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Unit of study_

USSC6903: US Foreign and National Security Policy

Semester 1, 2020 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This unit will provide a sophisticated understanding of the making of American foreign and national security policy from "inside the beltway." As a democratic country, the process of its foreign policy making has more domestic influences and pressures than many other countries. This unit provides students with a detailed understanding of the domestic, societal and international sources of American foreign policy, including the roles of: individuals, the bureaucracy, the NSC and interagency process, lobby groups, Congress, public opinion, the media, parties and partisanship, think tanks, presidential doctrines, US political culture and discourse, and more.

Unit details and rules

Unit code USSC6903
Academic unit United States Studies Centre
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Brendon O'Connor,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Research essay proposal
20% - 1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Research essay
45% - 3500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Reading reports
Reading report on the compulsory readings for a week
20% Multiple weeks Two assignments of 500 words long
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Participation Class participation
15% Ongoing 13 weeks
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4

Assessment summary

  • Class participation: Students are expected to have thoroughly prepared for each seminar. Prior to the seminar, you should have read and critically considered all the required readings. The seminars will be interactive. Students will be asked to refer to the set texts and to have the texts with them.
  • Group presentation: For the final seminar, students will prepare in groups a presentation (of around 20 minutes) responding to the seminar topic (US Foreign and National Security Policy: Where to Next?) Individual presentations will focus on a specific aspect of contemporary US foreign or national security policy, utilizing models and frameworks discussed throughout semester.
  • Research essay proposal: Students in USSC6903 must prepare a 1,000 word research proposal on a challenge of American national security.  It can be topical, thematic, or historical.
  • Research essay: The major essay is a 3500 word ( or – 10%) assignment. The aim of the major essay is three-fold: (1) to improve the student’s capacity to marshal evidence in support of a thesis; (2) to gain greater insight into an aspect of American foreign and national security policy through examining its “sources,” (3) to write a professional academic essay. This is not an opinion piece. It is expected that students’ will answer the question contained in their earlier research proposal (or a revised version thereof). It is expected that the major essay will be of the highest academic quality.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction – The Power of the President in Foreign Affairs (and the lack of power of the Congress) Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 02 The CIA, NSC, Defense Department, State Dept, USAID: what do they do? Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 03 US foreign policy history (1): WWI, Versailles, WWII, Korea, Vietnam Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 04 US foreign policy history (2): Vietnam, Cold War in the 1980s, 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 05 Ideas in American Foreign Policy: Four traditions and American Exceptionalism Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 06 Ideas in American Foreign Policy: Realism, Conservatism, Liberalism, Socialism Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 07 Soft power vs Hard Power Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 08 American Alliances: ANZUS and NATO Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 09 American policy in the Middle East Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 10 US-China Relations Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 11 Public Opinion and Anti-Americanism: Does it matter? Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 12 Trump Doctrine: What is it? Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 13 Wither US Leadership? Refugees, Climate Change and the Future Lecture (2 hr)  

Attendance and class requirements

COVID-19 Announcement:

This unit will now be taught online. Zoom, Echo360, and discussion boards will replace regularly scheduled class time and / or consultations. Recordings will be made available to students and accessibility needs will be considered. Tutorial participation will be judged on the basis of participation in the Canvas discussion boards and involvement in Zoom tutorials. For those students who cannot attend Zoom tutorials, they will have the option to send a summary of the weekly readings. 

  • Attendance: According to Faculty Board Resolutions, students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are expected to attend 90% of their classes. If you attend less than 50% of classes, regardless of the reasons, you may be referred to the Examiner’s Board. The Examiner’s Board will decide whether you should pass or fail the unit of study if your attendance falls below this threshold.
  • Lecture recording: Most lectures (in recording-equipped venues) will be recorded and may be made available to students on the LMS. However, you should not rely on lecture recording to substitute your classroom learning experience.
  • Preparation: Students should commit to spend approximately three hours’ preparation time (reading, studying, homework, essays, etc.) for every hour of scheduled instruction.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed on the Library eReserve link available on Canvas.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the multiple disciplinary contexts for understanding the United States, such as those of political science and international relations; cultural and media studies; and business and economics
  • LO2. demonstrate a deep knowledge of the history, culture, media, politics and economy of the United States
  • LO3. demonstrate a capacity to work across disciplinary boundaries to solve specific and advanced analytic problems in the study of the United States
  • LO4. demonstrate an ability to decipher complicated written, oral, visual, material and digital texts, and contribute to secondary literature about them
  • LO5. construct an evidence-based argument in written, oral, visual, or digital form
  • LO6. to relate the interdisciplinary methods of US Studies to issues encountered in professional contexts

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

This is the first time I have taught this unit.

More information can be found on Canvas.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

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