others.


If a student persists in behavior that is disruptive or that undermines the learning environment, I will request that he or she be barred from the class, following the procedures outlined in the 2006-07 Undergraduate Catalog, pp. 50 and 317.  This sort of behavior also constitutes grounds for dismissal from the university.


3. Readings and Lectures.  Please purchase the following:


Peter H. Smith, Talons of the Eagle: Dynamics of U.S.-Latin American Relations, 2nd Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).


Other readings listed below will be made available on electronic reserves, posted on Blackboard, or handed out in class.  I may assign some additional readings, especially on recent events, but these would be made available to the class by the same means.  Lectures will parallel and complement, but not merely repeat, the material in the readings.  You are responsible for material covered in readings but not in the lectures and vice versa.  You should complete reading assignments for each date before coming to class.   


4. Study Guides and Quizzes.  Study guides and other ancillary materials will be posted on Blackboard before most, if not all, classes.  The study guides will contain questions designed to help you get the most out of the readings, stimulate class discussion, and facilitate preparation for 6-8 unannounced quizzes to be given in class on the reading assigned for that day.  Make-ups of quizzes will be given only under truly extraordinary circumstances at the discretion of the instructor.  However, your overall quiz grade will be based on your 4 or 5 highest scores.


Before each class you should try to answer as much of the study guide as possible on the basis of the readings.  Please pay particular attention to questions marked with an asterisk (*), which are "quizzable" or especially appropriate for discussion.  The answers to some questions will be presented in class, while more in-depth answers to others should emerge from lecture segments and/or class discussion.  Thus, the study guides should also help you to integrate material from the readings and lecture for the exams.


Materials for Monday classes normally will be posted no later than noon of the previous Saturday.  Materials for Wednesday classes normally will be posted no later than noon of the preceding Tuesday.  Indeed, I will try to post these earlier.  Only if there is a technical or human problem with Blackboard will the relevant materials be distributed in class.


5. Accessing Blackboard.  You can access Blackboard by following these steps:

a. Type the URL http://webcourses.niu.edu/ in the address box of your browser (Internet Explorer works best) or go to the NIU homepage and click on "Current Students," then "Academics," and then "Blackboard Course Server."  You can also access Blackboard with the A-Z feature of the NIU homepage.


b. Click the Login Button.


c. Type username (Novel ID = student ZID) and password.  For help with your password, please go to password.niu.edu or phone 753-8100.


d. Click Login.


e. Click on the title of this course, "U.S. and Latin America."


f. Click on assignments.


g. Open and print out the relevant assignment.


For any technical problems in accessing Blackboard, please call 753-8100.


6. Videos.  I will show a number of videos on course-related topics to the extent that time and scheduling permit.  These are not "blow-off" classes; indeed, some exam questions will be based on audiovisual materials.  I will introduce videos and help you to focus on the most pertinent information and perspectives.  You should print out any study guides for the videos before coming to class.


7. Exams.  The first exam is scheduled for October 4.  The final will be given on December 11.  The final is not comprehensive, though some of the material has a cumulative character.  The first exam will have multiple choice and true/false questions, as well as a map section.  The second exam will be predominantly, but not exclusively essay.  If necessary, exam grades will be curved, in accordance with overall student performance.  I will hand back exams for review in class; however, departmental policy requires me to retain all objective questions and answers on file.


8. Paper.  Drawing on recent periodicals, academic journals, and possibly on-line sources, each student will write a 5 page paper analyzing a major contemporary issue or significant recent event related to the course.  More specific instructions will be passed out by the fourth week of class.  Papers will be due at the beginning of class on November 29.  Late papers will be penalized 5 points for each day of tardiness.  I will not accept papers that reach me after class on December 4.  Graded papers will be returned on December 11 at the time of the final exam.


9. Extra Credit Points.  I will not accept extra credit projects to improve low quiz exam grades.  I will, however, be glad to help students improve their study habits.  Moreover, you can earn up to 4 points of extra credit through attendance and class participation.  If you have 2 or fewer recorded absences, I will add 2 points to your course average.  I will add 1 point to the course averages of students with 3 or 4 recorded absences.  Thus, good attendance can help you, but you are not directly penalized for poor attendance, though you risk missing quizzes.  I will also give extra credit to students who in my judgment have made significant contributions to class discussion.  I will add 1 point for above-average class participation and 2 points for outstanding participation.  In assessing class participation, I will emphasize quality, rather than mere quantity.


10. Course Grade.  The following weights will be use in determining your course average:


Quizzes           25%

Paper               25%

                                                            First Exam       25%

                                                            Second Exam  25%


                                                                                    100% + any extra credit points


11. Seating and Determination of Attendance.  Mr. Srivarathonbul and I will call roll for the first several weeks of class.  After I return from Brazil on September 18, all students will sit in permanently assigned seats to facilitate the checking of attendance and so that I can learn your names. 


12. Make-Ups and Incompletes.  Make-up exams will be given only in the case of a documented medical or personal emergency.  In such an event, Professor Schmidt (753-7039) or the Political Science Office (753-1011) must be notified before the exam.  Make-up exams may be in a format that requires more intensive preparation.


No incompletes will be given for reasons other than a medical or personal emergency and then only after presentation of verifiable documentation.  Academic hardship does not qualify as an acceptable excuse.


13. Adjustments in Course Schedule.  I will do my best to follow the course schedule outlined below, but I reserve the right to make reasonable adjustments with adequate warning if unforeseeable or uncontrollable circumstances (e.g. weather, illness, travel) so warrant.  It is not fair, however, to change the schedule or previously set exam dates simply to accommodate the preferences of some students, since other students inevitably suffer.


14. Academic Integrity.  Students are expected to know and comply with NIU policies on academic integrity (see pp. 49, 317of the 2005-2006 Undergraduate Catalog).  Any student found guilty of cheating or plagiarism will receive an "F" for the assignment and for the course.  He or she also may be subject to additional sanctions imposed by the University.





AUGUST 28 (Mr. Srivarathonbul)


            Introduction to Course


            The Americas: Land and Peoples




Overview and Framework for Analysis


Peter H. Smith, Talons of the Eagle: Dynamics of U.S.-Latin American Relations, 2nd Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. ix-xi, 1-8, 353-61.


            You should periodically refer back to the concluding chapter as we complete successive

            sections of the course.


SEPTEMBER 6 (Mr. Srivarathonbul)


            Stereotypes of Latin America


Video, The Gringo in Mañanaland (61 minutes)


            Discussion of Stereotypes


SEPTEMBER 11 (Mr. Srivarathonbul)


            The U.S. Enters the European Game: Imperialism and Territorial Expansion


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 9-19.


Texas and the Origins of the War With Mexico


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 19-20.


SEPTEMBER 13 (Mr. Srivarathonbul)


Manifest Destiny


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 38-50.


The Outbreak of the U.S. Mexican War


Begin Video, Neighbors and Strangers (selected parts)



            The U.S.-Mexican War: Outcome and Legacy


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 20-22.


Conclude Video, Neighbors and Strangers (selected parts)




            Defining a Sphere of Influence


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 22-32.


Origins of the Spanish American War


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 32-34.


Video, Crucible of Empire: The Spanish American War (begin Act 1, about 42 minutes)




The Spanish American War: Synopsis and Legacy


            Video, Crucible of Empire: The Spanish American War (finish Act 1; Act 3, about 30 minutes)




Gunboat Diplomacy, Panama, and the New World Policeman


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 34-37, 50-67.


            Video: Latin America: Intervention in Our Backyard (selected segments, about 11-12 minutes)


Video: Yankee Years (selected segments, about 19 minutes) 




            The Good Neighbor Policy


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 67-86.


Video: Yankee Years (selected segments, about 12 minutes) 


            Video: Latin America: Intervention in Our Backyard (selected segments about 8 minutes)




            The Cold War:  The Rules of the Game and Early Containment


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 115-142.


            Video: Yankee Years (selected segments, about 25 minutes)




            The Cuban Revolution


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 164-169.


Video, Castro’s Challenge (about first 42 minutes)




The Alliance for Progress


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 143-155.


            Return to Intervention


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 155-163, 169-178.




            Carter and Human Rights


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 205-206.


            Grenada and Central America


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 178-189.


            Video, The US in Latin America: Yankee Go Home (segment on Grenada, about 16 minutes)


            Video, Conflict in Central America: Nicaragua (about first 35 minutes, begin)




            Catch-Up and Review




            First Exam




            Go Over Exams.


            The Debt Crisis, Economic Liberalization, and Democracy


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 249-256.




US-Latin American Relations in the Post-Cold War and Post 9-11 Eras


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 217-248.


Peter Hakim, “Is Washington Losing Latin America?”  Foreign Affairs 85-1 (Janu-

ary/February 2006)


Video, The Americas in the 21st Century (first 30 minutes)




             Trade and Economic Integration


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 257-283, 318-320, 325-352.


Jorge G. Castañeda, “NAFTA at 10: A Plus or a Minus?”  Current History (February 2004), pp. 52-55.


Sidney Weintraub, “Scoring Free Trade: A Critique of the Critics?”  Current History (February 2004), pp. 56-60.


            Video, NAFTA and the New Economic Frontier (23 minutes)          




            Illicit Drugs: Who is Responsible?


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 284-300.


Coletta A. Youngers and Eileen Rosin, eds.  Drugs and Democracy in Latin America: The Impact of U.S. Policy (Boulder: Lynne Reinner, 2005), pp. 1-13, 99-142, 185-230.


            Video, The US in Latin America: Yankee Go Home (segment on Panama, about10



            Video, Border War: The US Mexico Drug Connection (22 minutes)




A Democratic Hemisphere?


                        Gerardo Munck, “Latin America Old Problems, New Agenda.”  Democracy@large, Vol.2,

                        No. 5, pp. 10-13.


Hugo Chávez, Populism, and Anti-Americanism

Javier Corrales, “Hugo Boss,” Foreign Policy (January/February 2006), pp.  32-40. 

Michael Shifter, “In Search of Hugo Chávez,” Foreign Affairs (May/June 2006).

Jorge G. Castañeda, “Latin America’s Left Turn,” Foreign Affairs (May/June 2006).




            No class: please work on papers.




            Intervention in Haiti


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, 308-317.


            Video, The US in Latin America: Yankee Go Home (segment on Haiti, about 12



Cuba After Fidel


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 320-325.       


NOVEMBER 29 (Papers Due!!!)  & DECEMBER 4


            Latino Immigration in the U.S.


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 300-308.


Roger Lowenstein, “The Immigration Equation,” New York Times Magazine (July 9, 2006), pp. 36-43, 69-71.


            Samuel P. Huntington, "The Hispanic Challenge," Foreign Policy (March/April 2004), pp.             30-46.




Structure and Change in U.S.-Latin American Relations: Final Reflections


Smith, Talons of the Eagle, pp. 353-361 (re-reread), 361-70.


Review and Catch-Up




            Final Exam (2-3:50 p.m.)



Additional Information for Students Taking Political Science Courses


1. Undergraduate Writing Awards.  The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies.  Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing.  Winners are expected to attend the Department’s Spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50.  Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28.  All copies should have two cover pages: one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name.  Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award.  However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition, even if the student has graduated.


2. Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities.  NIU abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which mandates reasonable accommodations be provided for qualified students with disabilities.  If you have a disability and may require some type of instructional and/or examination accommodation, please contact me early in the semester.  If you have not already done so, you will need to register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR), the office on campus that provides services and administers exams with accommoda­tions for students with disabilities.  The CAAR office is located on the 4th floor of the University Health Services building (815-753-1303).         


3. Department of Political Science Website.  Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science website on a regular basis.  This up-to-date, centralized source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities.  To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu.