English - Free topic F: Turning up the Power: American Foreign Policy Decision-Making from Kennedy to Biden

Course content

Turning up the Power: American Foreign Policy Decision-Making from Kennedy to Biden


Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Lebanon, Grenada, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq again, Syria, ISIL, Ukraine, and Russia. This course explores American foreign policy decision making since the Kennedy years. It examines theories of foreign policy decision making, where the roles of presidents, administrations, rationality and intentionality are interrogated critically as decisions are forged. Then, through studies of U.S. foreign policy cases, the seminars will focus thematically on aspects of U.S. relations since the early sixties—the period which provides perspective on how American foreign policy decision making is still made today. Bringing the course fully into the present, seminars will focus on current foreign policy decision dilemmas faced by the Biden administration.


Materials to be used in the course will be determined by the end of July 2021 on Absalon, dependent on availability of new publications. Book length texts may include:

  • Gordon M. Goldstein (2008) Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam, New York: Times Books.
  • Gvosdev, N., Blankshain, Jr., & Cooper, D. (2019) Decision-Making in American Foreign Policy: Translating Theory into Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Richard Haass (2021) The World: A Brief Introduction, New York: Penguin.
  • Alex Mintz and Karl DeRoen Jr. (2010) Understanding Foreign Policy Decision Making, New York: Cambridge University Press.


The seminar format of this course requires active participation, including two obligatory student-led class presentations using visual materials (PowerPoint, etc.). Course materials combine set books with auxiliary texts and electronic resources where appropriate. Seminar presentations ensure that everyone brings substantive knowledge to class. Presentation topics are self-chosen, but should unite theory and analogy from the main course texts Presentations should be limited to ten minutes (plus discussion and feedback). Within two weeks of the classroom presentation students will upload their PPT slides, a 1-2 page reflection paper analyzing their contribution, and a 4-5 page essay on the same topic. This element concludes with a 12 page essay.

This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Type of assessment
Portfolio, A joint portfolio uploaded in digital exam: Deadline January 5th 2022
Two oral seminar presentations, to be held on the dates agreed in the first class;
Two written papers of roughly five pages each, built off your presentations. These papers will include a page of post presentation reflection, due Dec. 1 at the latest, but preferably two weeks after you deliver your presentations;
One concluding essay of twelve pages, due January 5.
Criteria for exam assessment

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • English
  • 409,5


Course number
Programme level
Full Degree Master
Full Degree Master choice

1 semester

See schedule
Study board of English, Germanic and Romance Studies
Contracting department
  • Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinator
  • Joseph Goddard   (7-6a726767647567436b7870316e7831676e)
Saved on the 06-07-2021

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