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Unit of study_

USSC6903: US Foreign and National Security Policy

This unit focuses on the institutions and individuals that make American foreign and national security policy. It begins by examining the power of the president and Defense Department, as well as the State Department, CIA and NSC. It then provides a historical overview, examining WWII, Vietnam, the Cold War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The third module examines the impact of nationalism and liberalism on US foreign policy. Then several regional and bi-lateral relationships are studied, including US-China relations, US-NATO relations and US policy in the Middle East. Lastly, America’s responses to global warming and the international refugee crisis will be explored.


Academic unit United States Studies Centre
Unit code USSC6903
Unit name US Foreign and National Security Policy
Session, year
Semester 1, 2022
Attendance mode Normal day
Location Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney
Credit points 6

Enrolment rules

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff and contact details

Coordinator Brendon O'Connor,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Reading report
Reading report on the compulsory readings for a week
20% Multiple weeks One 1000 word reading report
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Participation Class participation
15% Ongoing 13 weeks
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4
Assignment Research essay
Due date: 01 Jun 2022 at 23:59
2500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Research essay proposal
20% Week 06
Due date: 28 Mar 2022 at 23:59
1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
  • 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

Very well written and well-structured paper. Answers the set question directly and incisively. Close and deep reading of relevant literature. Based on reading at least 12 different texts. Uses illuminating texts to develop important arguments. The paper develops an argument rather than just commenting on a series of quotes and other people’s ideas. 


75 - 84

Well written paper. Displays a close reading of relevant texts. Uses texts to develop arguments. Although this paper develops an argument it lacks the focus, coherence or originality of an HD as it relies too much on other people’s arguments. Or what holds the paper back is that it still needed more redrafting to sharpen its argument and overall coherence. Draws on at least 10 different texts.


65 - 74

A solid effort that focuses on relevant texts but reads like an early draft. Shows reading of relevant literature but this reading is not particularly close or deep. The analysis does not provide strong insights into the set question. A credit essay often fails to directly answer the set question or answer it in enough depth. Often a credit essay needs better structuring, and it reads as each paragraph is exploring a new thought, rather than paragraphs building upon each other. Or credit essays tend to become repetitive as the essay is not based on deep or wide enough reading to develop more than a few thoughts.


50 - 64

This essay does enough to pass a university unit as it shows familiarity with relevant literature. A pass essay tends to be written in a manner that is hard to follow or the essay is not particularly well constructed. The amount of research and reading presented in the essay is underwhelming. The essay tends to lack any sustaining or convincing argument to keep the essay together as a coherent piece of work. Pass essays tend to be vague or repetitive. They are often hard to read as the marker is looking for the argument and some structure and failing to find it. Pass essays often read like first drafts or essays that need help with improving the writing of the essay.


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.

Special consideration

If you experience short-term circumstances beyond your control, such as illness, injury or misadventure or if you have essential commitments which impact your preparation or performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

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.

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? Emerging Biden approach... Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
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 is the first time I have taught this unit.

More information can be found on Canvas.


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