University of Notre Dame

America and the World

Course Number: POLS 13181-7
Instructor: Eugene Gholz

The object of this course is to help students understand the changing role of the United States in the world. American wealth and military power have forced its leaders to make choices that no other leaders in the world confront: the United States can potentially make a difference, for good or ill, on a much larger scale than any other country. In this course, students will learn to evaluate the decisions that United States leaders have made on a wide range of difficult foreign policy issues, including rising Chinese power, Russian moves in Ukraine, nuclear proliferation to Iran, terrorist threats, humanitarian disasters in civil wars like Syria and Libya, and long-term global challenges like climate change. We will not only describe American involvement in various international issues but also seek to understand the reasons why the United States should or should not be involved, and we will see why such careful reasoning only sometimes gains traction in actual foreign policy debates. Finally, we will assess whether foreign policy decisions are coherent – that is, whether the United States can be said to follow a “grand strategy.” By the end of the course, students will develop their ability to think about foreign policy issues, improving their ability to participate in public life as engaged citizens.