PLCY 780: The American Foreign Policymaking Process

Publication Date: 
January 2019


Document Type: 

This course explores the theory and practice of U.S. foreign policymaking, focusing on the processes by which international economic and security decisions are made. It examines the actors and institutions that drive U.S. security and economic policy making and how policy making processes affect policy outcomes. The course also aims to demonstrate how U.S. leaders compete for influence at home even as they seek it abroad and how decision-making processes are being shaped at least as much by personalities and political/societal trends as by institutional and constitutional prerogatives. 

To encourage specific understanding about the practice of U.S. foreign policymaking, the course presents a mix of historical cases and analyses of the policy process in general (models, the executive branch, Congress). After three introductory weeks centered mainly on general models and institutions, we will move to examination of economic and national security policymaking in particular administrations, beginning with those of John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.  Students will examine the roles and inter-relationships of key officials, and how they addressed major international security and economic issues. In so doing, we will explore repeatedly the relevance of theory to understanding what actually happens. Readings will include contemporary documents, retrospective accounts by participants, and academic analyses.