Since the United States intervened in the Cuban-Spanish war in 1898, Americans have had many experiences with interventions in and occupations of foreign countries, from the Philippines to Afghanistan. Those experiences have often provoked controversy. While some wars and occupations have been hailed as great successes, others have been viewed as disastrous failures. Some Americans have asserted that “nation building” is a fulfillment of the world historical mission of the United States, yet others have argued that in attempting to remake foreign countries the United States has repeatedly violated its own ideals.
In this course we will focus on U.S. interventions, wars, and military occupations and set them in the wider context of the history of American foreign relations. Through lectures, readings, documentary films, and essay assignments, students will be asked to compare and analyze different interpretations of controversial issues such as the influence of ideas about manliness in debates over going to war and the problems encountered in military occupations of foreign countries. The primary objectives of the course are to encourage students to think independently and critically about U.S. foreign relations and to improve their writing skills.