PS359: WEEK ONE INTRODUCTION
JON PEVEHOUSE: Hello, and welcome to Problems in American Foreign Policy, Political Science 359. Welcome to this online course, which I'm very excited to teach. My name is Professor Jon Pevehouse at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Over the course of the next eight weeks, we're going to explore some of the historical contexts, the institutional foundations, and the current controversies in American foreign policy. I've taught this course many times in the past. This is my first exploration into online teaching, and I'm very excited to reach all of you over the summer with some new material, some new lectures, and some new assignments that I think are going to help tie together a lot of the concepts, and the practical data, if you will, involving American foreign policy.
So, the nature of the course is fairly simple. It's organized into two parts. The first part of the course is going to describe the historical contexts and the institutional arrangements that surround American foreign policy. If you've never taken a political science course before, you'll discover that political scientists tend to be very interested in the study of institutions--that is, the formal and informal norms, procedures, decision-making rules that inform how foreign policy is made.
The way I generally think about the world is that political scientists study institutions, economists study markets, historiansobviously study history, sociologists study markets. So the comparative advantage in political science is to study the institutions that evolve around American foreign policy or any other set of policies that emerge in the world system.
Over the next four weeks, we'll actually begin discussing, institution by institution, the major players that come to form American foreign policy. In the last four weeks, we'll take what we know about those institutions, and the knowledge and the historical context that we have, and think about current controversies involving American policy, such as issues involving Iran, relations with the European Union, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, globalization, and the emergence of China.
And we'll think about how the interactions of those institutions, the bureaucracies that are involved with them, the leaders that exist within them, interact with one another to then shape the outcomes and to shape future policies towards those regions, towards those issue areas in American foreign policy. So I'm very excited about the course.
The purpose of these video introductions is to, on a weekly basis, preview where we're going to be going, what types of topics we're going to be doing. With each video introduction, I'll give you a little background and context on why we're talking about the issues that we are. I'll also preview a handful of the readings that you'll going to be coming up, and give you some advice, maybe, on how to tie in some of the readings or some of the other course materials with those particular assignments.
So, armed with that knowledge, we'll now begin thinking about the first week of the course.
The first week of the course is just laying the groundwork for what we're going to be doing for much of the rest of the summer. The first two course lectures really revolve around material involving the history of American foreign policy.
I know many of you have taken History 434 or other historical courses involving American foreign policy, so I won't spend a lot of time kind of going into the gory detail of the history of American foreign policy. But what I do want to do is bring out selected highlights, especially involving those institutions that have formed, that have changed, and perhaps even disappeared, and how the dynamics of those institutions in fact influence, both historically and in the present day, the formation of American foreign policy.
So, for example, in the first couple of lectures, we'll talk about the United States after the end of World War II and the emergence of the Cold War, the Cold War consensus. In particular, we'll talk about the formation of institutions, both domestically, such as the National Security Council, and internationally, as in the Bretton Woods system, after World War II, and how those set the path and the goals of American foreign policy for decades to come, and in fact are still heavily influencing what happens to us today.
I'll then talk about the evolution of the Cold War, historically, some of the small battles, the battles for the developing world, decolonization, and in fact how those external events influenced the formation and the reform of domestic institutions, both formal institutions--again, the National Security Council, the Department of Defense, the State Department--as well as what I would call the informal or social institutions: public opinion, the media, and interest groups, and their involvement in American foreign policy.
We'll then spend a little bit of time talking about the Vietnam War. For political scientists, as well as historians and other disciplines, the Vietnam War, in some sense, serves as a break point. Many of the trends that we saw between 1945 and the early 1970s stayed relatively constant in terms of things like public opinion, in terms of congressional support for the president. And these all saw a tremendous break with the Vietnam War, beginning in the Johnson administration but certainly continuing into the Nixon administration.
So we'll do a little bit of a comparison to see, essentially, how World War II fundamentally changed American foreign policy, but also how Vietnam. And we'll compare and contrast those two conflicts and note how they changed, again, both the societal nature of the inputs to American foreign policy, but also the formal institutions and their interactions with one another.
The last two topics we'll discuss in an historical context will be the end of the Cold War--again, a major historical event that changed the foundations of American foreign policy. Interestingly enough, less so on the informal inputs--the interest groups, the media, and public opinion--but certainly more on the institutional side, and how the end of the Cold War itself, containment policy, left the United States essentially scrambling for some years to find a new set of goals, a new set of institutions, and a new set of international actors to help further the goals of American national interests.
Finally, of course, we'll talk about September 11th and the terrorist attacks of 2001, and how those served, much like the end of the Cold War, much like the Vietnam War, as very much an historical breaking point for some of the trends that had occurred up to that point, in particular the trends that had begun to develop in the post-Cold War world, and how now the interesting issues such as counter-terrorism development and human security have also grown in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th and the continued War on Terror waged by the United States government.
In terms of your readings for the first few class periods, we'll begin with some readings by Bruce Jentleson. He's a scholar of political science but also a practitioner, who's served a fair bit of time in the State Department and other presidential administrations. Jentleson lays out what he thinks are some of the big historical and current themes and contexts in American foreign policy. And this simply serves as a broad overview of some of the big concepts that we'll be discussing in the class.
The next piece, which I always assign, is a fascinating piece to me, is an older piece by Hans Morgenthau, who was one of the most important figures in international-relations theory and the practice of international relations.
Morgenthau was a political science professor at the University of Chicago, who is considered the founder of modern realism, or the theoretical idea that power governs all facets of international relations. Morgenthau writes about the formation of American national interest in foreign policy and how that is best to be pursued. And he's writing this about 50 years ago, but I think you'll be fascinated at how much Morgenthau writes is both still true today and, in fact, still rings true in the minds not only of yourself, in thinking about current context, but the minds of decision makers as well.
What we'll do on the last day of class this week, on Friday, is talk about presidential politics. This will spin into next week a bit as well, but we'll spend two days talking about the presidency. Historically, across most disciplines, the president is considered the main actor in American foreign policy. And we'll discuss why that is the case, some of the institutional foundations, some of the more normative foundations, some of the societal foundations for presidential power. But then we'll also ask, and I'll turn into a skeptic a bit and discuss about whether the president really is all-powerful in the area of international relations.
The readings for this week involve several historical pieces talking about what the founding fathers intended, whether there in fact are two presidencies: a foreign-policy presidency and a domestic presidency.
And finally, a piece by a colleague of mine, William Howell at the University of Chicago, who discusses some of the natures of unilateral powers. And this is an area that tends to, again, be under-discussed in the media and in the popular press, that it's not just the fact that the president has a leadership, has a bully pulpit, has potentially a normative sway over international relations and American foreign policy, but has various strengths within the institution as well: unilateral powers, signing statements, executive orders, et cetera. And we'll briefly discuss how those have become relevant to the process of American foreign policy.
So that's the outline for the first week. Again, I'm very excited about the course. I hope you enjoy the course. And, as always, if you have any questions, feel free to go to the online resources, with the teaching assistants or myself, or email me directly to my political science account at the University of Wisconsin. Thanks, and I look forward to having a great summer with you.