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Graham Allison

Douglas Dillon Professor of Government
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David Sanger

Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy


From the rise of China and resurgence of Russia, to the ongoing war in Ukraine, and North Korea and Iran’s advancing nuclear weapons programs, challenges in the Middle East, Central Asia, East Africa, and emergence of cyber conflict, this course examines the central challenges to American national security. Through a series of mini cases, students address these issues as if they were professionals at the National Security Council working for the President or an assistant to the Secretary of State or Defense. In response to specific assignments, students write Strategic Options Memos that require analyzing the challenge, assessing the current strategy, and identifying alternative strategies for protecting and advancing national interests. 

Assignments require strategic thinking: analyzing dynamics of issues, formulating key judgements, and developing feasible strategies. In the real world of Washington today, this means thinking clearly about what the US is attempting to achieve in the world in the midst of a swirl of a government whose deliberations are often discombobulated by leaks, press reports, tweets, and fake news. A sub-theme of the course explores ways in which pervasive press coverage intrudes, sometimes informing, sometimes distorting, national security decision making. 

In addition, the course will include several related side bars where we will discuss Applied History, “behind the veil” at a major newspaper, strategy (as taught at the Naval War College), intelligence analysis, and basic numeracy. 

This course is open by instructor consent. Students interested in taking the course should email Arissa Shaw (, Chris Li ( and Michael Miner ( with a copy of their resumes to request the required student information form. Resumes and completed application forms are due by 12:00PM on Wednesday, August 30. 

Also offered by the Government Department as Gov 1796.