Hist 450, Spring 2020

American Foreign Relations Since 1914
Hist. 450, Section 1
Offered by the Department of History, University of Arizona
Spring Semester, 2020
Tuesday and Thursday, 9:30-10:45am
Cesar Chavez 405

David N. Gibbs, Professor of History
Office: Cesar Chavez 338 
Office hours: Monday and Wednesday, 9:30-11:00am
Tel: 621-5416

Syllabus URL: https://dgibbs.faculty.arizona.edu/content/hist-450-spring-2020


    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. 


Office Hours

   If you have any questions about the readings, lectures, or other aspects of the class, come to see me during office hours. If you cannot make it to the scheduled office hours, let me know and we can schedule an appointment when we can meet.

   Note that I prefer to discuss face to face, so please do not send me long emails with lengthy questions; instead come to office hours so we can discuss. Save emails for simple requests, such as rescheduling an appointment.


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 can all be purchased at the University Book Store:

  •  Robert D. Schulzinger, US Diplomacy Since 1900 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
  • William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2008).

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.

Trigger Warning:
This class contains offensive material. If this is a problem for you, then you should select a different class.



January 16
First Class

  • General introduction, no readings.


Week of January 20
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 January 27
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 February 3
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 February 10
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 February 17
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).
  • Ronald Kessler, "Hoover's Secret Files," Daily Beast, August 2, 2011. For full text, click here


Week of February 24
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

First Midterm: February 27


Week of March 2
The Vietnam War and its Aftermath

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


Week of March 9, Spring Break, no class.


Week of March 16
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.


Week of March 23
The “Second Cold War”

  • Norman Podhoretz, “The Present Danger,” Commentary, March 1980. For full text, click here.  
  • David N. Gibbs, “Pretexts and U.S. Foreign Policy: The War on Terrorism in Historical Perspective,” New Political Science 26, no. 3, 2004. For full text, click here.


Week of March 30
U.S. Resurgence in the International Arena

  • Schulzinger, US Diplomacy Since 1900, chaps. 11-12.

Second Midterm: April 2.


Week of April 6
The Reagan Doctrine

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


  • Blum, Killing Hope, chaps. 49, 53.


Week of April 13
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 April 20
Terrorism and the “Afghan Connection"

  • 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.


Week of April 27
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," Decmeber 12, 2017, For full text, click here
  • Thomas L. Friedman, "Foreign Affairs: Now a Word from X," New York Times, May 2, 1998. For full text, click here.


May 5
General Review

  • No assigned readings.


Final exam: May 12, 8:00am




Expected outcomes from the course:

Write clear, well-organized prose in the area of US foreign relations.

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: http://catalog.arizona.edu/policy/class-attendance-participation-and-ad….

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/absences.

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…


Covid 19 Update

We will no longer have in class lectures and will proceed with Zoom, available on D2L. All other course requirements on the syllabus remain in place.

Despite Covid, students are encouraged to meet with me individually to discuss their grades and the course material. Please let me know if you would like to meet, and we can talk via Zoom or on the phone. I will no longer be holding regular office hours.