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U.S. Foreign Policy in the Age of Trump

Class at Faculty of Social Sciences |


Week 1 - Introduction to the course:  Review of course syllabus.  Discussion of the basic themes of traditional U.S. foreign policy – security, containment of Russia, counterterrorism, support for Middle East peace process, human rights, democracy, promotion of free trade, environment, respect for rule of law.  Reflections on U.S. relationship with the world during previous administrations.  What are the core assumptions underlying the Trump “America First” approach to the world?  

Week 2 - U.S. foreign policy towards Europe:  Discussion of changes in the U.S. administration’s approach to Europe, including questions regarding commitment to NATO, attitude towards Russia and Ukraine, trade with EU, Brexit, central European energy issues.  Impact of U.S. import tariffs and interpersonal tensions between U.S. president and European leaders.  

Week 3 - U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East:  Discussion of changes in the U.S. administration’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Syrian civil war, Saudi Arabia, Iran.  Particular focus on the impact of U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord and assassination of Iranian general, as well as U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and endorsement of Israeli sovereignty over most Palestinian territory.  

Week 4 - U.S. foreign policy towards Asia:   Discussion of changes in the U.S. approach to North Korea and China, with particular emphasis on Trump’s overtures to North Korea, summit meeting with Kim Jong-Un, and challenges to Chinese economic practices.  

Week 5 - U.S. policies on international security:   Discussion of changes in the U.S. administration’s attitude towards the use of military force abroad and its positions on nuclear proliferation, nuclear weapons control, and chemical/biological weapons.  Impact of threats to withdraw from international treaties.   

Week 6 - Counterterrorism:   Discussion of the U.S approach to the fight against international terrorism, particular Islam-based terrorism, under the current administration.  Impact of Trump’s policy decisions and public statements on Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  

Week 7 - Human rights and democracy promotion:  Discussion of the shift in U.S. values regarding human rights, civil liberties, the rule of law, and the promotion of democracy around the world.  Impact of Trump’s public statements dissociating foreign policy from human rights concerns, praise for authoritarian regimes, and support for the use of torture.  

Week 8 - Immigration:   Discussion of changes in the U.S. position regarding the migrant crisis in Europe/Middle East as well as the Trump administration’s conflict with Mexico over immigration and border control.  Impact of a less welcoming United States to asylum seekers and the U.S. withdrawal from the Global Compact on Migration.  

Week 9 - Free trade:   Discussion of the current U.S. administration’s criticism of free trade and allegations of unfair practices by other countries.   Impact of the implementation of import tariffs and demands to renegotiate free trade agreements.  

Week 10 - United Nations and multilateral diplomacy:   Discussion of changes in the U.S. approach to the United Nations and other multinational organizations.  Impact of the U.S. decision to withdraw from UNESCO and the U.N. Human Rights Council.  

Week 11 - Global climate change:  Discussion of the dramatic shift in the U.S. administration’s policy towards environmental concerns, including the denial of global climate change and the reluctance to enforce strict laws limiting greenhouse gases and industrial pollution.  Impact of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.  

Week 12 - Foreign perceptions of U.S. leadership under Trump:   Discussion of the differences in the way the U.S. government is viewed from abroad and the changing image of the U.S. as a superpower and as a leader of the democratic world, as a result of the current foreign policy decisions.  Impact of these perceptions on strategic alliances and on willingness to follow U.S. diplomatic initiatives.  

Week 13 - Conclusion of the course:  Discussion of the potential long-term effects of the changes in U.S. foreign policy under the Trump administration.  In each region and issue area, will these shifts result in a permanent realignment of the U.S. position, or will U.S. traditional foreign policy return under future administrations?      


Before leaving the U.S. Foreign Service two years ago, I served for 35 years as senior diplomat at U.S. embassies in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, including three years as the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires here in Prague. I will draw on my personal experience in diplomacy and foreign affairs in teaching this course.

Our main focus will be on the dramatic changes in current U.S. foreign policy since the election of Donald Trump. We will explore the role of the United States as a global superpower since the end of World War II and will study the basic themes underlying the U.S. approach to the rest of the world, many of which had previously remained largely constant even when the presidency has switched between Democratic and Republican administrations. But everything changed with the 2016 election. Using mostly contemporary readings from newspapers, journals, and think-tank publications, we will analyze the current evolution in U.S. positions on key issues such as trade, nuclear weapons, counterterrorism, immigration, human rights, and global climate change. We will also focus on radical shifts in the Trump administration’s approach to certain regions of the world, notably Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Each week, I will send students an e-mail containing the readings for the next week's lesson. Considering the topical nature of the subject, students are encouraged to read broadly from current news sources.

Grades will be based on three things:

— A final exam that will include questions on each subject area of U.S. foreign policy.

— A three-page essay that each student will prepare on a specific U.S. foreign policy issue.

— Attendance and active participation in class discussions.

I hope you will find our classes to be enjoyable discussions with an open exchange of ideas. Since I am not an academic, I am more interested in current events and practical diplomacy and less interested in international relations theory. :)

Please don’t hesitate to e-mail me with any questions or thoughts. I am always available to students.