HIS 333: American Foreign Policy from 1945

Course Description

This course will focus on an overview of American foreign policy from the end of World War II to the present. Emphasis will be placed on America’s five major wars during this period, its many military invasions and Central Intelligence Agency engineered or sponsored coups, American unilateralism, the Cold War and its aftermath, 9/11 and the challenges posed by Islamic fundamentalism, and the issues of globalization, neo-imperialism, and terrorism.


  • ENG 101: English Composition 1
  • ENG 102: English Composition 2

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

  1. Briefly explain and critique the popular notion that World War II was “the good war.”
  2. Explain the ways in which American ambitions in World War II helped cause and shape the Cold War.
  3. Identify and explain the main policy characteristics of the Cold War including containment and the Truman doctrine; and deterrence theory (including Eisenhower’s New Look military strategy, Mutually Assured Destruction and Nuclear Utilization Theory).
  4. Briefly identify some of the reasons for the surprising collapse of the Soviet Union and the central repercussions for the balance of power and for American foreign policy.
  5. List the major similarities and differences in America’s wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq (both Gulf War and current Iraq War).
  6. Identify the major findings of the Church Committee/Grimmett Report and list several democracies overthrown by CIA actions
  7. Briefly explain the meaning of terrorism (including conventional, state sponsored, and state terrorism) and the major problems and weaknesses of counterterrorism and of efforts to limit nuclear proliferation.
  8. List the major reasons for the marginalization of the United Nations but briefly assess the reasons for its minor ascent since the end of the Cold War.
  9. Explain some of the trickiest issues posed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the ways in which American support for Israel caused and causes anger and resentment in the Middle East and around the world.
  10. Briefly explain the origins and rapid growth of Islamic fundamentalism and assess the degree of America’s failure to limit its appeal.

Course Activities and Grading


Discussions (Weeks 1-8)


Exam (Week 6)


Research Paper (Week 8)




Required Textbooks

Available through Charter Oak State College's online bookstore

  • Blum, William. Killing Hope: Us Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II - Updated. Common Sense Press, 2016. ISBN-10: 1-78360-177-9 or ISBN-13: 978-1-78360-177-6
  • Hook, Steven and John Spanier. American Foreign Policy Since World War II. 21st ed. CQ Press, 2019. ISBN-13: 978-1-5063-8564-8

Additional Required Materials

  • Video: The Atomic Cafe (1982) Produced by New Video Group (Students may be able to borrow it from their local library. If not, then students may rent or purchase it from Amazon.)

Course Schedule



Readings and Exercises



1, 2, 3, 8, 9

  • Topics: From WWII to Cold War Origins

    1. The Context of American Foreign Policy (the tradition of isolationism versus emergence as a hegemonic, global, and then pre-eminent power).
    2. World War II and the myth of “the good war” (America’s controversial actions in World War II).
    3. Pay no attention to that statue in the harbor: Sending Jewish refugees back to the death camps but helping the U.N. create Israel.
    4. The Berlin Crisis and the development of Cold War with the Soviet Union (the clash of World War II’s victors).
    5. Cold War Containment Strategy: Kennan’s X Article and the Truman Doctrine
  • Readings:
      • Hook & Spanier, Chapters 1 and 2
      • Blum, Introductions and 1 through 4
  • Video:
    • View The Atomic Cafe
  • Read assigned chapters
  • Participate in the Discussions
  • Review the Lecture material


3, 9, 6

  • Topics: Korea, Deterrence, Containment and the Third World

    1. Cold War Containment cont.: nuclear deterrence theory, Korean War, Eisenhower’s New Look defense, Mutually Assured Destruction, the U-2 incident, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
    2. The last good deed: keeping allies in line in the Suez War
    3. “The Grass Gets Hurt”: the nature of the Cold War and the costs to third world countries: Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, and British Guiana
  • Readings:
    • Hook & Spanier, Chapter 3 and pages 72-89
    • Blum, Chapters 5, 9, 10, 12, 13, 16, 22, 23, 24 and 26
  • Read assigned chapters
  • Participate in the Discussions
  • Review the Lecture material


5, 3, 6

  • Topics: The Vietnam War

    1. Historical Background (from supporting Ho to supporting France and replacing the French presence)
    2. Key Events and Players: Dien Bien Phu, Geneva Accords, Ho Chi Minh, North Vietnamese Army, National Liberation Front (Viet Cong), Army of Republic of (South) Vietnam, CIA anti-Diem coup and aftermath, Tet Offensive, President Johnson’s retirement, Nixon and Vietnamization, Christmas bombings, and Paris Accords (withdrawal and eventual defeat).
    3. The Legacy of Vietnam:  Vietnam Principles and their relevance to Iraq (and Afghanistan?)
  • Readings:
    • Hook & Spanier, pages 89-100
    • Blum, Chapters 19 through 21, 29 through 35 and 37
  • Read assigned chapters
  • Participate in the Discussions
  • Review the Lecture material




  • Topics: From Detente to Renewed Rivalry

    1. Détente (Nixon, Ford, and Carter) and Superpower Rivalry
    2. Nixon, Kissinger, and the new Zionism
    3. More CIA actions: Ghana, Chile, Greece Australia, Angola, and Jamaica.
    4. Ford’s military moment: the Mayaguez incident.
    5. The controversy of Carter and the Camp David Accords
    6. Islamism sneaks onto the scene: the Iranian Revolution and Hostage Crisis.
    7. Reagan takes on “the Evil Empire”: arming the mujahudeen in  Afghanistan, the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) and military expansion; the Beirut debacle; the Grenada Invasion; the line in the water and the Libya bombings; the Contra War; and the Iran-Contra Scandal.
  • Readings:
    • Hook & Spanier, Chapters 5 and 6
    • Blum 39 through 43, 45, 48 through 50 and 52 through 55
  • Read assigned chapters
  • Participate in the Discussions
  • Review the Lecture material


4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10

  • Topics: The Fall of Eastern European Communism and a New World Order

    1. Assessing the cold war’s demise: was it unipolar world all along? Was it a multi-polar world all along?
    2. The cold war is over--long live war: the Panamanian invasion and Gulf War (I)
    3. Does the U.N. help or hinder American posturing for war?
    4. The Israeli roots of America’s anti-Iraq policies, April Glaspie, and the causes of the Gulf War (I).
    5. Kuwaiti, Shi’ite, and Kurdish reactions
    6. Post-war sanctions against Iraq
  • Readings:
    • Hook & Spanier, Chapter 7 and pages 172-182
    • Blum, Chapter 56
  • Read assigned chapters
  • Participate in the Discussions
  • Review the Lecture material



  • Topics: Clinton's Policies

    1. Watch your shoes: the debacle in Somalia
    2. Good intentions don’t count for much: wildly indiscriminant bombing in Serbia.
    3. More tensions with former allies: lobbing Cruise missiles in the general direction of Osama bin Laden.
  • Readings:
    • Hook & Spanier, pages 182-197 and Chapter 9
  • Read assigned chapters
  • Participate in the Discussions
  • Review the Lecture material
  • Complete Exam
(see Assignments Board for listing of key concepts/events for exam preparation)
SLOs 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10


5, 7, 8, 9, 10

  • Topics: 9/11 and its Aftermath

    1. September 11th
    2. Understanding Terrorism
    3. The USA PATRIOT Act and its discontents
    4. Bush, the Taliban, and the war in Afghanistan (losing the forgotten war?)
    5. Guantanamo and torture
    6. Bush, phantom weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s), Hussein, the war in Iraq, and devolving civil war.
    7. Torture at Abu Ghraib and around the world
  • Readings:
    • Hook & Spanier, Chapters 10 and 11
  • Read assigned chapters
  • Participate in the Discussions
  • Review the Lecture material



  • Topics: The Troubles Ahead

    1. Educated guesses about the future: more heartache in Palestine, further growth for Islamic fundamentalism, nuclear proliferation worries, continued globalization, and the new terrorism.
    2. Is America an empire? Is it a fading power?
    3. Conclusions
  • Readings:
    • Hook & Spanier, Chapters 12, 13 and 14
  • Read assigned chapters
  • Participate in the Discussions by Thursday 11:59 PM ET
  • Review the Lecture material
  • Research Paper Due on Thursday 11:59 PM ET
  • Complete Course Evaluation

COSC Accessibility Statement

Charter Oak State College encourages students with disabilities, including non-visible disabilities such as chronic diseases, learning disabilities, head injury, attention deficit/hyperactive disorder, or psychiatric disabilities, to discuss appropriate accommodations with the Office of Accessibility Services at OAS@charteroak.edu.

COSC Policies, Course Policies, Academic Support Services and Resources

Students are responsible for knowing all Charter Oak State College (COSC) institutional policies, course-specific policies, procedures, and available academic support services and resources. Please see COSC Policies for COSC institutional policies, and see also specific policies related to this course. See COSC Resources for information regarding available academic support services and resources.