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Courses | U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security


Registration for graduate students for Fall 2017 begins Thursday March 30th, with graduate students assigned a registration appointment time to occur during that week.The schedule of classes is available at:

The following courses are approved as USFP “Choose Two” courses for Fall 2017:

SIS 681 – Intelligence and Foreign Policy (may not be used as a “choose two” if you took SIS-681: Intelligence and Foreign Policy as a “choose two”)

SIS 653 – Public Diplomacy

SIS 653 – Technology and National Security

SIS 653 – America, the Military, and Politics at War

You may take an approved course on US foreign policy toward a region as ONE of your core electives. The approved fall 2017 courses on US foreign policy toward a region are:

SIS 653 – USFP Towards the Middle East

SIS 653 – USFP Towards Russia

SIS-676 – Japan, China, U.S. & East Asia

Also offered in Fall 2017 are:

Diplomatic history courses:

SIS-653 Continuity and Change in USFP

HIST-661 U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1918


USFP core theory courses:

SIS-689: Theories of Decision Making

SIS-682: Institutions and Processes


Approved economics courses:
ECON-603: Intro to Economic Theory (may be waived depending on economic background) and/or SIS-616: International Economics

Approved 2nd methods courses
The USFP approved 2nd methods courses are available on the SIS Graduate Advising
Website at:

SRP Registration:
If you are registering an SRP for spring 2017 please review the USFP SRP Guidelines and suggested timeline on the USFP website.

Please remember that your SRP advisor should be a USFP core faculty member. In special circumstances it is possible to work with SIS faculty outside USFP.  However, such arrangements must be approved by Dr. Phil Brenner (USFP Program Director) before your SRP is registered.

Advising Worksheets:

U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security Program Advising Worksheet - For students who began their degree prior to Fall 2012 and chose not to opt-in.

U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security Program Advising Worksheet - For students who began their degree between Fall 2012 and Spring 2014.

U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security Program Advising Worksheet - For students beginning in Fall 2014 or later.


USFP Core Courses:

SIS-682 Foreign Policy: Institutions and Processes Read Sample Syllabus

Analysis of American foreign and defense policy processes, including the role of the President, Congress, Departments of State and Defense, the intelligence community, and other actors/factors affecting policy formulation and implementation. Usually offered every semester.


SIS-689 Foreign Policy: Theories of Decisionmaking Read Sample Syllabus

This seminar examines theories about how states formulate foreign policy. The focus is on the decision-making process, including theories about individual rationally and cognition, information processing, risk taking, group dynamics, and bureaucratic politics, as well as the influence of domestic societal factors. The various theoretical approaches are applied to historical cases of international crises and intelligence failures, drawn primarily but not exclusively from American foreign policy. Offered every semester.


SIS-681 Intelligence and Foreign Policy Read Sample Syllabus

The role of the CIA and other intelligence organizations in formulating and implementing U.S. foreign policy. Includes human and technical intelligence gathering; processing and analysis; dissemination of information to policy makers; covert action and counterintelligence; the relationship between intelligence organizations, the President, and Congress; and ethics and the conduct of intelligence activities. Usually offered every fall.


SIS-688 Domestic Sources of US Foreign Policy Read Sample Syllabus

This course examines how domestic politics affects foreign policy decision-making. Topics include the influence of the media, public opinion and interest groups on the formulation and implementation of foreign policy, importance of foreign policy to a president's popularity and electability, presidential attempts to sell national security issues, the "rally-'round-the flag" phenomenon, obstacles posed by congressional partisan politics, press-government relations in war time, and the politics of military interventions.

Topics Courses

In addition to the core courses listed above, the U.S. Foreign Policy Program offers numerous other special topics courses. These courses are listed under the course number SIS-653.


SIS-653 Topics in Foreign Policy:


Diplomatic Practice Read Sample Syllabus

This seminar studies diplomacy in theory, history, and practice, as a political process and as an instrument of foreign policy. It covers diplomats' relations with their own governments as well as the countries in which they serve; how they use information on the politics, economics, and society of their host nation; the origin and costs of mistakes; and the future of diplomacy in an era of globalization and instant communication. It seeks to illustrate approaches to diplomacy through historical examples and contemporary case studies, linking diplomatic practice to current events.


Public Diplomacy Read Sample Syllabus

Public diplomacy is generally defined as understanding, engaging, informing, and influencing foreign publics. This course provides an understanding of the history and dynamics of U.S. public diplomacy; knowledge of strategies and techniques for advocating policy and influencing opinion and behavior of international audiences in a Web 2.0 age; skills to communicate, especially in writing; an understanding of how to analyze key data, including opinion polls and audience surveys; and an ability to engage with the key moral, political, and practical dimensions of public diplomacy.


Issues in Intelligence Read Sample Syllabus

Changes in technology, law, society, and governance are changing the business and possibilities of intelligence. On one hand, states and non-state actors have powerful new tools for surveillance, analysis, and disruption. On the other, formerly successful institutional forms find themselves unable to adjust, and public scrutiny of clandestine activities has never been greater. This course examines the theory and history of intelligence to establish a context for understanding these trends, and then explores recent events and likely developments to gain insight into the future of intelligence as a tool of state policy and a factor in international affairs.


U.S. National Security Strategy Read Sample Syllabus

This historically-oriented course examines how the United States has sought to protect and promote its national security since the founding of the country. After a brief examination of early U.S. strategy, the bulk of the course investigates trends in American strategy since the beginning of the twentieth century. The last part of the course assesses President Barack Obama's national security strategy and a variety of ideas for addressing contemporary security challenges.


National Security and Proliferation Read Sample Syllabus

The possibility of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons (WMD) falling into the hands of terrorists or criminal networks is perhaps the gravest threat to U.S. national security. This course examines the particular hazards associated with each threat and what the United States is doing to defend against these threats. The course also explores the history of illicit trafficking in WMD and the prospects for the future proliferation.


National Security Resources Read Sample Syllabus

This course examines in detail how the federal government determines the budgets for defense, foreign policy, homeland security, and intelligence. It also analyzes how the executive and congressional processes for allocating national security resources affect national security itself.


United States Foreign Policy toward Illicit Networks Read Sample Syllabus

This course reviews the new and potent threat that states and governments worldwide face in the convergence, horizontal diversification, and globalization of illicit networks. Transnational organized crime (TOC) has expanded dramatically in size, scope and influence, with an illicit global economy now constituting as much as 5 percent of global GDP. Significantly, TOC has partnered with global terrorists, violent extremist groups, and insurgencies. This dynamic underwrites conflict, undermines states, and poses particularly challenging problems to U.S. foreign and national security policy. U.S. foreign policy remains oriented toward bi-lateral engagement, while the challenges posed by converging illicit networks observe no borders or regional barriers. The challenges to U.S. foreign and national security policy posed by the convergence of illicit networks are within no U.S. institution's traditional core competency. New strategies have been published to counter transnational criminal organizations and narcotics and other trafficking, yet the true challenge is the fusion of all these threats.


U.S. Policy Toward Latin America Read Sample Syllabus

This course examines U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America by focusing on the factors that shape U.S. foreign policy. The course considers the extent to which U.S. policy is shaped by the nature of the U.S. impact on Latin America.


Countering Terrorism Read Sample Syllabus

This course will view terrorism primarily from the perspective of the Intelligence Community.The class will examine the characteristics of terrorist organizations and individuals.  Significant time will be spent developing an in-depth understanding of terrorism and how the U.S. and other Western nations have attempted to control them.Finally, the course will examine a variety of ideas about what approaches to controlling terrorism work and which do not.The solutions will focus on how the terrorist threat helps direct new ways that the intelligence community needs to collect, analyze and integrate information.


U.S. Foreign Policy Toward the Middle East Read Sample Syllabus

The course provides students with a detailed understanding of the history of America's relations with the countries of the greater Middle East as well as of current issues in United States policy towards the region. The course not only analyses the Arab-Israeli issue in depth but also explores the domestic and international constraints which affect overall U.S. policy toward the Middle East.


Major Powers and Critical Issues Read Sample Syllabus

Middle East conflict; nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea; war in Afghanistan and Iraq; democratization in failing states; climate change; terrorism; world trade, development, and integration: these are among the toughest challenges facing the world in the twenty-first century. Success or failure in meeting these challenges will depend on whether the major powers of the world are prepared to cooperate. This course surveys each of these issues and others from the perspective of the major powers and seeks to understand what the prospects are for constructive responses by each one. The class begins by surveying the trajectory of all seven powers, the United States, Germany, Japan, Soviet Union/Russia, China, Great Britain, and France, and then delves into the issues utilizing what we have learned about the foreign policies of these nations.


U.S. Policy Towards Weak States Read Sample Syllabus

This is an advanced course in security studies with a focus on failing, failed, and fragile states. It surveys major security challenges of weak states, both internally, internationally, and specifically to the United States, within the context of U.S. foreign policy.


Trans-Atlantic Security Read Sample Syllabus 

This course examines the evolution of trans-Atlantic security policy and defense planning. It begins with a review of the formation of NATO and of trans-Atlantic defense policy and military force planning through the Cold War to the break up of the Soviet Union. The course then focuses in some detail on the transformation that trans-Atlantic security relations have undergone, in particular the shift of NATO's focus from defense of European territory to expeditionary operations outside its boundaries and the European Union's assuming a strong role in defense planning.


U.S. Defense Politics Read Sample Syllabus

This seminar examines how U.S. defense and national security policy is influenced by international relations, organizational interests, and domestic politics. The class looks at the history of a particular defense issue and uses the relevant theories and approaches to analyze, discuss, and probe contemporary issues in U.S. defense policy, including such persistent problems as acquisition reform, funding defense, the role of private military contracts, and changes in warfare, among other issues. Through the course assignments, students also learn how to ask and pursue interesting research questions and write a critical literature review.


Continuity and Change in U.S. Foreign Policy Read Sample Syllabus 

This course examines continuities and incongruities in U.S. foreign policy since 1789, with the greatest emphasis on the Cold War and post-Cold War periods. It includes extensive use of primary documents.


Rethinking US Strategy Toward Iran Read Sample Syllabus

This course challenges students to think critically about one of America's most important contemporary foreign policy problems, how to deal with the rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Over the last decade, Iran has emerged as a key player in the most consequential political and strategic dramas unfolding across the Middle East. The course explores in depth the Iranian challenge for American foreign policy. In particular, the course examines U.S.-Iranian engagement over the past thirty years, current policy and strategy on both the American and Iranian sides, and consideration of future options. The course also gives student the opportunity to participate in a hands-on simulation of U.S. and Iranian foreign policy decision-making and diplomatic interactions.

Intelligence and Democracy Read Sample Syllabus

This course examines the conduct of intelligence activities by democratic states, focusing on the inherent conflict between the secret nature of intelligence and open society. Using a case study approach, the course reviews the intelligence organizations in the United States and other democracies, as well as cases where there has been a clash between democratic values and intelligence activities. The course also analyzes the requirements for effective intelligence operations and the impact of oversight and control of those operations. Executive/government control of intelligence operations; judicial and Congressional oversight and intervention; the role of the media and public opinion on intelligence activities; and whether the Global War on Terrorism or a crisis/war situation necessitates a change in the balance between secrecy and democracy are among the topics discussed.


U.S. Democracy Promotion Read Sample Syllabus

This course focuses on the role of democracy promotion in U.S. foreign policy, especially from the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt to the present. It studies the evolution of democracy promotion from its being an issue on the sidelines of U.S. foreign policy to its being at the very center of the U.S. foreign policy debate. It explores theories and determinants of democratization (and reversals of democratization), examines the challenges facing the U.S. government when it comes to balancing American core interests with its underlying values, analyzes the divergence between the U.S. human rights community and the promotion of democracy community, and studies the politics of democracy promotion.


US Military Thought in the Information Age Read Sample Syllabus

This course examines the evolution of U.S. military thought and its impact on the development of national or grand strategy. The first part of the course begins with the early thinking that undergirds U.S. national strategy, continues with the progression of military capabilities up to 1900, emergence of the United States as a global power, U.S. leadership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) against the Warsaw Pact in the Cold War, and concludes with the post-Cold War period. The second part of the course, War in the Information Age, examines the post-9-11 period. The course considers the challenges associated with employing the military element of power in a globalized, information rich environment. The course also examines the inherent challenges associated with working with interagency and coalition partners as well as the absolute necessity to do so. Finally, students consider the future of warfare and examine the likely evolution of the nature and character of conflict.


Bioterror in the Twenty-first Century Read Sample Syllabus

This course examines the potential for bioterror attack. In this twenty-first century globalized world, the proliferation of biotechnology and a new wave of terror have combined to set the conditions for an increasingly likely attack using weapons of mass destruction (WMD) including biological weapons. The course also introduces the science behind biological weapons, examines U.S. government efforts to prepare for and respond to a bioterror attack, and investigates the policy implications of this emerging threat. 


Transnational Security Challenges Read Sample Syllabus

What sorts of transnational security challenges do nation states face in the information age, and how do they manage these threats? Global threats such as nuclear proliferation, climate change, environmental degradation, refugee streams, or infectious diseases do not stop at national borders. Terrorist and criminal networks not only transcend international borders, but also go beyond traditional state jurisdictions and stove-piped hierarchies. This course analyzes the nature of the challenges, and look at the policy, legal, and institutional mechanisms the United States and other countries have found/must find to manage and counter these threats. 


President, Congress, and Foreign Policy Read Sample Syllabus

Who really makes U.S. foreign policy? This course assesses the foreign policy roles of the president and Congress, focusing on the power that each branch wields and how relations between them shape U.S. policy. The class examines cooperation and disputes between Congress and the president on issues such as treaties, the use of military force, trade agreements, and the funding of foreign policy programs.


U.S. Relations with Canada and Mexico Read Sample Syllabus

U.S. relations with its two neighbors, Canada and Mexico, have ranged across the entire spectrum from fighting against them to collaborating on a free-trade area. The imbalance in power in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries between the United States and its neighbors has generated suspicions and anxieties on the part of the two weaker neighbors and arrogance or disinterest on the part of the United States. This course explores the issues that entangle the three governments, from drug-related violence to immigration, trade, and border security. The course stretches minds to absorb the compelling idea that North America is not just a geographical expression; it can become a formidable region if the three governments change the way they relate to each other.