In the final week of the Political Studies Program, fellows will turn to the study of America and the world.

One seminar will explore a classic international relations text—Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War—and the important, and even unusual, insights into strategy it provides us in the present day. The second will explore the concept of grand strategy in American foreign policy, with a focus on the challenges and opportunities facing the United States in the contemporary era.

Image Credit: Globe, Ryan Gacayan, via Flickr

Jakub Grygiel on Caesar Augustus' foreign policy lessons


Colin Dueck

Colin Dueck is a professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He has worked as a foreign policy adviser on Republican presidential campaigns, and acted as a consultant for the State and Defense Departments and the National Security Council.

Jakub Grygiel

Jakub Grygiel is an Associate Professor at the Catholic University of America. From 2017–18, he was a member of the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State. His most recent book is Return of the Barbarians: Confronting Non-State Actors from Ancient Rome to the Present.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session


Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the key strategic assumptions of the U.S. liberal internationalist tradition and its leading alternatives? Why do these alternatives wax and wane in popularity?
  2. What was Woodrow Wilson’s proposed innovation of American grand strategy emerging from World War I? Why was it rejected? Was this rejection justified?
  3. How did Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman revive the liberal internationalist tradition more successfully during the 1940s?
  4. What was containment? Was it the optimal strategy for the United States after 1945?


Discussion Questions:

  1. Did the U.S. have a grand strategy during the 1990s? If so, what was that strategy? Was it effective?
  2. How did U.S. grand strategy change under George W. Bush as a result of the terrorist attacks of 9/11?
  3. What alterations did Barack Obama introduce to American grand strategy, and why? How would you judge his effectiveness?
  4. What continuities are worth noting about U.S. grand strategy during the post-Cold War era, regardless of president? What lesson should we learn from this?


Discussion Questions:

  1. What changes did the Trump administration introduce into U.S. grand strategy? How consequential were they?
  2. What are the key characteristics of American grand strategy under the Biden administration? Is this simply a return to the liberal internationalist tradition?
  3. What are the most striking or compelling alternatives to the Biden vision? Describe them.
  4. What would be the most fruitful direction for American grand strategy in the coming years? Where should we go from here?



Discussion Questions:

  1. Great powers fear “entrapment” (being dragged into small and peripheral wars by their allies) while their allies fear “abandonment” (being left alone by their distant security patron). How can these fears be mitigated? Do they reflect the reality of international politics?
  2. What is the importance of allies for the U.S.?



Discussion Questions:

  1. The Peloponnesian War was a conflict between a sea power (Athens) and a land power (Sparta). What are the features of such a conflict? What are the differences in how they conduct war?
  2. How did the strategy of Archidamus differ from that of Pericles?
  3. What strategy should the U.S. pursue against its continental rivals (China, Iran, Russia)?

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