The Duck of Minerva

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Request for input: readings for a course on American Grand Strategy

June 5, 2007

I’m teaching a summer course on “American Grand Strategy” in about a month. I have a pretty good idea what the course is about:

The terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the Bush administration’s National Security Strategy, and the American-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have triggered a major debate about American grand strategy. Many scholars and pundits now propose alternative grand strategies under a variety of names: “National Security Strategy 2.0,” “Ethical Realism,” “Progressive Realism,” and so forth. This course seeks to provide students with the historical and theoretical grounding to assess the debate over grand strategy. Important topics include: the nature of grand strategies; the dynamics of unipolar, hegemonic, and imperial systems; alliance behavior and the balance of power; terrorism and weapons of mass destruction; and economic competition. We look at a variety of different threats to American strategic interests and possible future trends in global politics. And, of course, we debate the merits of various proposals for American grand strategy.

I pretty much know what the course syllabus is supposed to look like… I’ve been wanting to do a class like this for some time. A lot of the class will focus on scholarly and semi-scholarly articles, but it occurs to me that I should assign one or two books on the subject as well. There’s so much out there, though, that I remain unsure about what to have them read. And the course starts in about a month.

I’m currently thinking about some combination of three books: Ikenberry’s After Victory, Lieber’s The American Era, and Legro’s Rethinking the World. But, as I mentioned, there’s a lot of literature out there, so I thought I’d ask the readers of the Duck to weigh in.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.