This is an archived course. A more recent version may be available at

Archived Versions

American Foreign Policy: Past, Present, and Future

As taught in: Fall 2004

A drawing of both sides of the world displayed at the equitorial meridan, with the landmasses outlined.

World map. (Map courtesy of Quick Maps.)


Prof. Stephen Van Evera

MIT Course Number:




Course Features

Course Description

The mission for this course is to explain and evaluate past and present United States policies. What caused the United States' past involvement in foreign wars and interventions? Were the results of U.S. policies good or bad? Would other policies have better served the U.S. and/or the wider world? Were the beliefs that guided U.S. policy true or false? If false, what explains these misperceptions? General theories that bear on the causes and consequences of American policy will be applied to explain and evaluate past and present policies.

The history of United States foreign policy in the 20th century is covered in detail. Functional topics are also covered: U.S. military policy, U.S. foreign economic policy, and U.S. policy on human rights and democracy overseas. Finally, we will predict and prescribe for the future. What policies should the U.S. adopt toward current problems and crises? These problems include the war against Al Qaeda and the wider war on terror; Iraq and Saddam Hussein; the Taiwan Straits; the Central African conflicts; and more. What should be the U.S. stance on global environmental and human rights questions?

*Some translations represent previous versions of courses.