17.40 | Fall 2017 | Undergraduate

American Foreign Policy: Past, Present, and Future


Second Paper Assignment

Write a short paper that evaluates a U.S. foreign policy (to include a broad U.S. policy, strategy, or doctrine, or a specific U.S. decision); or a foreign policy idea that was suggested but not adopted.

In your evaluation you can (1) describe and evaluate the key factual and theoretical beliefs that motivated the policy. Were these beliefs true or false?

And / or you can (2) describe and assess the consequences of the policy (if you assess a policy that was adopted); or the consequences that probably would have followed if the policy had been adopted (if you assess an unadopted policy idea). Were these consequences good or bad for the U.S.? Were they good or bad for other states? Were they desired or undesired by U.S. policymakers?

And / or you can (3) assess whether the process by which the policy was decided was good or bad. Were alternative policies considered? Was relevant evidence marshalled and examined in a systematic fashion? Overall, did the policy making process follow the rules of science? Was it “rational-legal”?

In asking if the consequences of the policy were good or bad, you can assess the policy against a pragmatic standard (“the policy improved US national security”) or a moral standard (“the policy violated universal human rights”), or both.

If the evidence available in the assigned readings is too thin to allow you to fully evaluate the policy or policy element that you have chosen to discuss, please say so and describe the information that you would need to perform a more thorough evaluation. Alternately, you can consult works listed in the ‘‘Further Readings’’ pdf, which can be found in the Readings section, or you can ask your TA for suggestions on further reading. (Extra reading is not mandatory but we encourage it if your paper seems to call for it.)

Examples of policies you might evaluate:

  1. U.S. foreign policies in the interwar years (1919–1941).
  2. The U.S. decision to pursue Containment (1947).
  3. The policy of rollback against the USSR that was suggested by some during 1949–1954 but not adopted.
  4. The national security policies’ of the Eisenhower Administration (1953–1961). (Note: ‘‘National security policy’’ refers to policies to protect national sovereignty and physical safety; these include national grand strategy, general military policy, and more specific foreign policies.)
  5. U.S. policies in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
  6. The 1965 U.S. decision to send large ground forces to Vietnam.
  7. Other U.S. policies in Vietnam/Indochina, 1945–1975.
  8. Any other U.S. intervention in the Third World, e.g., the 1954 CIA coup in Guatemala.
  9. The 2001–present War on Terror.
  10. The 2003 Iraq war.

Your paper should be about eight typed double-spaced pages, with normal 1" margins and normal-size typeface.

Start your paper with a short summary introduction that states your guestion(s) and distills your answer(s). And offer a conclusion.

Your paper is due at the beginning of Session 23.

Your TA will give you feedback on a draft of your paper if you submit a draft a week before you submit your final paper. You must do this for one of your two papers. You are wise to do it for both papers.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2017
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Presentation Assignments
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Lecture Notes