Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts The Changing Role of the US Military and Foreign Policy after the Cold War: 1991-2001

The Changing Role of the US Military and Foreign Policy after the Cold War: 1991-2001

US History Standard Era 10, Contemporary United States (1968 to the Present)
Standard 1C Recent developments in US foreign and domestic policies
Evaluate the reformulation of foreign policy in the post-Cold War era.
English Language Arts Standards » History/Social Studies » Grade 11-12
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

With the end of the Cold War, the United States faced a new challenge: how to refashion a foreign policy that was solidly focused for 45 years on containing the power of communist countries and the former Soviet Union. Until finding a solid anchor after September 11th, 2001 with the War on Terror proclaimed, the United States in the 1990s ventured into a new period of foreign policy development. What would be its new focus? How would the US military be used in this period? Would its new role bring success/struggle? What would the end result of the US military engagements in the 1990s mean for the future?

Main focus:
After reviewing the use of the US military during the Cold War and predicting new foreign policy challenges and initiatives in the post-Cold War period, students will examine several events in the 1990s in which the US military was engaged—Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, various airstrikes, and their lack of response in Rwanda—evaluate common characteristics among each event and assess the end outcome of the US military use in this period. To finish, students will postulate the effects of US military uses in the 1990s in terms of challenges for the 21st century. As an extension activity, students will examine the contemporary relationship between the US and the countries/events studied and access the long-term implications of the US intervention.

DAY 1: Introduce the 1990s foreign policy as a transitional period and review US foreign policy during the Cold War
A) Start off by assigning the following questions for homework and discussing these for the first part of class

1) What US foreign policy goals/strategies dominated the Cold War era? What common features did these strategies share? What thinking/philosophy connected policy goals during this period? Were these policies successful? Explain.

2) What international challenges would the US face with the end of the Cold War? What international opportunities would now be available to the US with the end of the Cold War?

Have them categorize the challenges and possibilities into political, economic, and social. You could also ask them to address #2 by having individual groups focus on specific world regions.

3) What obstacles could get in the way of the US implementing new foreign policy pathways in the post-Cold War period?

4) How might the United Nations and NATO be refigured and/or goals refocused with the fall of the Berlin Wall?
A) Pass out Reading 1 Handout (Excerpt from The Telegram article “The Promise and Failure of American Grand Strategy after the Cold War” by Jeremi Suri, March 2010
B) Give students 20 minutes to read and assign questions to groups of students to discuss and share out.
C) Discuss answers.
D) Put the following observations from the excerpt on the board:

List A) Policy makers statements about US foreign policy potentials in the 1990s:
Focus on rule of law
Focus on ensuring/protecting/promoting economic and political freedoms
Multi-lateral actions
Policy as not having a big cost on American tax-payers
Expansive agenda
Zone of peace
Cooperative approaches
Collective security institutions

List B) Author’s summary of policy decisions made in the 1990s:
Made by technocrats
US engaged in strategically unimportant places
“Small policy”
“Misguided choices” made
Half-complete/half-worked out policy
Ask students for homework to analyze the disconnect/discord between the two lists. Remind students that the first list is what policy makers wanted and the second, the author’s analysis of what actually happened. What could have happened? Why might pursing an “expansive agenda” and a “zone of peace” bring about “half-completed” missions, for example? Could there be a correlation between low cost military engagements and “small policy” or engaging in “strategically unimportant places?”

DAY 2: US Military in the Cold War and Predicting US Military changes in Post-Cold war period
1) As a warm-up and link back to Day 1, ask students to discuss disconnects/discords noted from yesterday’s activity.
2) Transition to focus on the use of the US military in implementing foreign policy. Ask students to list 8-10 ways/events the US military was used in the Cold War and the doctrines created during this period. (You can do this by listing doctrine/presidents and have student groups list military engagements per each doctrine/president: Truman Doctrine/containment—Domino Theory—Massive Retaliation—Brinksmanship—Eisenhower Doctrine—Flexible Response—Nixon Doctrine—Carter—Reagan– George WH Bush)

Ask students to summarize the most common uses of the military during this period and the outcome.
3) Tell students that they are now going to read a short excerpt from an article focused on military doctrine during this time as a way to connect what they studied previously to precise military goals. Pass out Reading #2, an excerpt from The Coming Transformation of the U.S. Military? E-notes Michael Noonan Feb 4 2002. This is meant as a more detailed look at the policy of this period.

4) Have students get into groups, read, and discuss questions. Share out with the class. Connect war doctrine and changes back to the events the students listed in transition activity (e.g. Limited War with Vietnam)

5) De-Brief/Transition: Ask students to reflect on the state of foreign policy by 1991 (the end of the Cold War.) Noonan’s article notes that Overwhelming Force in action had success in Panama and Iraq. If students have not studied these events already, briefly review these events.

6) Now for homework, ask students to answer the following questions:
A) What changes would in all probability occur to the US military now that the Cold War was over? Why would these changes occur?
B) What, if any, type of engagements would the US military be involved in with this post-Cold War era? Explain why.
C) How would the US population respond to the changes made in the US military in the post-Cold War era? Think about this first: What would the US public want in terms of the US military in the post-Cold War era?

Day 3: Introduction to President Clinton, Post-Cold War Foreign Policy and Military Use
1) De-brief on homework questions.

2) Pass out Reading #3.

3) Break students into 4 groups. Tell students that each group represents people working under President Clinton’s first National Security Adviser, Anthony Lake. Have students brainstorm a list of 5-8 characteristics, according to the article read last night, that describe you in terms of your background, personal characteristics foreign policy goals, and assumptions you made contributing to your goals. Ask students if they discern any negative traits in these characteristics and if the author might be biased. Share out.

4) In the same groups, assign each group 1 of the 4 goals Lake created to inform Clinton’s post-Cold War foreign policy. Ask students to answer each of the following questions. Before they do this however, go back to the list created the end of Day 1 and have students keep the wishes of policy makers (List A) in mind when responding to the questions.

Questions to answer:
a) decipher what each goal means and why the goal makes sense in the Cold-War context
b) how each goal could be implemented and whether the US military would be necessary and in what capacity
c) decide if the implementation of the goal could and should be done as a coalition or with the UN or NATO and Why
c) hypothesize what countries/regions might be the focus of these goals and why
d) hypothesize the cost of implementing the goal
e) predict problems for developing and implementing the goal

1. “We should strengthen the community of major market democracies—including our own—which constitutes the core from which enlargement is proceeding.”

2. “We should help foster and consolidate new democracies and market economies, where possible in states of special significance and opportunity.”
3. “We must counter the aggression—and support the liberalization of states hostile to democracy and markets.”

4. “We need to pursue our humanitarian agenda not only by providing aid, but also by working to help democracy and market economics take root in regions of greatest humanitarian concern.”
5) Have each group share out and take notes on other group’s predictions.
6) Assign the following question as homework: Have students re-read List B and ask what could have gone wrong in implementing Lake’s foreign policy goals.

For example, Suri noted that US foreign policy in the 1990s was misguided and involved strategically unimportant places. What does this mean about Lake’s goal #4? What could have happened?

Day 4: De-Brief and Assign Research Project
1. Have students share out their answers. Note commonalities of their predictions on what might have happened.

2. Transition to the group project. Depending on the number of students in the class, group size will vary. Tell students that they will be responsible for researching and assessing the role of the US military in a foreign policy engagement in the 1990s. Events are:
Intervention in Somalia
Intervention in Haiti
Decision not to get involved in Rwanda
Response to the Bosnian War
Response to the Kosovo War
Strategic bombings in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran (these can be broken up into separate events)

3. The group project centers on researching and formulating answers for the following questions:
A) What was happening in the country that prompted international attention? (Investigate the circumstances- the who-what-where-when-why of the event)
B) Why did the United States decide to get involved in the situation? Does the US response link back to any of Lake’s policy goals?
C) How did the United States respond (strategy/goals/implementation of both) and what was the role of the US military in the response?
D) Were there other international players that got involved? Who? How? Why?
E) Was the United States/international coalition successful in its response? Explain. If there is debate on the success/failure, be able to explain briefly.
F) How did the US public respond to the use of force?
G) What is the end outcome/effect of US military force in the particular engagement? What legacy did it leave?

4. Students can use social studies databases available at the school site for research in addition to using appropriate FPRI articles and other international relations websites/university research databases.

5. Teachers can decide what format the students should use to present their findings. Suggestions include:
Prezi/power point presentation
Mock news cast
Creation of a wiki/website
Mock debate on the statement “President Clinton’s decision to use the military in (x) event was not necessary and did only created more problems for the United States.” (group divides into affirmation and negation)
Mock trial: Putting Clinton on trial for the US of military in a certain event (akin to the mock debate)

6. Before beginning their research, the teacher should explain/give a brief background on the following (make sure students know these definitions):
Peace-keeping missions
Humanitarian aid and intervention, define NGO (give example)
UN Charter, Chapter 6 and 7 about intervention and national sovereignty
Peace-keeping Missions under Chapter 6
Peace keeping missions under Chapter 7
Helsinki accords in terms of human rights (as back drop for 1990s—stepping stone)

As an excellent background/review on these, teachers are advised to watch:
The Savage Wars of Peacekeeping and Peace Enforcement: Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo by Janine Davidson

7. The teacher should also explain that with the end of the Cold War, the US military budget and size was cut drastically. Reference Janine Davidson’s talk here. Students should know that the resources available during this period were more limited than that of the Cold War.

Days 5-9: Research/collaboration and group share out of project

During student presentations, make sure non-presenting students take notes with a teacher-created graphic organizer focusing on answer the researched questions (A-G). If groups fall short in answer a specific question (of the A-G), teacher should fill in the gaps by assigning a reading and/or reviewing material/asking student groups questions after their presentation.

Day 10: Socratic Seminar and Short Written Assessment

1) Assign the students the Socratic seminar questions (handout) the night before and have students prepare notes for an in-class discussion.

2) Teachers can set up and grade the Socratic seminar in whatever format fits their class size. One option would be to create a fishbowl and have each fishbowl take 1-3 questions and switch out. Students outside the fishbowl would be responsible for scoring student participation in addition to their answers.

3) After finishing the Socratic seminar, have students form a circle and conduct a whole class discussion on the following questions:
A) To what extent can the 1990s be accurately titled “The Fog of Peace” era or the “Decade of Denial”?

4) Assign two of the Socratic seminar questions as a culminating written assessment.

The Savage Wars of Peacekeeping and Peace Enforcement: Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo by Janine Davidson

The Coming Transformation of the U.S. Military? E-notes by Michael Noonan Feb 4 2002

The Telegram article “The Promise and Failure of American Grand Strategy after the Cold War” by Jeremi Suri, March 2010

  • Jeanne Scheppach
  • Dougherty Valley High School
Grade Level
  • High School: 11, 12
Time Frame
  • Approximately 2 weeks

If you have any questions about this lesson plan, or if you wish to contact the author, please email us at [email protected]