Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Foreign Policy of USA

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT International Relations

DESCRIPTION The study-unit will examine the foreign policy of the United States in its role as the sole remaining super-power and a central actor in international relations. In order to understand the way the US conducts its foreign policy, the way in which it is formulated will be discussed and assessed, examining domestic institutional and political factors.

The evolution of US Foreign Policy will be examined, tracing developments since the post-World Was I era until the end of the Cold War. Attention will be given to the role of individual presidents and policy makers, and the impact of events and ‘entanglements’ on subsequent developments and policies. The impact of the end of the Cold War on US Foreign Policy during the 1990s will be examined, assessing the roots of policies in a post-September 11th environment.

The September 11th terrorist attacks will be taken as a starting point in examining current themes in the Foreign Policy of the United States, including the War on Terror, the role of President George W. Bush and his administration, the nature of US foreign policy under President Barack Obama, policies towards and relations with the countries of the Middle East, developments in bilateral and multilateral relations, and the role of the United States in the various international organizations of which it is a member.

Finally, in the shadow of their Cold-War relations, the contemporary relationship between the United States of America and the Russian Federation will be examined, discussing the way these former adversaries influence one another’s foreign policy decisions and actions within the international arena.

Study-unit Aims:

The objective of this study-unit is to provide students with a broad overview and understanding of contemporary issues in the United States' foreign policy. Studying the history of US foreign policy and the mechanisms used to formulate and implement these policies provides the means for deeper analysis and understanding of contemporary themes and those to come.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Identify and discuss the actors, structures and institutions involved in both the making and implementation of the USA’s foreign policy and be able to identify the geopolitical, economic, and security factors that influence the development of US foreign policy.
- Discuss the history of US' foreign policy and analyse the impact of such historical events on contemporary policies and priorities.
- Identify and discuss the role of domestic developments and issues and their impact on US' foreign policy.
- Discuss the role of the United States in regional and international institutions.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Discuss long term trends and patterns in the foreign policy of the USA.
- Analyse the impact of US’ foreign policy decisions on regional and international political developments.
- Discuss the role of international and multilateral economic, political and security issues that shape its Foreign Policy.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Cox, M. & Stokes, D. US Foreign Policy 2nd Edition (Oxford University Press, 2012).
- Kissinger, H. Diplomacy (Simon & Schuster, 1994).


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Presentation SEM2 Yes 25%
Examination (2 Hours) SEM2 Yes 75%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.