International Security and US Foreign Policy

Module titleInternational Security and US Foreign Policy
Module codePOL3174
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Professor Doug Stokes (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

It is almost impossible to understand the contemporary global security order without also analyzing the United States and its foreign relations in historical context. Whether as the producer of security goods for the ‘liberal order’ during the Cold War; the shift to US unipolarity afterwards or as the lead state in a series of often controversial wars after 9/11, the US continues to remain central to international security and world order more broadly. During the module, you will be provided with a detailed exploration of the centrality of the US to the reproduction of a broad range of international regimes. Themes covered will include the historical legacy of the ‘Pax Americana’; US grand strategy; the durability of US unipolarity; the rise of China and other powers; the interrelationship between US monetary and strategic primacy and the ways in which the US can help stymie decline through strategic mediation, particularly in Asia.   

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aims of this module are to provide you with a detailed examination of US foreign policy. A key emphasis of the course will be to enrich contemporary understandings of international crises and global security through the use of a range of theoretical approaches, keen use of empirical material and solid reasoning. Students taking this course and fully participating will leave with a grasp of international security issues, key debates in US foreign policy and knowledge of potential global strategic trends based on historical evidence and analysis of current developments in global politics. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. demonstrate substantive knowledge of key issues in international security as they pertain to US foreign policy and develop the capacity to apply this knowledge to a range of theoretical positions, case studies and international crises;
  • 2. display knowledge of the contemporary historical dimensions of US foreign policy and world order;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. develop analytical understanding of the role of great powers, especially the US in helping shape world politics;
  • 4. exercise informed judgment concerning the role of the US in world politics and how this role pertains to international security whilst locating arguments within an historical context;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. conduct independent research, exercise critical judgment, write cogently and persuasively; and
  • 6. demonstrate personal responsibility for knowledge interpretation, assimilation and articulation.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following:

The first section of this course will provide a broad historical overview of the development of US foreign policy from the early Cold War period up the present day. The second section of this course will examine a broad range of issues that pertain to US foreign policy, and which help the analyst to develop applicable knowledge of key developments in US foreign policy and world politics more generally. Key questions the course will cover include whether the US-led western order is being eclipsed in favour of a more multipolar distribution of power? How can great powers, and especially the US, calibrate its grand strategy to help arrest power transition? In what ways does the global security order that the US helps reproduce help bolster its position within world politics? 

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning & Teaching activities22 11 x 2 hour per week seminars including small group work, presentations, discussion, reflection and simulations.
Guided independent study150Reading
Guided Independent Study50Reflection
Guided independent study78Essay Writing


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group class presentations Usually 15 minutes1-4,6Oral
General seminar participation and engagementThroughout the course1-4,6Oral
Participation in simulations and / or scenario planning.Up to 2 hours1-4,6Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Summative essay 1503,000 words1-6Written/oral
Summative essay 2503,000 words1-6Written/oral


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Summative essay 13,000 word essay1-6August/September re-assessment period.
Summative essay 23,000 word essay1-6August/September re-assessment period.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Michael Cox & Doug Stokes (eds.) US Foreign Policy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) 2nd Edition.

Alan Collins (ed.), Contemporary Security Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 2nd ed.

Inderjeet Parmar, Linda B. Miller and Mark Ledwidge (eds.)  New Directions in U.S. Foreign Policy (London: Routledge, 2009/13).

Barry Buzan and Lene Hansen, The Evolution of International Security Studies (New York: Cambridge University press, 2009)

William Wohlforth and Stephen G. Brooks, World Out of Balance: International Relations Theory and the Challenge of American Hegemony (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008)

Christopher Layne, The Peace of Illusions:  American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006)

G. John Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011).

Andrew Bacevich, Washington Rules (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010)



Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

The main resource students will need will be my twitter feed currently @drdws but this will change. Search for Doug Stokes.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

US foreign policy, International Security

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date