ISD Courses

ISD senior staff, associates and senior fellows bring to the classroom global experience in the practice of diplomacy as seen from a variety of agencies and governments, serving as a link between the academic and practitioners’ worlds.

The graduate classes offered by ISD fulfill key requirements of the Certificate in Diplomatic Studies. For example, MSFS 616, “Diplomatic and Military Statecraft”-taught in the fall semester by a team of ISD’s associates and the Director of Studies-is a foundation class, as is MSFS 526, “International Mediation-Strategy and Methods” taught by ISD’s Schlesinger Professor of Strategic Studies, Chester Crocker. Seminars organized in the “policy task force” format-such as MSFS 630, “U.S. Congressional Influence on Foreign Policy”-are the capstone courses for the certificate.

ISD also develops and teaches seminars for undergraduate students earning the Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service (BSFS) degree.

Fall 2015 

INAF-380: Negotiations and Engagement on the Global Stage, Barbara K. Bodine

For those who would be actors on the global stage, critics of or audience to the theater of diplomacy, this course will provide an introduction to the conceptual frameworks, the theories, and tools that shape political engagement across a spectrum of issues and multiple approaches. The ability to negotiate and to engage successfully rests upon a combination of analytic, intellectual and interpersonal skills, each of which will be examined as part of this course. Successful engagement, whether formal or informal, requires the ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity, institutional and personal resilience, the ability to lead without the need to dictate, and a willingness to think strategically and work tactically. The seminar will be based on a combination of academic literature, case studies and experiences of practitioners. There will be a written midterm and a written final, each based on the student’s own research, as well as class requirements and participation, and formal and informal oral presentations. 

IPOL-378: War & Presidential Decision Making, Casimir Yost

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. 

MSFS-645: Forecasting Global Trends, Casimir Yost

There is broad agreement that the next 15-20 years will see massive shifts at the country, regional and global levels-all driven by demography, resource scarcity, communications and other technologies, conflict and governance challenges, and much more. There is also agreement that while broad trends may be clear, their force and direction will depend to a significant degree on the interaction among them-demographic trends and resource consumption patterns or state fragility and conflict to take two obvious examples. 

This seminar is designed to give students the tools and analytical methodologies to think systematically about the future, though not to predict it. We will examine four “megatrends” identified in Global Trends 2030, a publication of the National Intelligence Council, and a number of variables – for example, the potential for increased conflict and the impact of new technologies that will affect the trajectory of these trends. We will anticipate what the consequences will be of these trends converging for U.S. grand strategy. Students will be divided into teams and each team will apply the analytical tools and forecasting methodologies studied in the course to a particular country, producing a national intelligence estimate (NIE) that assesses the opportunities and risks that country will face in the next five years. 

MSFS-616: Diplomatic and Military Statecraft, James P. Seevers

The course will examine the tough questions and dilemmas in the practice of contemporary statecraft and diplomacy. It will use a series of case studies to explore how states have successfully built integrated strategies to achieve their objectives and where and why they have failed. It will focus in particular on the changing nature of the tools available to states and the context in which they are used. The team of instructors, comprised of current and former diplomats and military officers from the SFS Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, will draw from their recent experience to round out the case studies and focus on the challenges of modern statecraft and diplomacy.

Spring 2016

CDS Capstone Course: The Once and Future Yemen: A Case Study on Rebuilding a Shattered State, Barbara Bodine

Yemen, always a fragile state, as recently as the spring of 2015 looked to be one of the few success stories from the Arab Spring - a negotiated transfer of power, a laudable National Dialogue Process, and strong support from the international community. The Houthi, long in conflict with the pre-Spring central government, the autumn of 2015 had signed a National Partnership Plan with the new Hadi government, a public-private partnership agreement brokered by the US was signed in Washington, a constitution was being drafted and elections were planned. And then the unraveling began. With Hadi in forced exile, Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign in coalition with a number of other Arab states, and with US support, to force the Houthi out and bring Hadi back. As of September 2015, that campaign continues, with untold destruction of the political, economic, social and physical infrastructure and an humanitarian crisis of unknown dimensions. The campaign has also unleashed AQAP and spawned the emergence of IS-affiliated groups. 

This course – one of three that fulfills the capstone requirement for the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy’s Certificate in Diplomatic Studies (CDS) -- will examine why the Yemeni success story in the end failed, and how this country - as a case study for other shattered states - can rebuild. What are the roles and responsibilities of the regional belligerents in the conflict, the international community, and the Yemenis themselves in post-war political and physical reconstruction? What lessons can be learned - good or ill -- from elsewhere? The capstone course will conclude with a comprehensive strategy report by the capstone participants. It is taught by the Director of the SFS Institute for the Study of Diplomacy who previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Yemen. 

  • Open to non-CDS candidates on a space-available basis. 
  • Credits: 3
  • Prerequisites: None

CDS Capstone Course: The New Silk Road and Eurasian Stability: Multi-Vector Diplomacy in ActionRichard Norland

As Russia reasserts itself on the world stage and the ISIS threat shows no sign of abating, nations from Europe through South-Central Asia to East Asia struggle to cope in the absence of a fully functioning international security system. Revival of the New Silk Road, based on dramatic improvements in East-West rail, pipeline, air and fiber-optic connections, offers a new set of incentives for cooperation from the Caucasus to the Pacific. These incentives in turn hold strategic potential for the United States, Russia, Europe and China. Nations along the route are playing a new “Great Game” as they tailor their diplomacy to accommodate the eventual winners. At stake is whether any one country or movement will dominate Eurasia. 

This course – one of three that fulfills the capstone requirement for the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy’s Certificate in Diplomatic Studies (CDS) – offers students the opportunity to put themselves in the place of national leaders as they calibrate their diplomacy to deal with shifting pressures and real threats to their nations’ existence. Taught by a senior Foreign Service officer who most recently served as U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, the course, which will draw on the Embassy Country Team model, will also examine strategic opportunities for the United States and other global players. The capstone course will conclude with a comprehensive strategy report by the capstone participants. 

  • Open to non-CDS candidates on a space-available basis. 
  • Credits: 3
  • Prerequisites: None

CDS Capstone Course: Marketing America's National Security: How Policy Formation and Communications IntersectBernadette Meehan

Students who complete this course will become familiar with the role that communications practitioners play in the national security decision making process, the influence communicators have on the formation of policy, the impact public diplomacy and strategic communications have on the success or failure of U.S. national security policy, and the influence of multiple stakeholders – including the American people, the U.S. Congress, the media, and international allies and adversaries – on U.S. foreign policy formation. 

The course will examine the policy debates and decisions surrounding key national security issues of the Obama Administration -- including the Iran nuclear deal, the diplomatic opening with Cuba, the Syria chemical weapons attack, the changes of government in Egypt, and U.S. counter-terrorism operations -- and will evaluate the effectiveness of communications strategies and tools used to explain and "sell" the policies to multiple constituencies. Taught by a Foreign Service Officer who most recently served as the White House National Security Council Spokesperson, the class will include a range of “real-world” simulations to encourage students to approach policy questions from a communications vantage point. 

This course – one of three that fulfills the capstone requirement for the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy’s Certificate in Diplomatic Studies (CDS) -- will also require students to complete a joint report outlining a policy recommendation regarding the closing of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. Integral to the joint report will be the creation of a comprehensive communications strategy that employs a mix of techniques for reaching and influencing desired audiences, and which includes a persuasive narrative that advances the policy objective. 

  • Open to non-CDS candidates on a space-available basis. 
  • Credits: 3
  • Prerequisites: None

IPOL 352: U.S. Foreign Policy in Conflict StatesRamon Escobar

Diplomacy is never easy. Developing and implementing a coherent and comprehensive foreign policy in a country or region at conflict can be even more challenging. Much of the academic, political, and media attention is often focused on U.S. foreign policy shortcomings or blunders. This course will instead look at successful U.S. foreign policy initiatives in conflict states, and attempt to glean positive lessons from these experiences and apply them to current challenges. In the first half of the semester we will examine U.S. policy in the Balkans (1990s) and Colombia (2000s), with a particular focus on the latter where 15 years of uninterrupted U.S. support played a critical role in that South American country's transformation from a near-failed narco-state to a rapidly growing and forward-looking middle-income ally. Although significant challenges remain, and the word “success” should be used with a measure of modesty in both contexts, these cases nonetheless provide fertile ground for us to better understand how to get a diplomatic intervention largely right. In the second half we will apply the lessons learned from these positive U.S. foreign policy initiatives to current conflict situations such as in Iraq and Syria. Your grade for this course will be based on classroom engagement and three written assignments (concise, short papers) due throughout the semester. The instructor is an active duty Foreign Service Officer with diplomatic experience in the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America, including his most recent assignment working with the US Special Envoy to the Colombia Peace Process.

  • Credits: 3
  • Prerequisites: None

IPOL 356: Airpower Theory and PracticeScott Rowe

Airpower is an integral part of the military instrument of power and is widely used as a means of strategic influence. This course serves as an introduction to airpower theory, examines the evolution of airpower from its infancy to the present day, discusses historical attempts to mold theory into a successful strategy, explores the future of airpower as it transitions from the industrial age to the information age and evaluates airpower’s ability to support U.S. national security and foreign policy goals. 

The course begins by studying the ideas of early airpower theorists as they grappled with rapid technological advances in aviation and its transformative potential on war fighting. Next, the course analyzes attempts to put these theories into practice by studying airpower actions during World War II, Vietnam, and Operation DESERT STORM. The course also examines the rise of the nuclear force as a means of deterrence, the emergence of new airpower theorists and theories, and the expansion into space. Finally, the course will investigate the future of airpower to include the use of drones, the manned versus unmanned debate and the transition to the information age. Throughout the course, students will critique airpower as a means of achieving national security objectives. 

Previous experience or knowledge of the employment of airpower are not required for this course. The instructor is an active duty Air Force Lt. Colonel, F-15 pilot, and fighter squadron commander currently serving as an associate at the School of Foreign Service’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. 

  • Credits: 3
  • Prerequisites: None

SEST 681-01: Legal Issues for Intelligence Officers and PolicymakersPatrick Kim

This seminar examines the unique legal issues that confront U.S. policymakers who use intelligence products, and the intelligence officers within the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) that produce intelligence. The seminar will provide students with an overview of the IC and its sources of legal authority and an awareness of the fundamental legal issues related to various intelligence activities, ranging from collection of signals intelligence (Fourth Amendment privacy issues), use of cover identities for intelligence officers (diplomatic/international law) to covert action (constitutional separation of powers issues and law of armed conflict questions). 

The first sessions of the class will cover an overview of the IC, its functions, and interactions with policymakers, as well as the legal framework which governs U.S. intelligence activities. Later in the semester, we will examine specific intelligence activities and the legal issues involved. Students will be responsible for debating the larger policy questions about how legal rules affect the execution of intelligence activities. 

The overarching goal of the class will be to (1) familiarize students with the legal issues involved with various intelligence activities, and, more importantly, (2) prepare students to participate in the ongoing policy debate about whether existing legal rules are well-tailored to protect both U.S. national security and civil liberties, constitutional rights, and the rule of law.

  • Credits: 3.0
  • Prerequisites: None