IPOL-378 War & Presidential Decision Making
Fall for 2015-2016
Every U.S. president since Franklin Roosevelt has grappled with whether to utilize force—to put “boots on the ground”—in pursuit of U.S. interests. The decision whether to utilize force is among the most challenging a president faces and, therefore, provides a window on executive branch decision making more generally.

This seminar will focus on a series of cases beginning with the Cuban missile crisis in the Kennedy administration and ending with President Obama’s decision not to bomb Syrian targets in 2013. We will be particularly interested in the factors contributing to major foreign policy choices—the decision making. process, how U.S. interests are defined in times of crisis, the use (and misuse) of intelligence, the assumptions held by policy makers and the impact of those assumptions on policy choices. We will want to identify “lessons” from these cases and make determinations about what contributes to sound decisions and what pitfalls to avoid in national security decision making.

Students will be required to make oral presentations, participate actively in class discussions, conduct interviews, write two page policy memos and a final ten page policy paper. This seminar will draw heavily on a master’s course I taught for many years at Georgetown and will be updated to incorporate experience I gained working at the National Intelligence Council from 2009-2013.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

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