A Brief History of American Foreign Policy From 1776 to Today

Course Leader(s)
Day of Week: Thursday
Course Length: 5 weeks
Starting: 09/12/2024
Ending: 10/17/2024
Period of Day: Period 1 Zoom
Time: 9:30 - 11:00
Course Fee: $50

Course Description:

Our foreign policy history includes both major successes (think of such as the Marshall Plan to rebuild Germany and Japan after World War II) and major failures, (think of the Vietnam War and the invasion of Iraq). Our children and grandchildren live in a world with some dangerous adversaries (Russia, China and Iran). Our foreign policy is key to our survival. We are more likely to get it right if we try to learn from our foreign policy history – the goal of this course.

The course will cover American foreign policy since 1776 (tracing unilateralism, expansionism, Manifest Destiny, tipping the balance of the First World War, idealism in forming the League of Nations, the Second World War, followed by the Cold War, Bush’s New World Order, Vietnam, and the distinctive styles and policies of Trump and Biden).  All this will serve as background for Richard Mansfield’s course on contemporary issues of American foreign policy that will follow immediately in the second part of the fall courses at the same time.  While participants can sign up separately for one of the two courses, it is highly recommended that you take both courses.

We’ll begin each class with Q and A regarding the assigned reading.  This will lead to brief lectures pertinent to the readings but with personal insights.  My goal is to use lectures to spark discussions that will carry through to the end of each class.  The syllabus assigns reading about 55 pages a week from the text, which is especially well and clearly written, and reading ahead is highly recommended. In addition, I will circulate, via email, short contemporary articles culled from The Economist.

Because of prior arranged travel, Richard Mansfield will conduct the first session in my absence.  I, in turn, will participate to some extent in his course on contemporary issues which follows this one.

Books and Other Resources:

Kaufman, Joyce P. A Concise History of U.S. Foreign Policy, Rowman & Littlefield. 2021 (be sure to order the Fifth Edition 2021, which features thoughtful reflections contrasting the successes and failures of Trump and Biden, the present and presumptive candidates in this November’s election). Available from Amazon for about $35.

Two books you might consider after this course ends are Richard Haass, The World: A Brief Introduction, Penguin Press, 2020 and Fareed Zakaria Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash, W. W. Norton, March, 2024.  I also urge participants who want to keep up with world events to subscribe to The Economist.

Course Leader Bio(s)

Bill Brisk

I graduated from Brown (AB), NYU (JD), and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington (PhD). I chaired the department of political science at the Inter-American University (San German, Puerto Rico) and moved to the University of New Mexico where I taught Latin American politics, international relations and a variety of honors courses. At Suffolk and other law schools I created and taught courses on the emerging subject of elder law.  I’ve written a book about mini-states and published over twenty-five articles and book reviews on Latin American and international politics and, as an elder law attorney, was the lead author of the text on Massachusetts Elder Law which I updated about six times and is now updated by others.  I served as president of the Massachusetts Elder Law Association, as a board member of national NAELA, and as Editor in Chief of the National Academy of Elder Law Journal.