Classroom Activities

  1. Discuss the merits of a doctrine of preemption in terms of U.S. foreign policy. Are elements of preemption visible in any of the following: Monroe Doctrine, Roosevelt Corollary, Truman Doctrine, Nixon Doctrine, Reagan Doctrine, and/or the Bush Doctrine? If so, identify such elements, turning to the doctrines themselves for evidence. Finally, indicate under what conditions a doctrine of preemption is most justified.
  2. Indicate the ways in which the Bush Doctrine reflected the other presidential doctrines, including the Monroe Doctrine, the Roosevelt Corollary, the Truman Doctrine, the Nixon Doctrine, and the Reagan Doctrine. Next, indicate the ways in which the Bush Doctrine differed from the more historical ones.
  3. Discuss the notion of the balance of powers on matters of war. To what extent should Congress have a role during wartime? Has Congress historically given over too much power to presidents during wartime? Be prepared to offer evidence to support your claims.
  4. Should the United States initiate acts of war if the United Nations does not support such military engagements? What are the consequences of the United States government engaging in more unilateral actions?
  5. Discuss the merits of the Bush Doctrine. Given the controversy surrounding the doctrine at home and abroad, detail the reasons why the doctrine was so controversial.
  6. Should presidents use the inaugural address to articulate policy initiatives or should such ceremonial occasions be reserved more for pomp and circumstance, celebrating a patriotic spirit and the commencement of a new administration or new presidential term?
  7. Discuss President George W. Bush’s use of the fire metaphor to characterize freedom as well as the events of September 11, 2001. How can the same metaphor be used to characterize an American ideal as well as a moment of deepest national crisis? What is it about the notion of “fire” that allows it to be used in such positive and negative ways? Do you think that the diverse use of the fire metaphor works effectively in President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address?
  8. When reading President George W. Bush’s public speeches, images of manifest destiny are readily apparent. Are such images a legitimate feature of U.S. political discourse in the twenty-first century? Be prepared to defend your position with evidence.

Student Research

  1.  Trace the underlying assumptions expressed in the presidential doctrines discussed in the essay. How have such assumptions evolved and changed from the early nineteen century to the early twenty-first century? What assumptions still remain? What assumptions are no longer evident? What assumptions are new? Take a position on which assumptions you believe are most significant for democratic nations, particularly U.S. foreign policy.
  2. Research the history of the United Nations and the U.S. role in relation to it. How does President Harry S Truman talk about the United Nations in the Truman Doctrine? How does President George H.W. Bush talk about the United Nations in his January 16, 1991, Persian Gulf War speech? Compare the discussion of the United Nations by Truman and the elder Bush to President George W. Bush’s speeches in the lead up to the U.S. war in Iraq.
  3. Locate a copy of the Federalist Papers and identify the ways in which its authors talk about the balance of powers between the legislative and executive branches during wartime. Compare the balance of powers during the U.S. war against Iraq to the ways in which it was discussed in the Federalist Papers. Would its authors be pleased or alarmed by the ways in which the balance of powers between the executive and legislative branches has evolved during wartime in the United States?
  4. Research the circumstances surrounding the War Powers Act of 1973. What conditions led to its passage? Did the Act impact future military operations in the United States? If so, how? Finally, discuss whether or not the conditions surrounding the Bush Doctrine warranted the passage of a similar act to strengthen congressional powers during wartime, restricting presidential authority in the process.
  5. Compare President George W. Bush’s June l, 2002, Graduation Speech at West Point (see VOD unit) to the Second Inaugural Address. In what ways does his discussion of the Bush Doctrine in the inaugural address reinforce, extend, or differ from his discussion of it during the graduation speech? Why might he opt to discuss such important foreign policy pronouncements in such ceremonial contexts?
  6. Locate three scholarly sources that support the Bush Doctrine and three sources that challenge it. After considering all of the arguments, write a position paper that identifies your position on the presidential doctrine.
  7. Develop classroom debates surrounding the following policy propositions. For each proposition, participants should trace the history of the topic and support all of their arguments with credible evidence, including the use of examples from past U.S. wars and military conflicts.   Resolved: A doctrine of preemption is never justified as a key strategy of U.S. foreign policy.   Resolved: The United States should act unilaterally without the support of the United Nations.
  8. This unit talked about six presidential doctrines–Monroe Doctrine, Roosevelt Corollary, Truman Doctrine, Nixon Doctrine, Reagan Doctrine, and the Bush Doctrine. Are there other presidential doctrines that were not addressed in this unit? Conduct a search to see if other presidential doctrines exist in U.S. history. If so, how do they differ or reflect some of the same underlying principles of the ones discussed in the essay?
  9. At the nation’s beginning, a commitment to neutrality was a key feature of U.S. foreign policy, as exhibited in the rhetoric of President George Washington and the Monroe Doctrine. Trace the historical evolution of the neutrality “doctrine.” How was neutrality portrayed in President Woodrow Wilson’s Second Inaugural Address? How is it portrayed in the Neutrality Act of 1935? And, how is it portrayed in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Arsenal for Democracy” speech of December 29, 1940? Address the reasons why notions of neutrality are no longer a common feature of presidential foreign policy discourse.

Citizenship Resources

  1. Locate the Internet sites of your senators and representatives in the U.S. Congress to identify their positions on existing wars that either the United States is currently fighting (e.g., Iraq, Afghanistan) or that are taking place throughout other parts of the world. How do they justify their positions? Is the issue a key component of their issues page?
  2. Review the Web site of an archival depository like the Library of Congress, the National Archives, a presidential library, or a state historical society and identify the ways that such sites provide resources for research projects related to the study of presidential doctrines (e.g., Monroe Doctrine, Roosevelt Corollary, Bush Doctrine).
  3. Conduct an Internet search and identify grass roots groups, lobbying organizations, or private corporations that seek to challenge U.S. acts of war and those that seek to offer support of U.S. activities during wartime. Compare their mission statements to identify the different assumptions of the groups.
  4. Visit a museum or library that features exhibits on U.S. history. How are times of war in U.S. history depicted? How are U.S. military actions portrayed? How is the enemy during wartime featured? Overall, consider how important acts of war have been to the nation’s identity.
  5. The National Archives and Records Administration features an on-line exhibit dedicated to the Monroe Doctrine. Visit this Web site and read through the materials contained on the site: How is the doctrine remembered in U.S. history? What relevance does it still hold for U.S. foreign policy today?
  6. Visit the Harry S Truman Presidential Library: Search the Web site to see how the Truman Doctrine is portrayed. How does the library portray its importance to the Cold War? How is its legacy for U.S. foreign policy depicted by the archivists?
  7. Visit the Web site of the Voice of America (VOA), the official news station of the U.S. government: How did the VOA portray the Bush Doctrine to the world community? How closely does the VOA’s message mirror the message of the Bush administration?

Last updated March 20, 2016