POLS 382: American Foreign Policy-Making


Spring 2010

MWF 11-11:50pm

Du Sable 246


Instructor: Kevin Marsh

E-mail: kmarsh@niu.edu

Office Hours: MWF 9-10am, or by appointment

Office Location: DU 476 (the POLS TA lounge)



Course Description


This course will seek to answer the question of who makes American foreign policy, and what are the most important influences and sources of American foreign policy.  This is a course that focuses on the processes of American foreign policy making and the various actors, influences, issues, and features present in American foreign policy making.  The goal of this course is to acquaint the student with knowledge of how American foreign policy is made.


This course will incorporate current events and will address the Obama administration and ramifications for the future of American foreign policy making.  Students will read various case studies that incorporate current and historical events in an effort to further illustrate the sources of American foreign policy.


It is strongly recommended that students have taken POLS 285 and POLS 100 prior to taking this course.



Course Requirements:



  1. Attendance Policy: Students are required to attend every class.  Therefore it is imperative that students attend each class in order to succeed in the course.  I will take attendance at every class session, so don't skip class!   Attendance is up to you.  If you don't show up, don't expect to pass this course.  Missing classes will result in loss of points in your participation grades.


  1. Class Participation: Class participation is 10% of your final grade.  I encourage and enjoy thoughtful participation by students in my courses.  The course format will be structured as a combination of lecture and questions for discussion.  I understand that not everyone may feel comfortable speaking in a classroom setting, but I assure you that POLS 382 will be an atmosphere where students' opinions and analyses of American foreign policy issues are valued and respected.  I encourage discussion, and I will ensure that participation is respectful and professional decorum will be maintained.  If you have a question, please ask!  Trust me; if you have a question, there are likely other students with the same questions.


            This course will be a lot more interesting and valuable for both students and instructor if            there is thoughtful and repeated participation and discussion by the students.


An important element of class participation is being prepared for class.  This means completing the readings before class.  There are readings due for every class session.  The reading load for this course is designed to be challenging, but the readings have been selected in order to provide the student with a comprehensive knowledge of American foreign policy making.



  1. Required Textbook: American Foreign Policy: Patters and Progress, 7th Edition.  Wittkopf, Jones, and Kegley.  Thomson and Wadsworth, 2008.


Additional readings will be available on Blackboard.


  1. Grading: The following scale will be used for this course: A 100-90, B 89-80, C 79-70, D 69-60, and F 59 and below.


  1. Course Assignments:

Class Participation: 10%

Midterm Exam: 25%

Research Paper: 25%

Quiz Average: 15%

Final Exam 25%


The Mid-Term Exam will cover the first half of the course, and the final exam will cover mainly the second half of the course, with some comprehensive elements.  Both the mid-term and final exams will be a mixture of key term definitions and significances, and essay questions.


The five quizzes will cover the readings and material from lectures.  These quizzes will be multiple choice format, and I will drop the lowest quiz grade at the end of the semester.  The quizzes will be averaged together at the end of the semester to compute the student's quiz average.


The research paper is a 10-12 page paper that will be on a topic of the student's choosing.  The research paper must examine an event or case study of American foreign policy and examine and analyze it and attempt to explain what the key factors were in the ultimate decision in the case.  Students will be expected to create a central argument and support it with evidence from outside sources.  Acceptable outside sources include reputable media outlets, your textbook, the case study readings, academic journals and articles, and books.  WIKIPEDIA is not an acceptable source, nor are non-academic websites.


The paper should include a clearly stated central argument, identification and definition of the factors and actors that the student is analyzing, and supporting evidence to illustrate how the chosen factors and actors of US foreign policymaking explain the events in the case study.


For example, what factors led President Obama to adopting a ‘surge’ strategy in Afghanistan in fall of 2009?  Why did Jimmy Carter order Operation Eagle Claw in 1980?  Why did Robert Gates cancel the F-22 fighter?


THE PAPER IS DUE APRIL 21, 2010.  Students must submit the paper to Safe Assign on Blackboard by 11am on April 21 to receive full credit.  Late submissions to Safe Assign will be considered to be late papers and will be penalized accordingly.


Students must submit a research prospectus on March 1 that includes the following: case study or decision being analyzed, preliminary thesis statement, identification of key actors and factors in the case, and five outside sources.  Failure to submit a prospectus on this date will result in an automatic deduction of five points from the final grade of the research paper.



  1. Course Policies:


Make-up Exams: A make-up exam or quiz will only be given in extraordinary      circumstances.  You must inform me as soon as possible before the scheduled exam.             Requests without prior notification and documented evidence will not be accepted and will result in a zero grade for the exam or quiz.


The final exam for this course will be held on Wednesday, May 5th from 10-11:50am in DU 246.


Classroom Etiquette: This is very important to me.  You are adults and will be expected to act accordingly in my classroom.  Any usage of cellular phones (talking, texting, playing games, etc.) is not allowed and will result in first a verbal warning, and then the instructor reserves the right to remove disruptive students from the classroom for repeated offenses.  Usage of any other electronic devices with the exception of laptops to take notes is not allowed either.  You are not going to succeed in this course if you are texting during my class.  Simply turn your phone to vibrate and IPods off in my class and there will be no problems at all in this regard.


            Another important element of classroom etiquette is respect for your fellow students and           the instructor.  Respect for students means that all opinions, questions, and discussions by          your fellow students are respected.  Politics is an art of discourse and is dependent upon           people feeling comfortable to express their opinions on issues.  Respect for the instructor      means don't come late to class, don't leave early (unless you notify me ahead of time),   don't sleep in my class, and don't disrupt class by excessive talking with your neighbors.

            Basically, act like an adult, and you will be treated like one in my class. 


            Students who continually violate the standards of classroom etiquette will have their           classroom participation grades penalized accordingly.


Extra Credit: Under no circumstances will extra credit be granted on an individual basis.    However, the instructor reserves the right to incorporate extra credit questions on the case study quizzes or exams.


            Academic Dishonesty/Plagiarism:  You really, really, really don't want to do this in this course.  Academic dishonesty and plagiarism include cheating on tests, failing to cite in        the final essay, or copying and plagiarizing for their papers.  Regarding plagiarism, the NIU Undergraduate Catalog states: “students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if   they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and             acknowledging them. Students guilty of or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism        on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and   may be suspended or dismissed from the university.” The above statement encompasses the      purchase or use of papers that were written by others.  In short, students are advised to do        their own work and learn the rules for proper quoting, paraphrasing, and footnoting.


Instances of plagiarism will be evaluated and punished on a case-by-case basis.  All cases of plagiarism will be reported to the university through issuing of a formal academic misconduct report.  DON’T PLAGIARIZE IN MY COURSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Late Assignments: Late assignments will be penalized by one letter grade per day, or ten points per day.  This standard will be waived only in extraordinary circumstances.


Submission of Written Work: Assignments should be handed in personally to me at the beginning of class on the day that they are due.  Students who e-mail their assignments must e-mail the assignment by 11am on the due date.  E-mailed assignments that are sent in after 11am will be marked as late.


            Incompletes: Incompletes will be granted only in extraordinary circumstances.


Auditing: Students who request an audit must attend all classes and participate in class to satisfy the requirements of an audit.


            Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities: Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation          Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with          documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their        coursework for which they may require accommodations should notify the University's       Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR). CAAR will assist students in making     appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and             instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the            semester.


            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 $50.00. 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 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.

Department of Political Science Web Site: Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities.

Important Dates

January 22 – Quiz One

February 5 – Quiz Two

March 1 – Research Prospectuses Due

March 3 – Midterm Exam

March 22 – Quiz Three

April 2 – Quiz Four

April 19 – Quiz Five

April 21 – Research Papers Due

May 5 – Final Exam


Course Calendar


Part I. Introduction to American Foreign Policymaking


January 11 – Course Introduction


January 13 – Patterns of American Foreign Policy

Read: Textbook pgs 29-56


January 15 – The International Political System in Transition

Read Textbook pgs 145-158

January 20 – The Influence of the International System on American Foreign Policymaking in 2010

Read: “Beyond Primacy” by David McDonough

Read: “Defense Management Challenges for the Next President” by Ashton Carter


Part II.  The Foreign Policymaking Community


January 22 – The Presidency: Powers

Read: Textbook pgs 325-332

Read: “The President’s Dominance in Foreign Policy Making” by Paul Peterson

Quiz One


January 25 – The Presidency: The Cabinet and Executive Staff

Read: Textbook pgs 333-340


January 27 – The Presidency: A Survey of the Barack Obama Administration

Read: “Renewing Leadership” by Barack Obama


January 29 – The National Security Council: Structure, Organization and Purpose

Read: Go to www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/ and read through the features on the site

Read: “A New NSC for a New Administration” by Ivo Daadler and I.M. Destler, available at http://www.brookings.edu/comm/policybriefs/pb68.htm


February 1 – The National Security Council: The National Security Advisor

Read: “The Neutral/Honest Broker Role in Foreign Policy Decision-Making: A Reassessment” by John Burke


February 3 – The National Security Council: Case Studies

Read Textbook pgs 340-356


February 5 – Leadership Style and Executive Arrangements

Read: “Presidents, Advisers and Foreign Policy: The Effect of Leadership Style on Executive Arrangements” by Margaret Hermann and Thomas Preston

Quiz Two



February 8 – The Department of Homeland Security

Read: Textbook pgs 361-363

Read: Go to www.dhs.gov and look through the features on the website

Read: “Seeing Around Corners: Creating the New Department of Homeland Security” by Wendy Haynes


February 10 – The State Department: Role and Resources

Read Textbook pgs 368-377


February 12 – The State Department: Influence and Perspectives

Read: “Rogue State Department” by Newt Gingrich

Read: “Domestic Obstacles to International Affairs: The State Department Under Fire at Home” by Steven Hook


February 15 – The Secretary of the State vs. The National Security Advisor: An Uneasy Relationship

Read: “Why State Can’t Lead” by Duncan Clarke


February 17 – The Department of Defense: The Office of The Secretary of Defense

Read Textbook: pgs 378-383

Go to www.defense.mil and examine the features of the website


February 19 – The Department of Defense: The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Armed Forces

Read Textbook: pgs 383-388

Read: “Bush and the Generals” by Michael Desch

Read: “Salute and Disobey? The Civil-Military Balance, Before Iraq and After” by Richard Myers and Richard Kohn


February 22 – The Department of Defense: Military Transformation

Read: “A Balanced Strategy” by Robert Gates.  Available on www.foreignaffairs.org.

Read: “The Struggle To Transform the Military” by Max Boot


February 24 – America’s Wars: 2010 and Beyond

Read: “Learning from Contemporary Conflicts to Prepare for Future War” by HR McMaster


February 26 – Obama’s War: Afghanistan

No Reading Assignment

We will watch “Obama’s War” in class


March 1 – The Intelligence Community: History and Composition

Read Textbook pgs 388-405

Research Prospectuses are Due




March 5 – The Intelligence Community: Reform and the Director of National Intelligence

Read: “The Limits of Intelligence Reform” by Helen Fessenden

Read: “An Empirical Analysis of Failed Intelligence Reforms Before September 11th” by Amy Zegart


March 15 – Economics and U.S. Foreign Policy Making: The White House, Departments of Treasury, Commerce, and Labor

Read Textbook pgs 356-360, 406-409


March 17 – Congress and Foreign Policymaking: Powers

Read Textbook pgs 413-436


March 19 – Congress, Foreign Policymaking and the Executive Branch

Read Textbook pgs 436-450


March 22 – The War Powers Act

Read: The War Powers Act

Read: “When Congress Stops Wars: Partisan Politics and Presidential Power” by William Howell and Jon Pevehouse

Quiz Three


Part III. Cultural and Societal Factors


March 24 – Political Culture and Public Opinion I

Read Textbook pgs 239-251


March 26 – Political Culture and Public Opinion II

Read Textbook pgs 251-280


March 29 – Interest Groups and American Foreign Policymaking

Read Textbook pgs 283-290, 298-305


March 31 – The Military-Industrial Complex

Read Textbook pgs 291-298

Read: “Towards a Balanced and Sustainable Defense” by F.G. Hoffmann


April 2 -- The Media and Foreign Policymaking

Read Textbook pgs 304-317

Quiz Four


April 5 – The Mass Media and American Foreign Policy: The “CNN Effect”

Read: “The CNN Effect: Can the News Media Drive Foreign Policy” by Piers Robinson

Read: “Focus on the CNN Effect Misses the Point: The Real Media Impact on Conflict Management is Invisible and Indirect” by Peter Viggo Jakobsen


Part IV. Individuals, Personality, and Bureaucracy


April 8 – Individuals and Foreign Policy Performance

Read Textbook pgs 491-505


April 10 – Personality and Cognitive Characteristics

Read Textbook pgs 505-517


April 12 – Rationality and Foreign Policymaking

Read Textbook pgs 455-463



April 14 – Bureaucratic Politics

Read Textbook pgs 464-473

Read: “Policy Preferences and Bureaucratic Position” by Steve Smith


April 16 – Policy Consequences of Organizational Decision-Making

Read Textbook pgs 473-485


April 19 – Case Study in Decision-Making: The Iraq War Troop Surge

Read: TBA

Quiz Five


Part V.  Course Conclusion


April 21 – The Future of American Primacy

Read: “The American Unipolar Moment Revisited” by Charles Krauthammer

Read: “The Unipolar Illusion” by David Calleo



April 23 – Challengers to American Power: China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea

Read: “The Return of Authoritarian Great Powers” by Azur Gat

Read: “Responding to a Nuclear Iran” by Christopher Hemmer

Read: “Russia and the West” by Eugene Rumer and Angela Stent


April 26 – Challengers to American Power: The Global Financial Crisis

No Reading Assignment

We will watch “Inside the Meltdown” in class


April 28 – Course Conclusion and Review


April 30 – NIU Reading Day, NO CLASS


May 5 – FINAL EXAM, 10-11:50am, DU 246