Topics in United States History

"Grand Strategy, foreign policy, and Presidential Decision-Making, 1945-Present"

This seminar will explore the role of strategic thinking in the conceptualization and implementation of U.S. foreign policy during and after the Cold War.  We will look at four cases: origins of the Cold War; end of the Cold War; post-Cold War; and post-9/11.  To what extent did strategic thinking shape U.S. policy? Or was policy the result of domestic politics, organizational imperatives and bureaucratic infighting; individual predilections; or spontaneous reactions to external threats? If strategic thinking was important, what inspired it and how was it designed? 

This is NOT a lecture course.  In our weekly meetings, much emphasis will be placed on discussion of the primary sources and scholarly writings.    
We will spend about three weeks on each of the cases.  In each instance, we will read some primary policy documents, speeches, and memoranda; some excerpts from memoirs of key participants; and some important biographies, monographs, and articles.  Weekly reading will probably average around 200 pages.  I will probably assign documents like Kennan's "Long Telegram," and Kennan's Policy Planning Documents; NSC 68; excepts from memoirs by Harry Truman and/or Dean Acheson, Ronald Reagan, George Shultz, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and Douglas Feith; some CIA analyses of Soviet intentions, capabilities, and economic performance; essays by officials like Paul Wolfowitz, Eric Edelman, and Philip Zelikow; the Defense Policy Guidance of 1992 and the National Security Strategy Statement of 2002.  Among other scholarly books, we will read parts of John Gaddis's, Strategies of Containment and Hal Brands, What Good is Grand Strategy? 
Students will be asked to write two papers (7-10 pages) on two of the cases.  At the end of the course, they will be asked to design their own current national security strategy paper.

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
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