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Since the late 19th century, the United States of America are one of the dominant military powers in the world. From the undeclared naval war against France (1798–1800) to the ongoing military operations against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the U.S. intervened about 250 times with combat forces in conflicts in the whole world. U.S. troops saw action »from the Halls of Montezuma, to the Shores of Tripoli«, as it can be read in the first two lines of the service anthem of U.S. Marine Corps. In the early 2000s, the era of U.S. unmanned combat aerial vehicles (»drones«) began – possibly starting an epoch of permanent and undeclared drone warfare.
Some of the mentioned interventions lasted just a few hours, others many years. Altogether, several million people, civilians and combatants (including about 1.3 million U.S. soldiers), died during these operations. The armed interventions were justified by safeguarding the lives and the wellbeing of U.S. citizens, by political, economic, and strategic interests, and by the paragraphs of international law.
To approach the topic, ed U.S. declarations of war as well as presidential speeches and messages justifying U.S. military interventions from two centuries will be read and discussed. The course’s aim is a critical understanding of the history of U.S. military interventions and justifications of war in the broader context of geopolitics, political and economic interests, strategic doctrines, domestic priorities, and last but not least presidential biographies.
In the course, key philosophy of science and philosophy of history ideas will be debated. Further, basic historiographical techniques and methods will be taught, sources and secondary literature will be critically analysed and discussed. The attendees have to give presentations and to comment their fellow students’ presentation.
The language of instruction is English. To pass the course, active participation and at least one presentation (depending on the number of attendees) is obligatory. To pass the Modulprüfung, a source analysis paper (22,500 to 25,000 characters, including spaces) is required. Maximum 6 ECTS credits can be acquired.
||- Arnold, John (2000): History. A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Buhite, Russell D. (Hrsg.) (2003): Calls to Arms. Presidential Speeches, Messages and Declarations of War. Wilmington: Scholarly Resources.
- Herring, George C. (2011): From colony to superpower. U.S. foreign relations since 1776. New York: Oxford University Press (The Oxford history of the United States).
- Hook, Steven W. (2017): U.S. foreign policy. The paradox of world power. 5th edition. Los Angeles: SAGE/CQ Press.
- Hunt, Michael H./Levine, Steven I. (2012): Arc of Empire. America’s wars in Asia from the Philippines to Vietnam. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.