Cover page

Table of Contents


Praise for US Foreign Policy in Action

Principles of Political Science Series

Title page

Copyright page





Preface and Acknowledgments

1 Introduction

Historical Foundations

Major Actors in the Foreign Policy Process

Pedagogical Approach: How to Use This Book

Key Features

Overview of the Book

2 The History of US Foreign Policy

Revolutionary Values

The Struggle to Define the New Nation

Manifest Destiny?

The Civil War

Rise to Globalism

The “American Century” and World Wars

3 Foreign Policy in the Cold War and Post-Cold War Era


The Cold War

The Truman Doctrine

Korea and Vietnam

Redefining Values and Interests?

The End of the Cold War

Engagement and Enlargement

Interests versus Values? The War on Terrorism

4 Key Government Institutions

Section I: Constitutional Authority and the “Invitation to Struggle”

The President and the Executive Branch

Presidential Influence

Instruments of Presidential Power

Congress: The Legislative Branch

The Courts: The Judicial Branch


Section II: Structured Debate: Leadership in Action and the War on Terrorism

Guidelines and Rules of Procedure

Debate: Executive Dominance and the War on Terrorism

Background: The War on Terrorism

Framing the Debate: Values and Interests

Additional Resources

5 Bureaucracies

Section I: Bureaucracies and Foreign Policy

Key Characteristics of Bureaucracies

The Theory of Bureaucratic Politics

The Department of Defense

The Department of State

Intelligence Bureaucracies

Section II: National Security Council Simulation Bureaucratic Politics in Action

Exercise Scenario: Proliferation Threats

Iranian Nuclear Ambitions

Class Meeting 1

Class Meeting 2

Class Meeting 3

Appendices: Templates and Role Assignments

6 Interest Groups and Political Parties

Section I: The Power of Unelected Actors

Interest Groups

What Do You Want? How to Lobby Effectively

Types of Interest Groups

Political Parties

Conclusion: Are All Politics “Local”?

Section II: Interest Groups in Action: Case-Based Learning

Pedagogical Approach

Environmental Policy: The United States, Interest Groups, and Climate Change

A Change of Climate?

Legislative Showdown

7 Public Opinion and the Media

Section I: Reaching the Masses? Public Opinion and the Media

Public Opinion

Public Attitudes and Foreign Policy: A Direct Line?

Media and Foreign Policy

The Functions of Media

Contemporary Trends in Media Coverage

Section II: Public Opinion and the Media in Action: Problem-Based Cooperative Learning

Research Project 1: Alternative News Media and Foreign Policy: Educating the Public?

Research Project 2: The Media and National Security: Is There a Public “Right to Know”?

8 Grand Strategy

Section I: What is Grand Strategy?

Alternative Grand Strategy Frames for US Foreign Policy Positions




Formulating Grand Strategy in the Post-9/11 World

Section II: Structured Debate: A New Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century?

Guidelines and Rules of Procedure

Framing the Debate

What Does Multilateralism Mean for Foreign Policy?

Transnational Issues and Multilateral Solutions

Additional Resources

“It’s the Economy, Stupid”

What Does Parochialism Mean for US Foreign Policy?

The War on Terror and US Parochialism

A Sustainable Foreign Policy Agenda?

9 Contemporary Foreign Policy Analysis

Fundamental Dynamics of Foreign Policy

Obama Foreign Policy

The Arab Spring Meets Liberal Engagement

Domestic Political Constraints

Foreign Policy Continuity versus Change

What Can You Do?



Praise for US Foreign Policy in Action

“Jeffrey Lantis has written a first rate study of US Foreign Policy in an age of uncertainty, complexity and transition. This comprehensive book, covering both theory and practice, looks at economic, security, environmental, and human rights issues, as well as the US’s relationships with other great powers. In particular, it provides an excellent pedagogical approach for students with a range of active learning frameworks designed to promote engagement with critical issues of international relations and help students experience the real world of policy making.”

John Baylis, Swansea University

“Topical. Innovative. Engaging. This textbook will draw students in with a crisp discussion of United States foreign policy history and process and enhances the learning experience with well-designed classroom exercises. If you’ve been looking for a textbook to help you foster a more active learning classroom environment, this is it!”

Douglas Foyle, Wesleyan University

Principles of Political Science Series


John T. Ishiyama Comparative Politics
Jeffrey S. Lantis US Foreign Policy in Action



Marijke Breuning International Relations
Title page


Photo 1.1 US President Barack Obama and Turkish President Abdullah Gül, September 23, 2011. 

Photo 2.1 Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull (1819). 

Photo 2.2 Roosevelt as a Rough Rider. 

Photo 2.3 The Big Four by Edward N. Jackson (May 27, 1919). 

Photo 3.1 A photograph taken at the Potsdam Conference, July 25, 1945, after World War II, of the “Big Three” leaders sitting together. 

Photo 3.2 President Nixon with Chinese premier Chou En-lai, February 25, 1972. 

Photo 3.3 A man chisels away at the Berlin Wall. 

Photo 4.1 The White House. 

Photo 4.2 President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden with the full cabinet, September 10, 2009. 

Photo 4.3 Capitol building. 

Photo 4.4 The Supreme Court. 

Photo 4.5 Bush at Ground Zero, September 14, 2001. 

Photo 5.1 ExComm Meeting, Cuban Missile Crisis, October 29, 1962. 

Photo 5.2 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates. 

Photo 5.3 President Barack Obama meeting with his National Security Council in the Situation Room. 

Photo 6.1 A political cartoon from The Anaconda Standard, dated October 28, 1900, depicts multimillionaire William A. Clark bribing state legislators to vote for him to become US Senator for Montana. 

Photo 6.2 Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee Joe Biden speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, before the 2008 presidential elections. 

Photo 6.3 Protesters demonstrating at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark (COP15), in 2009. 

Photo 6.4 President Barack Obama with European leaders at COP15. 

Photo 7.1 A crowd protesting in front of the Capitol building. 

Photo 7.2 President Bush gives a speech aboard the air craft carrier Abraham Lincoln, proclaiming victory in the Afghanistan War in 2003. 

Photo 7.3 CNN correspondent Nic Robertson in Mosul, Iraq. 

Photo 7.4 Jon Stewart interviewing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen on The Daily Show, January 6, 2009. 

Photo 8.1 Political cartoon depicting US global dominance, 1898. 

Photo 8.2 The United Nations Security Council votes to keep alive the committee monitoring sanctions on Iraq, November 25, 2003. 

Photo 8.3 Protest in support of bringing troops home from war on terror. 


Figure 4.1 Concentric circles model of actors in the foreign policy process. 

Figure 4.2 Nixon advising system. 

Figure 4.3 Carter advising system. 

Figure 4.4 George H.W. Bush advising system. 

Figure 5.1 Defense spending chart, millions of dollars, 1962–2015 (projected). 

Figure 8.1 Three US grand strategies. 


Map 1.1 World map 

Map 2.1 Westward expansion 

Map 3.1 Map of the Iron Curtain 


Table 4.1 Examples of presidential doctrines 

Table 4.2 Executive–legislative balances of power 

Table 4.3 Major foreign policy committees in Congress 

Table 5.1 Secretaries of Defense, 1947–present 

Table 5.2 Secretaries of State, 1944–present 

Table 6.1 Snapshot of the history of US political parties 

Table 6.2 Kyoto Protocol target emissions cuts 

Table 7.1 Stable attitudes toward foreign affairs 

Table 8.1 Grand strategy orientations 

Table 8.2 Major US interventions in Latin America 

Preface and Acknowledgments

The United States faces many challenges in the world. It is engaged in wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, negotiating a deepening of trade relations with countries in Latin America, promoting a “reset” of US relations with Russia, and standing firm against China’s expanding influence in world politics. US diplomats have traveled to Kazakhstan to discuss nuclear energy cooperation, Chile to address monetary policy, Indonesia to promote women’s rights, and Germany to explore potential solutions to climate change. The Obama administration is also encouraging democratic revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa.

The outcome of any one of these foreign policy matters is far from preordained. Indeed, there are multiple variables of international policy coordination to consider, such as garnering the support of allies and building coalitions in international organizations. In addition, key actors in the US policy-making process, including the president, Congress, bureaucracies, the media, interest groups, and the public, are engaged in lively debates about foreign policy initiatives.

The case of US engagement in Libya in 2011 illustrates the complexity of the US foreign policy process. In March 2011, President Obama committed US troops to participate in NATO-led airstrikes against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was attacking rebels in his country. Soon, some members of Congress were arguing that President Obama had violated his statutory authority by committing US soldiers to a coalition war in Libya without Congressional approval. The White House resisted Congressional challenges, in part because it knew that public support for the president had been buoyed by the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011. The president also enjoyed support for the Libya operation from human rights groups who feared that Gaddafi might slaughter rebels and civilians, and from Arab Americans who believed in support for democratic revolutions in the Arab world. Meanwhile, some Republican leaders believed that the United States was projecting an important message to other countries that might defy its will (namely, Iran and North Korea) that regimes could be toppled and leaders punished.

This text is designed to provide a fresh perspective on critical themes in foreign policy analysis. It blends the attributes of traditional textbook coverage – of major theories, historical surveys, illustrations, and data – with interactive learning components that will promote a deeper sense of engagement with the politics of United States foreign policy. Material presented throughout the text is designed to stir interest with provocative questions, competing answers, and debates that pervade the real-world policy process.

I have many people to thank for assistance in the production of this volume. The project began with an invitation from the Wiley-Blackwell series editor, John Ishiyama, to contribute to this innovative new series focused on effective pedagogy. This was an intriguing opportunity given my commitment to active teaching and learning and personal fascination with the politics of US foreign policy development.

I am grateful to my own teachers who helped me understand the history of US foreign policy and the tools of foreign policy analysis, including Professors Charles Hermann, Albert J. Ossman, Gary Kappel, Williamson Murray, and Shibley Telhami. I have also learned a great deal from friends and colleagues about teaching, including Matthew Krain, Kent Kille, Ralph Carter, Jeff Roche, Mark Boyer, Lynn Kuzma, Carolyn Shaw, Patrick Haney, Ryan Beasley, Juliet Kaarbo, and Michael Snarr. In addition, I simply could not have developed and taught my first class on US foreign policy more than twenty years ago without the help of Thomas Preston, now a distinguished teacher-scholar at Washington State University.

This book has also been influenced by practitioners. They include Dennis Ross, an influential advisor to President Obama on the Middle East and former envoy for the Middle East peace process in the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations, who is as knowledgeable and kind a person as they come. Susan Rice’s engagement in the foreign policy decision-making process of the Obama administration, as well as her service as US ambassador to the United Nations, are evidence of a deep personal and political dedication to values. Jared Cohen, a young State Department official and advocate of active teaching and learning through cross-cultural engagement, has inspired many to service. Finally, Joseph Kruzel was both a popular professor and a respected practitioner of foreign policy. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration, but tragically lost his life in an accident during a diplomatic mission in the Balkans in 1995. This book is dedicated to Joe and to thousands of other foreign policy practitioners who toil in critical (yet often unheralded) service of the government.

In addition, I want to thank the outstanding editorial team that pulled this all together. I began my work with Nick Bellorini, an encouraging and astute editor at Wiley-Blackwell. Editors Ben Thatcher and Justin Vaughn took up the project and helped shepherd it to conclusion. Annie Rose, Development Editor at Wiley-Blackwell, has also provided critical direction and assistance. I am also grateful to anonymous reviewers of the manuscript who offered a number of helpful suggestions. The project is much stronger for this input, but of course, any errors remain my own.

I thank a number of student research assistants who have contributed greatly to the development of this project. Isabelle Howes provided invaluable editorial and research assistance in the assembly of the manuscript, as well as outstanding work on web content. Kathryn Craig provided helpful research assistance in the early stages of manuscript development. Tess Morrissey and Emily Keizer both contributed to the project through research assistance, and Tess deserves credit for help with presidential advising models featured in Chapter 4. In addition, I am grate­ful to many students in my United States Foreign Policy classes at The College of Wooster, who approach the subject with enthusiasm and engage in valuable critical exchanges with me every semester.

Finally, I would like to thank my family for their love and inspiration. My wife Holly provided me encouragement and the needed intellectual space to create this project. And my children, Joshua and Megan, inspire me to teach, and learn, every day.

Jeffrey S. Lantis is Professor of Political Science at The College of Wooster, USA. He teaches courses on U.S. foreign policy, international security, comparative foreign policy, and war and peace on film. A former Fulbright Senior Scholar at the Australian National University, Lantis is author of The Life and Death of International Treaties (2009), and co-editor of Foreign Policy in Comparative Perspective: Domestic and International Influences on State Behavior (2012). He is past president of the Active Learning in International Affairs Section of the International Studies Association (ISA), and has directed numerous workshops on active learning approaches. In 2010, he was co-recipient of the Deborah J. Gerner Innovative Teaching Award in International Studies, the highest teaching award bestowed by the ISA.



United States Foreign Policy in Action

You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse. Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. … These nations aren’t playing for second place. Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America. As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may become, it’s time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth.

Barack Obama (2010)1

The purpose of foreign policy is not to provide an outlet for our own sentiments of hope or indignation, it is to shape real events in a real world.

John F. Kennedy (1963)2

Chapter Contents
Historical Foundations
Major Actors in the Foreign Policy Process
Pedagogical Approach: How to Use This Book
Key Features
Overview of the Book

Chapter Summary

This is an exciting period of transition for United States foreign policy. Think about how the world has changed just in our lifetimes. When you were born, the United States was emerging from the Cold War and decades of competition with the Soviet Union. The “victory” of western ideals over communism coupled with rapid economic globalization positioned the United States as the single dominant power in the world. Many leaders in Washington, DC, saw the new era as a unique opportunity for the United States to influence global affairs, to mold the world in its image. This period of dominance lasted only a decade, however, before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the rise of China, and other developments changed the international order.

Today, the country faces many new foreign policy opportunities and challenges. Questions of how the United States will respond – and whether the country will be a major player in global politics in the future – are more open-ended than one might think. Foreign policy issues often involve differing interpretations of primary values and interests. Foreign policy can be surprisingly divisive, and these issues demand that key players engage in struggles over allocations of government resources and commitments. This seems to go against the advice of Senator Arthur Vandenberg (R-MI), who once called for disagreements over foreign policy to stop “at the water’s edge.” Only unity could boost America’s image and power in global politics, he believed.

Debates over US foreign policy typically involve actors with vested interests in determining policy scope and direction. The framers of the Constitution debated which branch of government should have the most authority in foreign affairs, for example. After World War I, some leaders called for the United States to retreat from engagement in global affairs. Later, events like the Vietnam War and foreign aid to developing countries divided the American people and their elected representatives in Washington. Questions about whether the United States should trade with Communist China or commit itself to international treaties that might yield more costs than benefits also have been divisive. Today, some constitutional lawyers question the legality of US surveillance programs in the war on terrorism, as well as the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, popularly called drones, to carry out military strikes in distant countries.

Foreign policy is defined as the actions and strategies that guide government relations with the rest of the world. Foreign policy includes actions taken by states, such as providing aid, making official statements of support for another democracy, or even deploying military troops. Foreign policy is also a function of strategies behind these actions, such as official doctrines or policies formulated to achieve key national security interests. These actions and strategies are typically developed by elected representatives, especially the president and members of Congress. They are also influenced by unelected actors ranging from civil servants in government agencies and lobbyists to bloggers and average citizens who share infor­mation or participate directly in the process. This broad definition underscores how foreign policy is the product of a complex mix of actors and actions. It also highlights the degree of surprise, drama, and unpredictability in the foreign policy process.

Foreign policy decisions are often the product of complex political processes. These processes can be noble, such as when government officials respectfully dis­agree over the best path for future policies and patiently exchange views in an effort to find reasonable compromise. They can be complicated, like when players consider both short- and long-term implications of their actions in relation to political commitments. Or they can be tough political street fights in which powerful groups line up on both sides of a controversial issue in an attempt to shape the final outcome, creating clear winners and losers.

This book is designed to bring the politics of US foreign policy to life. It represents a synthesis of traditional content (theoretical frameworks and historical coverage) and interactive exercises. It encourages critical reflection on contending perspectives in political debates, promotes engagement with fundamental concepts and theories in the discipline, details relevant historical information, and provides innovative learning exercises that address a number of foreign policy dilemmas. It draws together the best trends in both politics and pedagogy – including increased access to information in the digital age, reactions to fast-changing circumstances, and imaginative critical dialogues – by interpreting the foreign policy decision-making process through the lens of political debate and exchange. Broadly speaking, this project is founded on republican ideals of knowledge and engagement: the belief that through participation in a community of learners students will develop interests and capacities that promote active citizenship.

Historical Foundations

The history of the United States of America offers a fascinating narrative, from the development of values that shaped the nation at its founding to modern-day struggles over interpretation of those values in a changing world. Actors with defined values and convictions formulate foreign policy. Those actors – women and men, philosophers and pundits, students and diplomats – are stewards of US foreign policy. They have personally vested themselves in the foreign policy process to achieve desired ends. They frequently disagree over the proper conduct of foreign policy. These differences matter.3

United States history began well before the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the adoption of the Constitution in 1787. The first settlers arrived in the New World over a century earlier. And like the generations that followed, these stewards disagreed over the values and principles that would define our nation. Fast-forward from the founding of the country to other formative developments: President Abraham Lincoln (1861–1865) had to manage scores of foreign policy challenges during the Civil War, and endured significant dissent inside his cabinet on policy choices. Nearly a century later, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his advisors struggled over how to respond to a global economic depression before the United States plunged into yet another major war. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson struggled with Congress over the limits of US containment policy. Each of these leaders looked at the world, and how to respond to global challenges and opportunities, through the lens of their own personal convictions and knowledge of domestic political constraints.

Map 1.1 World map.


Profound debates over US foreign policy did not end in the post-Cold War era. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President Bush enjoyed high public approval ratings, and Congress acted in bipartisan ways to support major foreign policy initiatives. These included backing the war in Afghanistan, passing legislation that may have curtailed civil liberties, and even authorizing the invasion of Iraq. Yet, by the start of the Iraq War in March 2003, Americans had become deeply divided over the direction of US foreign policy. Nearly as quickly as the Bush administra­tion gained support for an assertive foreign policy agenda, consensus faded and the American people entered into a bitter and partisan period. Those divisions played out in the 2008 presidential election in competition for votes in “red” and “blue” states – the outcome of which was considered a referendum on the eight years of the former Bush administration.

President Obama faced a number of foreign policy challenges in his first term in office. The year 2011 brought the “Arab Spring” of democratic revolutions in former authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa. Each new uprising presented both opportunities and dilemmas for the United States. For example, as the Egyptian dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak teetered on the brink of collapse, facing a popular revolution centered in Tahrir Square in Cairo, the president faced a tough choice: Egypt was a long-time ally of the United States, and Mubarak had served as a critical voice for moderation in the Middle East for decades. Egypt and Jordan were the only two countries in the region that had signed treaties for peace with Israel, and the governments also played a role in helping to control virulent Palestinian nationalism. Accordingly, President Obama seemed caught between idealism and pragmatism. Should the administration back a long-time ally of the United States against a popular uprising, or should it pressure Mubarak to leave office by using both diplomatic carrots and sticks? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton favored the former option, but Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned that protesters were dying for their cause and US intransigence threatened to place Obama on the “wrong side of history.” In the end, Obama phoned Mubarak directly and made his case: “It is time to present to the people of Egypt its next government. The future of your country is at stake.”4 This and other events contributed to Mubarak’s resignation from office on February 11, 2011, and the start of a transition to democracy in that country.

Photo 1.1 US President Barack Obama and Turkish President Abdullah Gül, September 23, 2011.

Source: White House Photo/Pete Souza, (accessed March 29, 2012).


The United States faces many other contemporary foreign policy challenges, including:

Once again, answers to these contemporary questions must be seen as a function of both international challenges and domestic political struggle, involving a fascinating mix of players.

Major Actors in the Foreign Policy Process

This text will explore the roles of key actors involved in formulating United States foreign policy. The first major force shaping US foreign policy is external: Global political developments impact the policy process every day. Had Communist North Korean forces not invaded South Korea in June 1950, for example, President Harry Truman would not have deployed hundreds of thousands of US soldiers to fight there. Had Latin American countries asserted greater control on farming and organized crime, illegal narcotics trafficking might not be as great a threat to US security as it is today. Indeed, there are countless ways in which world politics can impact US foreign policy – from debates in the United States about immigration policy to nuclear disarmament to support for Israel. Events in the international system force the United States to grapple with very difficult issues every day.

In the domestic arena, this book begins with an examination of the role of the president and the executive branch of government in foreign policy development. At this writing, the United States has had only forty-four presidents. Directly elected by the people, many presidents profoundly impact policy during their terms of office. Indeed, these leaders often make their mark on history through major foreign policy statements and decisions – such as President Jefferson’s leadership in expanding the nation’s territory at the turn of the nineteenth century to President Kennedy’s management of the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s (see Chapters 2 and 3). The US Constitution vests the president with significant foreign policy authority. The president serves as commander-in-chief of the armed services; presidential envoys negotiate treaties with foreign countries on issues ranging from free trade to international criminal investigations. And the president must sign and implement legislation that passes through Congress related to US foreign policy.

The US Congress has a significant impact on foreign policy. The Constitution vests Congress with considerable power over domestic and foreign policy. Indeed, many experts believe the framers intended Congress to have stronger policy authority than the president. Congress has the power to declare war – the ultimate foreign policy commitment – and the power to legislate, to make laws that govern the behavior of our citizens and foreign relations. While the president negotiates international treaties, the US Senate is given the power to ratify them with a two-thirds majority vote. Congress has other significant “checks” over presidential authority including the right to approve the president’s nominees to top political offices and control over government spending. Perhaps most importantly, Congress has exercised these powers in relation to US dealings with the world. Given that Congress is powerful in foreign affairs, and has been directly elected by voters to whom its members are beholden, this provides a channel for you to influence the foreign policy process.

The judicial branch of government is represented most visibly by the Supreme Court and a large network of federal and state-level courts throughout the United States. The judicial branch has the authority to interpret the constitutionality of laws of the nation. From time to time, the courts address issues of significance in foreign affairs. The Supreme Court is made up of presidential nominees for life, and the broader judicial system often represents the people in efforts to establish boundaries for policy conduct. Recent Supreme Court decisions that have impacted foreign policy include rulings on US federal government policy concerning detainees in the war on terror.

This text also surveys the role of unelected actors in the foreign policy process, including bureaucracies, interest groups, the media, and public opinion. For example, the US Department of State employs thousands of highly trained civil servants who are involved in international negotiations on a range of issues. The Department of Energy deploys experts around the world to learn about the latest research on renewable energy supplies; the Coast Guard is involved in daily interdiction missions to stop drug smuggling. Interest groups are fascinating organizations that try to influence the policy process by lobbying the government. Political party organizations can play powerful roles in the policy process by shaping decisions taken by elected officials at the local, state, or national levels of government. The media report on developments in the nation and the world that might affect Americans, and media coverage can influence the policy process. Finally, scholars have studied this potential impact of public attitudes on foreign policy development, finding direct and indirect impacts on policy.

Each of these actors is a participant in the policy process and worthy of more focused consideration. And so are you. Your level of engagement in local, regional, and national politics can have a direct impact on foreign policy. Consider the ways a local candidate for the US House of Representatives views a foreign policy challenge or dilemma. The candidate would appreciate your support, perhaps through volunteering for her campaign or working in her district office. Now multiply the voice of your representative by the hundreds of others who share her views and imagine their combined impact on foreign policy. Or perhaps you prefer a more direct route to influence through government service: You could excel in international studies at your university or college, score well on the Foreign Service Officer exam, and work for the US Department of State. Following a few years of training and gaining experience, you could be an official representative of the United States engaged in international diplomacy while serving at an embassy, consulate, or mission overseas. If you prefer behind-the-scenes work, why not start by volunteering for a local group or supporting a cause you care about like the environment or perhaps early childhood education. Volunteer work like this could lead to grassroots lobbying and advocacy for policy at the local, state, or national level. Right now, there are tens of thousands of young people working on campaigns, studying politics, going door-to-door for petition drives, and working in Washington, DC. They have a surprisingly significant impact on domestic and foreign policy every day.

Pedagogical Approach: How to Use This Book

This book provides an exciting survey of the politics of US foreign policy as well as active learning frameworks to promote engagement with issues. In addition to presenting major theories of foreign policy and historical developments, chapters feature interactive exercises designed to open supplementary avenues of investigation and deepen learning. These exercises have been used successfully and updated in accord with contemporary developments in foreign policy. In other words, the book presents exercises that are student-centered and student-tested.

The philosophy behind active teaching and learning focuses on the use of instructional techniques for meaningful student engagement in the discovery of knowledge.5 Conscious selection of goals for the classroom and methods for teaching help create a sense of purpose in the educational process. Active learning also means collaboration – a commitment on the part of instructors and students to enliven the educational environment. Educational objectives of these approaches include:

These exercises help promote effective learning cycles, challenging students to take risks and express their views on complex and controversial issues.7 Furthermore, this approach views learning as both a means and an end – a process of discovery that leads to the critical construction of knowledge. Interactive exercises create positive, powerful, and effective learning environments. They promote engagement with material, encourage critical thinking, and can contribute to responsible global citizenship.8

The text is also designed to stir interest by providing fresh perspectives on critical themes in foreign policy analysis. It features provocative questions, competing answers, and numerous exercises designed to promote critical thinking and encourage reasoned argumentation. This approach is consistent with trends in higher education, including the desire for more creative, discussion-based styles of teaching and the growing popularity of online education and online access to materials.

Key Features

This text draws from these advancements in pedagogy and offers innovative features, including:

In summary, this textbook was designed to help readers experience real-world challenges in foreign policy – and develop a deeper understanding of events. Theoretical frameworks help us to make sense of the complexity of foreign policy decision-making, and analytical exercises provide greater depth of knowledge. Material is presented to help students summarize and keep track of various explanations of events covered from the different perspectives and levels of analysis. Theory connections are made to real, practical policy challenges. Taken together, it is hoped that these approaches will help readers become better-informed US and global citizens.

Overview of the Book

This book is organized as both a survey of United States foreign policy and a vehicle for virtual engagement in the process of foreign policy development. The chapters provide an overview of major theoretical traditions in the study of US foreign policy paired with historical coverage and, often, active learning exercises that engage students with complex, contemporary foreign policy problems.

Chapters 2 and 3 provide an introduction to the history of US foreign policy development as a noble struggle. Next, Chapter 4 provides an introduction to the major institutions and theories (including scholarly work on presidential leadership, management styles, advising, the “imperial presidency” model, Congressional partisanship, the role of ideology, and committee structures) that have defined US foreign policy, and features an active learning exercise on the struggle between the executive and legislative branches of government over the war on terrorism. Chapter 5 introduces major theories of bureaucratic politics, both traditional and contemporary, and examines the influence of select executive branch agencies in detail, including the Departments of State, Defense, and intelligence agencies. This chapter also details a role-playing simulation of a National Security Council emergency meeting.

Chapter 6 explores the power of interest groups and unelected actors in the policy process. It includes a critical examination of contemporary lobbying practices and the role of ideology and political party organizations in shaping foreign policy patterns over time. Students also engage with the challenging question of the role of interest groups in policy-making through the teaching case method. Chapter 7 explores theories of “public” influence on foreign policy, examining the role of the media and public opinion. This chapter also features a fascinating set of collaborative learning exercises. Assignment topics include the controversial role of “soft media” programs like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report in shaping public attitudes as well as government secrecy debates and the public’s “right to know” about US foreign policy.

Chapter 8 brings these issues full circle by examining the power of grand strategy debates in the foreign policy process. The chapter reviews the key institutions and actors in the US foreign policy process and analyzes contemporary debates over the proper role of the United States in world politics. The chapter also provides the foundation for a structured debate on the future of US grand strategy and the country’s responsibility to promote global security. Finally, Chapter 9 draws together the many themes presented in the book and offers thoughts about current and future directions of US foreign policy.


1 President Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address,” January 24, 2012, (accessed June 18, 2012).

2 President John F. Kennedy, “Address at the Mormon Tabernacle,” Salt Lake City, Utah, September 26, 1963, in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1963), p. 736.

3 This is a paraphrase of the argument offered first by Harvard professor Graham T. Allison, in “Conceptual Models and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” American Political Science Review, vol. 63, no. 3 (1969), pp. 689–718.

4 Helene Cooper, Mark Landler, and David E. Sanger, “In U.S. Signals to Egypt, Obama Straddled a Rift,” New York Times, February 12, 2011, p. A1.

5 Philosophically, the approach has a long history, from Socrates to John Dewey, to today’s online simulations of world politics. Matthew Krain, Kent Kille, and I have written about active teaching and learning strategies for international studies in the past, and my understanding of these approaches has been greatly influenced by our collaborative work. See Jeffrey S. Lantis, Kent K. Kille, and Matthew Krain, “The State of the Active Teaching and Learning Literature,” in The International Studies Compendium, Robert Denemark, ed. (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010); Ken Bain, What the Best College Teachers Do (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004).

6 David A. Kolb, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1984).

7 Gary G. Bitter and Jane M. Legacy, Using Technology in the Classroom, 7th edition (Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2008); Derrick L. Cogburn and Nanette S. Levinson, “U.S.–Africa Virtual Collaboration in Globalization Studies: Success Factors for Complex, Cross-National Learning Teams,” International Studies Perspectives, vol. 4, no. 1 (2003), pp. 34–51; Mariya Y. Omelicheva, “Resolved: Academic Debate Should Be a Part of Political Science Curricula,” Journal of Political Science Education, vol. 3, no. 2 (2007), pp. 161–175.

8 See Kent J. Kille, “Simulating the Creation of a New International Human Rights Treaty,” International Studies Perspectives, vol. 3, no. 2 (2002), pp. 271–290; Michael D. Kanner, “War and Peace: Simulating Security Decision Making in the Classroom,” PS: Political Science and Politics, vol. 40, no. 4 (2007), pp. 795–800; Matthew Krain and Jeffrey S. Lantis, “Building Knowledge? Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Global Problems Summit,” International Studies Perspectives, vol. 7, no. 4 (2006), pp. 395–407; Sarah M. Wheeler, “Role-Playing Games and Simulations for International Issues Courses,” Journal of Political Science Education, vol. 2, no. 3 (2006), pp. 331–347.

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