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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Vi Luat Nhan
SIS 423
Seattle Campus

Practicing American Foreign Policy

Develops familiarity with tools available to promote international objectives of the United States. International case studies selected to illustrate the diverse considerations inherent in the policy process and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the national institutions involved. Prerequisite: SIS 201.

Class description

The course assesses the formulation and execution of American foreign policy from the standpoint of senior policy officials. It addresses the roles of the President and cabinet officials, the Congress, the media and various interest groups. It seeks to balance discussion of historic context with consideration of real decisions and real controversies, starting with the beginnings of the Cold War and continuing to the Second Iraq War. It examines in detail the most effective tools to accomplish the stated objectives in different crises: diplomatic persuasion, economic pressure/sanctions, information and assistance programs, covert action and military power. It weighs how human rights and values, democratization and free market objectives affect the policy process. It assesses the importance of alliance relationships, the role of the UN and other multilateral institutions, NGOs and public opinion.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

The course is taught by the case study method. Students examine key foreign policy decisions since the end of World War II to understand how and why they were made as they were, and to probe realistic alternatives. They also examine how the foreign policy process, including the institutional framework, has evolved over that period. The instructor provides context and facilitates discussion.

Recommended preparation

Prerequisite: SIS 201. Recommended: Junior standing and SIS 200, 201 and 202

Class assignments and grading

Class Participation 30% of final grade

Each student is expected to attend each class session, and to participate in the discussion. In addition, each student is responsible for the presentation of at least one case (as a member of a team), as well as completing all assigned reading, doing independent research, keeping abreast of current world events and formulating relevant questions and comments for class discussion. Participation will be graded on clarity of expression, relevance, thoughtfulness and respect for the opinion of others.

Five Case Memoranda 30% of final grade

Each memorandum should be no longer than 500 words (two pages, double spaced), to be submitted at the beginning of class on the date specified in this course outline. Each memorandum must follow the IBIOR format: (1) a statement of the issue; (2) a minimal explanation of the essential background; (3) a description of the US national interests; (4) a discussion of policy options; and (5) a recommendation that best serves US interests.

Final Policy Paper 40% of final grade

This paper should be no longer than 3,000 words or twelve double-spaced pages, submitted in duplicate at the beginning of class on May 29 (it should also be submitted electronically). The paper should examine a current or hypothetical issue of Presidential importance, and propose a course of action to address it. The paper must follow the IBIOR format, with expanded discussion of US interests and policy options. Lessons learned from the cases discussed in class should serve as points of reference. The objective is to present to the President a carefully reasoned articulation of a desired course of action. Papers will be graded on the bases of clarity of written expression, conciseness, organization, command of the subject matter and effective use of the IBIOR format. Credit will be reduced for late papers.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Course Website for Spring 2007
Last Update by Vi Luat Nhan
Date: 03/16/2007