American Politics Program
Students of American Politics study governance, policymaking, institutions, processes, and strategy-making, with focused attention on the U.S./American perspective. Cadets consider how U.S. foreign-defense policy and other government domestic policies are made. Institutions such as political organizations, the Presidency, and Congress are analyzed from both a U.S. and comparative perspective. Students also consider processes such as political leadership, voting and group behavior. Strong emphasis is placed on the unique, and what some might consider exceptional ‘soldier-state’ civil-military relationship in the American experience.
The West Point American Politics program provides students with a solid understanding of the fundamentals of political science theory and practice in the context of American Governance. Primarily taken during their third year, three “toolbox” courses are required to ground all majors in the discipline. In particular, students learn to quantitatively and qualitatively analyze political science phenomena and public policy, to understand the philosophical underpinnings of the American political system, and to develop an appreciation of and ability to compare the United States to other political systems. Armed with this foundation, students pursue a range of specialized electives both within and outside of the Department of Social Sciences, which affords them the opportunity to apply appropriate theories and principles in the analysis of complex political and economic issues. A final requirement of majors is an integrative experience that provides an in-depth investigation of a current national security policy challenge of immense scope and importance to the Department of Defense, and, particularly, to the Army.
The integrative experience enables cadets to apply what they have learned from both the core curriculum and their major to a directed analysis of a critical national security issue. The required course that provides this integrative experience is Advanced American Politics, Policy, and Strategy (SS480.) First, the course introduces an array of public policy “puzzles” – challenging issues that lie at the center of US national, regional, and international policy and politics and at the forefront of contemporary public debate. Second, cadets examine the constituent parts of the policymaking process with a focus on a subset of policy frameworks and the art and science of policy analysis and evaluation. Third, cadets explore a number of the policy cases introduced early-on in the course to ascertain the degree to which policy frameworks are applicable to real world policy problems. All along , students partner with classmates to develop and hone their analytical and assessment skills through group exercises and projects.
Lastly but perhaps most importantly, this integrative experience endeavors to impart on students the connectedness between the politics of public policymaking and the strategymaking behind the politics of war-policy.
This integrative experience is designed to challenge cadets to apply their learning to their forthcoming careers as Army professionals, and is designed in five sequential modules that supply answers to the following organizing questions:
What is military innovation and adaptation?
How are resources, fiscal and otherwise, made available to the Department of Defense; and how are defense policy decisions made?
To what future must America’s militaries adapt?
How do military institutions and professions change? What are the lessons from history about military innovation and adaptation in peacetime? Are there theories that explain the process of military innovation and adaptation, or even parts of it, and to which we can look for insights about the Army’s future?
What changes can I realistically expect to be a part of during the first five to ten years of my career?