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 2018 Courses:


Diplomatic and Military Statecraft (MSFS/graduate foundation course)

ISD Associates and Senior Fellows and James Seevers, Director of Studies


History’s Influence on Foreign Policy (BSFS/graduate foundation course)

Kelly McFarland, Director of Programs and Research


NATO: Are Alliances Still Needed? (MSFS/1.5 credit class)

Ambassador (ret.) John Heffern, Distinguished Resident Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship and Diplomacy and Beeck Center Fellow


Policy Analysis: Cuba (MSFS/1.5 credit class)

Ambassador (ret.) Jeff DeLaurentis, Distinguished Resident Fellow in Latin American Studies and SFS Centennial Fellow


Policy Analysis: Burma, Bangladesh and the Rohingya (MSFS/1.5 credit class)

Ambassador Mark Storella, Senior State Department Fellow


Policy Analysis: US-EU Relations (MSFS/1.5 credit class)

Uzra Zeya, Senior Non-Resident Fellow


GU-Qatar, International Negotiation Lab – Syria (MSFS/1 credit class)

James Seevers, Director of Studies and Roland McKay, State Department Rusk Fellow


Spring 2019 Courses:


Graduate Capstones:


INAF 635: Resurrecting Yemen: A Case Study in Rebuilding a Shattered State

Ambassador (ret.) Barbara Bodine, Director ISD

A place called Yemen has existed in one form or another since time immemorial. Never colonized and rarely conquered, Yemen has a long history and a strong sense of identity absent in much of the rest of the region. Called by the Romans “Arabia Felix,” factors have conspired to keep Yemen from thriving in today’s world.  While its population equals that of the rest of the peninsula combined, it is virtually devoid of water, oil or other natural resources. Its population has outstripped its ancient agricultural resources and its people have been food insecure for decades. Compounding the poor hand dealt by nature, Yemen has long been a proxy battleground for other powers and suffered from weak state formation and dysfunctional governments.  Buffeted by the Arab Spring, Yemen looked to be one of the few success stories with a negotiated transfer of power, a laudable if inconclusive National Dialogue Process and strong support from regional and international players. But that process contained fundamental flaws that proved fatal in the fall of 2014 and exploded into an internationalized civil war in the spring of 2015.

That civil war-turned-proxy war has engulfed Yemen for almost four years with little prospect of peace. Yemen is now ranked the single worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The Yemeni people face famine, epidemic disease and the random violence of being trapped in a war zone as regional players including the Saudis and the Emirates, supported by the US, the UK and others, play a grotesque came of chess with Iran for regional hegemony that has been likened to a “Game of Thrones.” While media coverage has increased and, with it, increased Congressional scrutiny of US complicity with Saudi/Emirati actions, the focus has been primarily on the humanitarian catastrophe. Less attention is paid to efforts to end the conflict. The question of what should and can come after the conflict, how the state and the society can be rebuilt, is virtually ignored.

This course – one of four that fulfill the capstone requirement for the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy’s certificate in diplomatic studies (CDS) – will examine why the Yemeni near-success story failed and how this country can rebuild. What are the roles and responsibilities of the regional belligerents, the international community, and the Yemenis themselves in post-war political, social and physical reconstruction? What lessons, good and bad, can be applied from other post-conflict efforts? What is unique to the Yemeni situation? The capstone course will conclude with a comprehensive strategy report by the capstone participants. No prior knowledge of Yemen or the region is required for this course. The course is directed by the director of ISD who previously served as US Ambassador to Yemen.

INAF 631-02: Syria – Solving the World’s Worst Refugee Crisis

Ambassador Mark C. Storella, Senior State Department Fellow

Since the onset of the Syria conflict in 2011, 6.3 million Syrians have fled their country.  The Syrian refugee crisis has caused untold human suffering, placed immense burdens on hosting countries and communities and shaken political systems in the region and beyond.  Turkey now hosts over 3.5 million Syrian refugees; Lebanon nearly one million; and Jordan over 650,000. Over one million Syrians have sought asylum in Europe. As major hostilities wind down, one of the key factors in restoring stability to Syria and the region will be the fate of Syria’s refugees.  This course – which fulfills the capstone requirement for the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy’s Certificate in Diplomatic Studies (CDS) – will examine the complex origins of the crisis, review the measures taken by various international actors to address the needs of the displaced, and assess the full range of instruments available to find durable solutions for Syrian refugees, within the framework of international conventions and norms.  Students will develop a set of recommendations for the Secretary General of the United Nations and the international community for an international conference to provide a comprehensive solution to the refugee crisis, including roles for various actors – international organizations, nation states, NGOs, international financial institutions, and others – to facilitate an end to the largest refugee crisis since World War II. The course will be led by Ambassador Mark C. Storella, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration (2016-2018).

INAF 638: South Sudan Conflict

Ambassador (ret.) Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Distinguished Resident Fellow in African Studies

South Sudan came onto the scene in 2011, a new nation, welcomed into what all believed would be a new high mark for democracy in Africa. It was viewed as a U.S. policy success. Two years later, the country was torn apart by ethnic strife, weak leadership, and regional political machinations. 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 give students the historical and political context leading to the fragile peace and the return to conflict. It will look at the regional dynamics and U.S. policy decisions and address the leadership deficit. By the end of the course, the students will develop a set of joint policy recommendations to provide to U.S. policy makers for finding a peaceful solution to the conflict moving forward. The course will be led by Ambassador (ret.) Linda Thomas-Greenfield, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (2013-17).

INAF 631-01: Multilateralism and U.S. Leadership

Ambassador (ret.) Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Distinguished Resident Fellow in Latin American Studies, and SFS Centennial Fellow

How should the United States engage with the international system it helped to create?  

On September 24, 2014, President Obama told the UN General Assembly, “we see the future not as something out of our control but as something we can shape for the better through concerted and collective action.”  On September 25, 2018, President Trump told the same body, “America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”

Who is right?  Can America go at it alone?  What strategy best serves the national interest?  The United Nations and other multilateral institutions have been an integral part of the international system since World War II.  Is the Trump Administration withdrawing American leadership from the multilateral institutions it helped create? And if it is, what is the impact on our rules-based international order, and on the global challenges of this century?  Who will fill the leadership vacuum and how? This seminar – one of four that fulfills the capstone requirement for the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy’s Certificate in Diplomatic Studies (CDS) – will give students the opportunity to put themselves in the place of national leaders crafting a white paper for the 2020 Presidential Transition Team, with recommendations on what America’s role in the world should look like for those who will be managing it, and whether and how the United States should engage these multilateral institutions.   The seminar will look at the genesis, roles and competencies of several multilateral organizations, with particular emphasis on the UN Security Council, and assess their utility and impact on people’s lives. Should these institutions be reformed or is an entirely new construct required for countries to manage the crises that will inevitably come? This course will be led by a former U.S. Ambassador with significant multilateral experience at the United Nations in New York and Geneva.


Other Spring 2019 classes:

Uses of Diplomacy and Force in International Crises, 1992-Present (MSFS) 

Ambassador Phil Goldberg, Senior State Department Fellow

Uses of Diplomacy and Force in International Crises (1992-Present): The course will explore the decision-making process and political choices confronted by U.S. policy-makers when dealing with major international and regional crises. The course will pay particular attention to the relationship – and constant tension -- between diplomacy and force, including the use of economic sanctions, when making critical decisions. The class will look at several case studies covering humanitarian interventions, wars of choice, and acts of self-defense over the past 25 years, starting with the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, followed by the Afghanistan and Iraq wars of the 2000’s, and concluding with the Libya and Syria conflicts of the 2010’s . Students will hear from and discuss reading materials with former top government officials involved with the case studies. The instructor for the course, a State Department Senior Fellow in the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, is a three-time Chief of Mission and former Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research.


International Mediation: Strategy and Methods (MSFS)

Chester Crocker, James R. Schlesinger Professor in Strategic Studies

This seminar explores the role of mediation as an instrument of conflict management and a foreign policy technique. Students will consult both theoretical and case study materials, and become adept at analyzing the suitability of diverse mediatory approaches and actors to concrete conflict situations at diverse stages of the conflict life cycle, using a five-phase model of mediation tradecraft. Adopting the mediator’s perspective, they will address the challenge of how to design and conduct mediation as a form of third party intervention in violent international conflict. The course will identify and explore strategies and tactics used at different points to overcome obstacles to a mediated settlement in intractable conflicts. Mediation analysis exercises will be used to illustrate the perspectives of mediators and conflict parties, and to introduce the phased model of mediation strategy.

Course Requirements:


There will be two mediation analysis memos assigned (take-home papers, 20% each). Students will prepare briefings on assigned cases and participate in classroom discussion and in-class exercises (20%). Each student will research and present on at least one ‘mini-case’ and one ‘mediation concepts’ reading. A final written paper (in memo format, 10-page max) will address a current peace process (case scenario to be distributed in final class meeting) (40%).

Primary cases (all students): Kashmir, Western Sahara, Cyprus, Syria, Northern Ireland, Middle East (Oslo and recent phase), Colombia, Sudan, Philippines

‘Mini-cases’: Turkey/Qatar/Norway mediation, Namibia-Angola, Aceh #1 and #2, Sri Lanka, Nagorno-Karabakh, Iraq, Kosovo, Basque-Spain, Cyprus (again), Guatemala, Angola-Mozambique comparison, Kenya, OSCE (Ukraine)


Conflict Management and International Security (MSFS)

Chester Crocker, James R. Schlesinger Professor in Strategic Studies

The seminar's central focus is the challenge of creating security and building peace in the 21st century. It will introduce students to the "intellectual map" of the peace-maker by exploring a wide range of literatures and cases in order to identify the roots and sources of conflict, and illustrate the varieties of third party intervention for conflict management. Drawing upon readings and discussion, students will examine changing patterns of conflict and explore a range of institutions, techniques and strategies for responding to the challenge of disorder.

Course Requirements: There will be several short, written assignments accounting for 40% of the grade. Students will also prepare a research paper (40%) analyzing a specific conflict management issue and what can be done to address it. Students are expected to be prepared to participate in class discussion, and will present oral briefings to the seminar (20%).


Syria as a Regional Conflict: Exploring the Roots of Power Politics in the Middle East (BSFS)

Roland McKay, State Department Rusk Fellow

The war in Syria saw neighborhood protests morph into an armed rebellion that drew in the armies of Turkey, Russia, the United States, Israel, and Iran. This seminar explores the war as a regional conflict. What interests were foreign countries pursuing by intervening in Syria? What factors shaped these interests? To make sense of this enormously complex topic, we will use three analytical frameworks: geopolitics/realism, liberal internationalism, and the historical memories of the belligerents. We will absorb a healthy dose of theory but - more importantly - apply it to real world policy recommendations. Our focus throughout will be on crafting compelling memos using vivid writing and trenchant analysis. The instructor is a current Foreign Service Officer whose last assignment was as a special assistant to the Secretary of State. Open to graduate students and upper-level undergraduates.

U.S.-Russia Relations: Perils, Pitfalls, Potential (BSFS)

Caroline Savage, State Department Rusk Fellow

As Russia becomes an increasingly aggressive and hostile world power, to what extent can and should the U.S. cooperate with Russia? Even in areas of mutual interest (e.g. counterterrorism and nuclear nonproliferation), substantive, issue-based cooperation is increasingly difficult, especially as the U.S. strives to check Russia in areas where our values and interests diverge. In light of Russia’s meddling in American and European elections, crack down on human rights, and occupation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, understanding U.S.-Russia dynamics on an issue-by-issue basis will allow students to explore issues of substantive import and also the broader U.S.-Russian bilateral relationship. This course will incorporate guest lectures from current and recent Russia policy practitioners as well as case studies of more successful aspects of U.S.-Russia cooperation since the end of the Cold War. The course will offer an innovative window through which students can acquire practical skills related to foreign policy. It will use simulations drawn on the Country Team and National Security Council models and offer students the opportunity to put themselves in the place of policy leaders as they calibrate American diplomacy to balance cooperation and confrontation while dealing with domestic and international pressures. Taught by a current Foreign Service Officer who previously served as Director for Russia on the National Security Council, the course will conclude with students composing a comprehensive strategy for Russian engagement.

Hard Power and US Statecraft (BSFS)

Colonel Steven Barry, US Army War College Fellow

Hard power plays a critical role in the formulation and execution of national policy and strategy. This course will use theoretical works and historical cases to familiarize students with the missions and capabilities of military forces and prepare them to conduct detailed analysis that bears on important statecraft issues. This seminar explores the foundations, application, evolution, and limits of military power. It will cover topics such as the relation between military power and politics, technology, coercion, and ethics, as well as the sources of military effectiveness, the problems of civil-military relations, and topics such as the revolution in military affairs and the challenges with military occupations. A proper understanding of modern military operations requires a prior understanding of both the material side of war, and the human or organizational side of war, including military doctrine, which is an institutionalized vision within military organizations that predicts how the material tools of war will be used on future battlefields. Throughout the course, students will examine the implementation of military power in the context of historical and current foreign policy events. Previous experience or knowledge of military power or operations is not required for this course. The course will be conducted seminar style, consisting of weekly readings, guest lectures, case studies, question and answer sessions, debates, and discussion. The overarching goal is to understand best practices of the application of military power to achieve statecraft ends. The instructor is an Army Officer, and currently serves as an associate at the School of Foreign Service Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.

Leveraging Military Resources and Foreign Policy (BSFS)

Lt. Colonel Grant Mizell, Air Force Fellow

Has the military become too influential in foreign policy? How can statecraft practitioners leverage the resources of the Department of Defense? The course will explore how modern practitioners of statecraft can access and most effectively utilize the tools made available through the US military. While many see a large division between the Departments of State and Defense, especially in a polarized political landscape, the two are inseparably intertwined and only effective if coordinated. Because the military instrument of power is utilized far more frequently in “military operations other than war”, the supported organization is usually the Chief of Mission (Ambassador) rather than a military command. Students of foreign policy must gain an understanding of the tools available to them through the military. The course will discuss laws, doctrine, and case studies to explore the kinetic, non-kinetic, and cooperative tools (such as humanitarian aid, foreign internal defense, cooperative military programs, and foreign military aid) that give advantage to any practitioner of U.S. statecraft. This course is taught by a USAF experimental test pilot who spent 20 years conducting combat operations and running foreign cooperative programs. Previous experience or knowledge of employment of military power is not required.

Strategy and National Security: Understanding the Challenges of Using Military Power (BSFS)

Lt. Col. Conrad Jakubow, US Army War College Fellow

This course seeks to provide students with an introduction to the challenges of formulating grand strategy and effectively using military force. Students will examine classical theory, military art, and elements of the national security decision-making process. Additionally, this course will expose students to various elements and limitations of military power—covering air, land, and sea capabilities—along with the institutional processes that govern and limit its use. Students will be expected to critically analyze classic and contemporary military issues via class participation and case study. By the end of the course, students will have gained an appreciation for not only how the military can complement diplomatic endeavors, but also the complexity involved when policy calls for the use of force. Prior experience or knowledge of military operations is not required for this course. LTC Conrad Jakubow is an Army Strategic Planner currently serving as a Fellow with the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy; he has a background in armored cavalry, special operations, congressional affairs, and policy.

Bridging the Gap: International Affairs Writing Beyond Academia (BSFS) (Calderwood Seminar/Public Writ)

Kelly McFarland, Director of Programs and Research

International relations can be a convoluted, esoteric, and complicated subject…and that’s for those of us who spend years studying it. The majority of courses dealing with international relations focus on issues of theory, or take in-depth looks at certain topics or regions. This course, though, will focus on something different. This course will teach students to communicate the theories, methods, and knowledge they have learned to the public through a set of varied writing assignments. Explaining something in writing to a non-expert requires a deep understanding of one’s field. While international relations can be an extremely complicated subject matter, it is also one that needs to be articulated to the public now, more than ever. Moreover, students will also play a critical role in editing and critiquing other students work. We spend little time on this in college, but it is a tool that you will use consistently in the “real world.” Ultimately, students will learn to take the deep knowledge and skills that they have learned throughout their college careers and transform it into prose that explains international relations to the general public. This course will teach students to read and analyze different forms of writing about international affairs and foreign policymaking including strategic documents, books, public speeches, and articles, and to then write public-facing articles based off this material. It will also teach students to think more broadly and critically about the intersection between international relations and the broader public, and to better engage in the broader domain of international relations. The professor is Director of Programs and Research at the SFS Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. He is a diplomatic historian who served in multiple roles at the Department of State. Restricted to seniors, however qualified juniors may inquire the professor about enrolling.  

The President, the Congress and US Foreign Policy (BSFS)

Jim Seevers, Director of Studies

The President, Congress and US Foreign Policy Constitutional scholar Edwin Corwin famously wrote that the U.S. constitution is an “invitation to struggle for the privilege of directing America foreign policy.” How is this struggle between the legislative and executive branches unfolding during the current administration? Will Congress assert its constitutional authority related to the use of force, resist executive branch trade policies, or push for a tougher stance toward Russia? Is Congress changing the Administration’s foreign aid spending plans? Will Democratic and Republican Senators use the filibuster to block national security legislation they find objectionable? This course provides a practical understanding of how and why the U.S. Congress influences foreign policy. Prospective congressional staffers (or interns) – as well as students who would like to find employment in Washington’s diplomatic, development, business, advocacy or analytical communities – should have a firm understanding of Congress and the intersect between the U.S. political process and foreign policy. The seminar will examine the basic premise that – in any democracy – politics is closely connected to the making and conduct of foreign policy and that in the United States a great deal of the political process plays out in Congress. Part one of the course builds a constitutional, institutional, procedural, political and historical framework for understanding Congress’ role in international affairs. Part two looks at the specific tools used by Congress to influence foreign policy, such as the power of the purse, the authority to regulate foreign commerce, and the ability to reorganize the government. Part three examines the pressure brought to bear on Congress on international issues by the executive branch, foreign governments, lobbyists, advocacy groups and interest groups (in particular U.S.-citizen ethnic interest groups).

Previous ISD courses