Hist 450, Fall 2023

American Foreign Relations Since 1914
Hist. 450, Section 1
Offered by the Department of History, University of Arizona
Fall Semester, 2023
Tuesday and Thursday, 11:00-12:15
Location: McClelland Hall 126

David N. Gibbs, Professor of History
Office hours: Monday, Wednesday, 9-10:30am
Office location: Chavez 338

** Class Announcements **


    This class will analyze basic issues of international relations and foreign policy, with a special focus on U.S. intervention in underdeveloped countries. The main purpose of this class is to provide students with an ability to examine international issues critically and in a historical context. Several general areas will be emphasized: The historical background that led to the emergence of the USA as a major power, beginning at the end of the nineteenth century; the role of covert operations during the Cold War; the Vietnam War and its long-term effects; the end of the Cold War; and post-9/11 U.S. actions. 

    Throughout, students will be asked to evaluate the causes and motivations of specific events in international relations and to compare multiple interpretations of these incidents. For example in the section on the Vietnam War, students will be asked to consider why the United States acted as it did; to lay out several different potential explanations for U.S. actions in Vietnam; and to decide which of these possible explanations seems most plausible.    



    The course requirements include three in-class exams, which will involve a combination of essay and short answers. The class grades will be calculated as follows:

     First midterm, 30 percent;
     Second midterm, 30 percent
     Final, 40 percent.

    Students must take the exams on the scheduled dates. Please look at the syllabus and make sure that the exam dates are open for you. If you have an engagement scheduled for one of the required dates -- if you have a wedding or a sports event, for example -- then you should take another class. The following circumstances constitute legitimate reasons to miss an exam: illness, death in immediate family, religious holiday, or mandatory military service. Students who present such reasons must be prepared to show documentation, such as a note from a doctor, clergy, or commanding officer. 


Class Attendance

    Students are of course expected to attend class regularly, as the exams are based in part on the class lectures. However, I do not take attendance. If you must miss a class, I recommend you copy the class notes from another student. You may also ask a student to record classes that you expect to miss. 


Students with Disabilities

    I will be happy to arrange the assignments in any reasonable way that is consistent with the student’s needs, in cooperation with the UA Disability Resource Center. It is the student’s responsibility to find out what the Center requires, to fill out the forms, and to undertake the necessary “foot work” for special arrangements. The student is responsible to make sure that all deadlines are met.



The following books are available free of charge::

  •  Robert D. Schulzinger, US Diplomacy Since 1900 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). Full text available through UA Library, click here
  • William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2008). Note that the full text of this book has been graciously made available by the Central Intellligence Agency, click here

Several articles listed below are available through one of several electronic databases. Other materials, as indicated below, are available through the course D2L page.

   I may make small changes in the reading list – with advance notice – during the course of the semester.


Week August 22
Introduction to the Course

  • No readings.


Week of August 29
Theoretical Issues in U.S. Foreign Policy

  • Ronald Cox, Power and Profits: U.S. Policy in Central America (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1994), pp. 1-19. Available through D2L.


Week of September 5
Early American Intervention

  • Thomas McCormick, China Market (Chicago: Quadrangle Press, 1967), pp. 21-76. Available through D2L.
  • Schulzinger, US Diplomacy Since 1900, chap. 2.


Week of September 12
Isolationism and U.S. Foreign Policy

  • Jeffrey Frieden, “Sectoral Conflict and U.S. Foreign Economic Policy, 1914-1940,” International Organization 42, no. 1, 1988. Available through JSTOR (click on "View PDF").
  • Schulzinger, US Diplomacy Since 1900, chap. 4.


Week of September 19
The Origins of the Cold War

  • Schulzinger, US Diplomacy Since 1900, chaps. 8-9.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Farewell Address,” January 17, 1961. For full text, click here. Note especially section IV of Eisenhower’s speech.


  • Blum, Killing Hope, chaps. 2, 6, 7.


Week of September 26
Covert Operations I

  • U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba,” March 13, 1962, recently declassified. For full text, click here.
  • Blum, Killing Hope, chaps. 9, 10, 14.


  • Michael J. Sullivan, American Adventurism Abroad: Invasions, Interventions, and Regime Changes Since World War II (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008), chap. 3. Available through D2L.
  • "The Truth about J. Edgar Hoover," Time, December 22, 1975. For full text, click here (note 10 parts).


Week of October 3
Covert Operations II

  • US Senate, Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders.  Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1975, pp. 13-67. For full text, click here
  • Blum, Killing Hope, chap. 26


Week of October 10
The Vietnam War and its Aftermath

  • Schulzinger, US Diplomacy Since 1900, chap. 10.
  • Blum, Killing Hope, chap. 19, 53.


Week of October 17
The Afghan Crisis

  • David N. Gibbs, “Does the USSR Have a ‘Grand Strategy’? Reinterpreting the Invasion of Afghanistan,” Journal of Peace Research 24, no. 4, 1987. Available through JSTOR (click on "View PDF").
  • Blum, Killing Hope, chap. 53.


  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Les Révélations d’un Ancien Conseilleur de Carter: ‘Oui, la CIA est Entrée en Afghanistan avant les Russes...’” Le Nouvel Observateur [Paris], January 15-21, 1998. For English translation, click here.

October 19: First Midterm


Week of October 24
The “Second Cold War”

  • Norman Podhoretz, “The Present Danger,” Commentary, March 1980. For full text, click here.  
  • Schulzinger, US Diplomacy Since 1900, chaps. 11-12.


Week of October 31
The Reagan Doctrine

  • Blum, Killing Hope, chaps. 41, 45, 48.


  • Blum, Killing Hope, chaps. 49, 53


Week of November 7
American Strategy after the Cold War

  • Christopher Layne, “Rethinking American Grand Strategy,” World Policy Journal 15, no. 2, 1998. Available through JSTOR (click on "View PDF").
  • Schulzinger, US Diplomacy Since 1900, chap. 15.


Week of November 14
The War on Terror

  • Chalmers Johnson, “The Lessons of Blowback: Even Carefully Planned Actions Can Have Unintended Consequences” Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2001. For full text, click here.

November 16: Second Midterm.


Week of November 21

Thanksgiving Break, no class. 


November 28
US Relations with Post-Communist Russia

  • John J. Mearsheimer, "Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West's Fault," Foreign Affairs, September/October, 2014. For full text, click here
  • Stephen Walt and Marc Tractenberg,"Stealing Elections is All in the Game: Moscow Didn't Do Anything in America's Last Election that Washington Hasn't Done Elsewhere in the World," Foreign Policy, January 10, 2017. For full text, click here


  • National Security Archive, "NATO Expansion: What Gorbachev Heard," December 12, 2017, For full text, click here


December 5 -- Last Day of Class
General Review

  • No assigned readings.


Final exam: December 12, 10:30am




Course Objectives:

Understand more clearly issues of theories, events, and controversies related to the history of US foreign relations. 

Demonstrate a well-developed critical faculty for distinguishing among the various theoretical and ideological interpretations related to US foreign relations. 

Expected outcomes from the course:

Write clear, well-organized prose in the area of US foreign relations, as indicated by student performance on midterm and final exams.

Analyze primary sources in light of their historical context, audience, and author’s intent, pertaining to US foreign relations.

Recognize and evaluate competing historical interpretations pertaining to US foreign relations.

The UA’s policy concerning Class Attendance, Participation, and Administrative Drops is available at: https://deanofstudents.arizona.edu/policies/attendance-policies-and-practices.  

The UA policy regarding absences for any sincerely held religious belief, observance or practice will be accommodated where reasonable, http://policy.arizona.edu/human-resources/religious-accommodation-policy.

Absences pre-approved by the UA Dean of Students (or Dean Designee) will be honored. See: https://deanofstudents.arizona.edu/policies/attendance-policies-and-practices.  

University policy regarding grades and grading systems is available at http://catalog.arizona.edu/policy/grades-and-grading-system.

Classroom behavior policy: Students are expected to behave themselves at all times. 

Information contained in the course syllabus, other than the grade and absence policy, may be subject to change with advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the instructor.

The University is committed to creating and maintaining an environment free of discrimination; see http://policy.arizona.edu/human-resources/nondiscrimination-and-anti-ha…

Students are encouraged to share intellectual views and discuss freely the principles and applications of course materials. However, graded work/exercises must be the product of independent effort unless otherwise instructed. Students are expected to adhere to the UA Code of Academic Integrity as described in the UA General Catalog. See: http://deanofstudents.arizona.edu/academic-integrity/students/academic-….

The UA Threatening Behavior by Students Policy prohibits threats of physical harm to any member of the University community, including to oneself. See http://policy.arizona.edu/education-and-student-affairs/threatening-beh…