Accueil > The united states in the world : nature and contradictions of u.s. power

OCAN 2050 - The United States in the World : Nature and Contradictions of U.S. power

Type d'enseignement : Lecture alone

Semester : Autumn 2018-2019

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English

Voir les plans de cours et bibliographies



Course Description

The course will examine how the power and global influence of the United States has changed and evolved since 1945, and the impact of this change on the foreign relations of the U.S.. The course is divided in three parts. The first fours sessions will be dedicated to the different drivers of the post-World War II global ascendancy of the United States, and to the crisis, and apparent demise, of U.S. hegemony during the 1970s. The different and changing forms of post-World War II US globalism will be examined and discussed. The second part of the course will focus on three alleged “lessons of history”: Munich and appeasement; the Vietnam War; and the Balkan conflicts. The discussion will examine how historical analogies have been used and invoked to inform and justify different foreign policy choices and discourses. The third and last part of the course will be on contemporary issues and problems. By examining the impact of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and various, specific case-studies, we will try to understand how the peculiar form of hegemony and globalism of the post-1970s United States – based on military preponderance, high domestic consumptions, dual deficits (external and domestic) and often incoherent national security discourses – has affected the conduct of its foreign relations and its engagement with the rest of the world.


DEL PERO, Mario (Professor of International History-Sciences Po)

Course validation

One mid-term and one-final exam of 1 hour each, with open questions on the topics discussed during weeks 1-6 (midterm) and 7-12 (final), 25% each. One 24-hours take-home exam at the end of the course : 25%. Three, 20-minute quizzes in class 8% each. Important : Electronic “etiquette” policy: cell phones, tablets and pagers are to be off during class. Laptops are allowed exclusively for note taking. All other uses are not permitted during class, and the instructor reserves the right to ask offenders to turn their laptops off or leave class. Repeated infractions will result in a reduction of the final grade.

Required reading

See syllabus

Plans de cours et bibliographies


Session 1: Globalism of Fear: the Early Cold War
Required readings

  • Melvin Leffler, The Emergence of an American Grand Strategy, 1945-1952 in Westad and Leffler (eds), The Cambridge History of the Cold War. I: Origins (2010), pp.66-89
  • Anders Stephanson, Liberty or Death. The Cold War as U.S. Ideology in A. Westad (ed), Reviewing the Cold War (2010), pp.81 – 101
  • NSC-68, United States Objectives and Programs for National Security (1950)

Session 2: Globalism of Possibilities: Modernizing Crusades and their Limits

Required readings

  • Nils Gilman, Mandarins of the Future. Modernization Theory in Cold War America (2003), ch.2
  • David Ekbladh, Mr. TVA: 'Grass Roots' Development, David Lilienthal, and the Rise and Fall of the Tennessee Valley Authority as a Symbol for U.S. Overseas Development, 1933-1973, « Diplomatic History » (2002), pp.335-374
  • Walt Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth (1960), ch. 2

Session 3: Retreat from Globalism? The Post-1960s Discourse of Limits

Required readings

  • Daniel Sargent, The United States and Globalization in the 1970s in Sargent, Manela, Fergusson and Maier (eds.), The Shock of the Global. The 1970s in Historical Perspective (2010), pp.49-64
  • Jerel A. Rosati, Jimmy Carter, a Man Before His Time? The Emergence and Collapse of the First Post-Cold War Presidency, “Presidential Studies Quarterly” (Summer 1993): 459–76
  • Robert Osgood (NSC Staff), Analysis of changes in international politics since World War II and their implications for our basic assumptions about U.S. foreign policy, 20 October 1969 in Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), 1969 – 1976: Foundations of Foreign Policy, 2003

Session 4: A Partial and Incoherent Globalism?

Required readings

  • Giovanni Arrighi, The World Economy and the Cold War, 1970-1990, in Arne Westad & Melvyn Leffler (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Vol. III, (2010) pp.23-44
  • Hal Brands, Making the Unipolar Moment: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Rise of the Post-Cold War Order (2016), ch.2
  • The National Security Strategy of the United States, January 1987


Session 5: The Lesson of Munich: Security, Strategy and Morality

Required readings

  • Ernest May, "Lessons" of the Past: The Use and Misuse of History in American Foreign Policy (1973), ch.2
  • Fred Logevall and Kenneth Osgood, The Ghost of Munich: America’s Appeasement Complex, “World Affairs”, July 2010, pp.13-26

Session 6: The Lesson of Vietnam: No More War

Required readings

  • Mark A. Lawrence, Policymaking and the Use of the Vietnam War inSuri and Brands (eds), The Power of the Past. History and Statecraft (2015), pp.49-72.
  • Christian G. Appy, American Reckoning. The Vietnam War and Our National Identity (2015). Ch.10

Session 7: The lesson of Bosnia: the Necessity of War

Required readings

  • James B. Steinberg, History, Policymaking and the Balkans: Lessons Imported and Lessons Learned in inSuri and Brands (eds), The Power of the Past. History and Statecraft (2015), pp.237-252.
  • Stephen Wertheim, A solution From Hell: the United States and the Rise of Humanitarian Interventionism, 1991–2003, “The Journal of Genocidal Research”, 1, 2010, pp.149-172


Session 8: 9/11 and the Limits of Military Power

Required readings

  • Fredrik Logevall, Anatomy of an Unnecessary War: Iraq 2003, in Julian Zelizer (ed.), The Bush Presidency in Historical Perspective (2010), pp.88-112
  • Brian C. Schmidt & Michael C. Williams, The Bush Doctrine and the Iraq War: Neoconservatives Versus Realists, “Security Studies”, June 2008, pp.191-220
  • The National Security Strategy of the United States, September 2002

Session 9: Dilemmas of American Hegemony I. Is there a Decline of American Power?

Required readings

  • Andrew Moran, Barack Obama and the Return of ‘Declinism’: Rebalancing American Foreign Policy in an Era of Multipolarity in Edward Ashbee and John Dumbrell (eds), The Obama Presidency and the Politics of Change, 2016, pp.265-87
  • Christopher Layne, This Time It’s Real: The End of Unipolarity and the Pax Americana, « International Studies Quarterly », 1, March 2012, pp.203-21
  • Jonathan Goldberg, «The Obama Doctrine, « The Atlantic », March 2016

Session 10: Dilemmas of American Hegemony II. The United States and China, between competition and collaboration

Required readings

  • G. John Ikenberry, Between the Eagle and the Dragon: America, China, and Middle State Strategies in East Asia, « Political Science Quarterly », 1, Spring 2016, pp. 9–43
  • David M. Lampton, China: Challenged or Challenger?, “The Washington Quarterly”, 3.2016, pp.107-119
  • David Shambaugh, Contemplating China’s Future, The Washington Quarterly”, 3.2016, pp.121-130

Session 11: Dilemmas of American Hegemony III. The Middle East Imbroglio

Required readings

  • Steven Hurst, Obama and Iran: Explaining Policy Change in Edward Ashbee and John Dumbrell (eds), The Obama Presidency and the Politics of Change, 2016, pp.289-305
  • Marc Lynch, Belligerent Minimalism: The Trump Administration and the Middle East, “The Washington Quarterly”, 3.2016, pp.127-144
  • Jonathan Goldberg, «The Obama Doctrine, « The Atlantic », March 2016

Session 12: Obama & Trump. The United States in/and/against the World and the End of Atlantica

Required readings

  • Hal Brands, U.S. Strategy in an Age of Nationalism: Fortress American and Its Alternatives, “The Washington Quarterly”, 2017, pp.73-94
  • Matthew Koening, The Case for Trump’s Foreign Policy, “Foreign Affairs”, 2017
  • The National Security Strategy of the United States, 2010

biographical information

Mario Del Pero is Professor of International History at the Institut d'Études politiques de Paris-SciencesPo, Paris. He received his PhD in 1999 from the University of Milan and from 2003 to 2013 has been Assistant and Associate Professor of History at the University of Bologna. He has been the recipient of various fellowships, among them the John W. Kluge Research Fellowship at the John W. Kluge Center of Library of Congress, the Jean Monnet research fellowship at the European University Institute in Florence and the Mellon Fellowship at the International Center for Advanced Studies of New York University. He has held visiting professorships at Columbia University, New York University, The Johns Hopkins University and Victoria University, Melbourne. Among his most recent publications are “Era Obama” [The Obama Age] (Milan, 2017); “Libertà e Impero. Gli Stati Uniti e il Mondo, 1776-2017” [Empire and Liberty. The United States and the World, 1776-2011] (Rome, 2017, 3rd ed.); “The Eccentric Realist. Henry Kissinger and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy” (Ithaca, NY, 2009); “’Which Chile, Allende’? Henry Kissinger and the Portuguese Revolution”, Cold War History, 4, 2011. He is currently working on a new research on US evangelical missionaries in early Cold War Italy.