Mark Danner

Covering the Arc of Crisis: Policy Making and Reporting in Asia and the Middle East

Course Number J298 //
North Gate Hall 104 
Mondays, 3-6 p.m. 
Mark Danner and Peter Tarnoff 
Fifteen years ago, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fashionable debate in Washington centered on whether we had reached “the end of history.” Today we live in an era of crisis in which terror, war, nuclear blackmail and ethnic conflict have become chronic, especially across the slice of the Middle East and Asia known to policymakers as “the arc of crisis.” At the heart of this arc is the War in Iraq and its spreading consequences throughout the geopolitically vital Middle East. Beyond Iraq, though, echoes of President Bush’s War on Terror reverberate through the region and the world, from the Persian Gulf to the Straits of Taiwan. 
Through a close study of conflicts both real and speculative and through extensive class discussions and some role-playing, we will study how foreign policy crises develop, how they are managed by senior policymakers and how this management is covered by the press. Against the background of the September 11 attacks and the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which we will analyze and study throughout the course, we will delve into potential crisis scenarios and their effect on the United States and the American government. These scenarios might include, among others, a coup attempt in Saudi Arabia, a political confrontation between the U.S. and China/South Korea over North Korea; disagreements between the U.S., Russia and China over how to cope with Iran’s nuclear program; a crisis with China over the Taiwan Straits; the overthrow of Pakistan’s General Musharraf. 
A portion of each class session will concentrate on the evolving situation in Iraq and other ongoing conflicts dominating the news. In all of these case studies, we will track the U.S. government’s attempts to manage the crisis and the coverage in the press. Through role playing and a thorough airing of these key and current issues in class discussion, supplemented by extensive reading and weekly writing assignments, we will achieve an understanding of the structure of international crises: how the U.S. government responds to them and how journalists should cover them. 
Mark Danner, a longtime staff writer for The New Yorker, has covered conflicts in Central America, Haiti, the Balkans, and Iraq, among other stories
Peter Tarnoff, a longtime diplomat and foreign policy professional, served as Undersecretary of State from 1993 to 1997. 


Main Class Requirements: This is a seminar. We judge it most important that students:*Attend all classes
*Come fully prepared
*Participate vigorously in discussions
*Do all reading and writing assignments

The class meets only fifteen times and attendance is mandatory. There is no final paper or midterm or final exam. A student’s record of attendance and participation in class discussion, and the thoroughness of his or her preparation for playing the role in the scenario, will determine the success of our class and contribute the better part of the grade. Full and energetic participation around the table is the heart of this class.

Writing: Students will be assigned a number of short papers. Insofar as possible, students should draw in their papers on the assigned reading and on class discussions. In this graduate-level journalism school course, we will grade heavily on the clarity and vigor of the writing. (Note that Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” are recommended reading for this course. We strongly suggest you read – or reread – these vital texts thoroughly before the third class.)

Books and Articles: Students will find books for the course on sale at Analog Books, on Euclid Avenue just north of North Gate, between Hearst and Ridge. Other materials, including articles, chapters, case studies, and, in some cases, entire books, we will distribute in photocopy. The following books, all paperbacks, are required:

American Diplomacy, by George F.Kennan
Crisis, by Henry Kissinger
Running the World, by David Rothkopf
An End To Evil: How to Win the War on Terror, by David Frum and Richard Perle
The One Percent Doctrine, by Ron Suskind
The Secret Way to War by Mark Danner
The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History, by Dan Oberdorfer
About Face: A History of America’s Curious Relationship with China, from Nixon to Clinton, by James Mann
A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China, by Patrick Tyler

Newspapers and Magazines: Although in our scenarios we will be trying to look to “the near future,” this course in fact takes up contemporary foreign affairs. From the beginning of this course, students are expected to be well-versed in current events and to follow them daily in the major newspapers and newsmagazines. At minimum we expect that you will come to class having read the international news in the day’s major newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. We also recommend frequent visits to Google News, a useful news gathering website. The Economist, a British weekly available at any good newsstand, is also highly recommended. We encourage you to distribute especially interesting stories, with your comments, to the class using the class mailing list below.

Films: From time to time during the term we will screen films intended to complement our studies.

Schedule: Note that all classes will take place Mondays, 3 to 6 p.m., and will be divided at 4:30 p.m. by a ten-minute break. The official meeting place is North Gate 104 but depending on the size of the class, some or perhaps most sessions will be held in North Gate Library.

Outline: In working our way through the several actual or prospective foreign crises, we will come to understand:

1) how the U.S. government conducts its own internal negotiations among the heads of relevant foreign affairs agencies and departments before the President ultimately decides what the American position should be in a given crisis;

2) how the U.S. government conducts itself in negotiation with a foreign government even as the situation evolves in a actual or potential conflict; and

3) how a correspondent, in understanding both the process of policymaking and its historical background, might be able to “pierce” the governmental and other barriers set up to block and “spin” real-time coverage of a developing story.

As we pursue this inquiry, our schedule will surely change. Some books and articles may be discarded; others may be added to the list. Our project is ambitious and it is likely we will need to shape and reshape it as we move along. Once again, the success of the class depends heavily on your informed participation in discussions. The following should be considered only an outline for the schedule is certain to change.

January 22: Introduction to the Course

General introduction of professors and students, course material, expectations, format of the course, and description of how scenarios will be run. Beginning of discussion of American foreign policy and its development since 1900.

Writing Assignment

Write a well-organized essay of roughly 700-800 words on a current and major foreign diplomatic crisis you believe is having an important impact on America’s role in the world today.

Reading Assignment:

George Kennan, American Diplomacy
David Rothkopf, Running the World, pages 3 – 60

January 29: American Diplomacy and the Modern World

Discussion of the 1947 National Security Act, what it mandated, and how U.S. foreign policy making was structured and implemented during the Cold War and the post-Cold War periods.  Discussion of George F. Kennan’s American Diplomacy, the history of US foreign policy as well as comparison and contrast between the “realist” and “neo-conservative” schools of U.S. foreign policy.

Reading Assignment:

David Frum and Richard Perle, An End to Evil
Michael Scott Doran, “The Saudi Paradox,” Foreign Affairs, Jan-Feb 2004
F. Gregory Gause III, “The Kingdom in the Middle,” from How Did This Happen?
Read Chapters 12 & 13 of Running the World

Scenario Preparation: Research the history of the Saudi Arabian-US relationship since the Saud-Roosevelt meeting in 1943. Review the statement issued by the Committee in Defense of Islam and Democracy in Saudi Arabia. Prepare your role using websites and other research.

Writing Assignment

Describe how you prepared your role as an assigned government official dealing with the present crisis in Saudi Arabia and include the websites, books, and articles consulted..  Be prepared to discuss with other cabinet members your proposals for dealing with the situation.


February 5: Saudi Arabia—-Prep Work
Writing Assignment

One page of writing in which you assume your character’s role and discuss what the US’ interests in this will be.

Reading Assignment

David Frum, An End to Evil
David Rothkopf, Running the World (excerpts)
Ronald Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine

Saudi Shiites Fear Gains Could Be Lost _

Saudi Writer Recasts Kingdom’s History

February 12: Saudi Arabia Scenario—the Crisis Begins

The Scenario: A group calling itself the Committee in Defense of Islam and Democracy in Saudi Arabia has released a statement calling for a liberal reform of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and demanding that the government respect both the teachings of Islam and the principles of democracy.  The Committee is composed of several senior Saudi military officers, top civilian civil servants, leading businessmen, university administrators and professors, several editors and political commentators, mid-level Muslim clerics and some minor members of the royal family.

A meeting of the Principals takes place  at 4:30 a.m. to decide how to proceed before the story appears on all media outlets at OOB (Opening of business).

Writing Assignment:
500-700 Word – Op-Ed on Ideal American Policy in Light of Attempted Coup

Reading Assigment:

First Half of Benjamin Book — Age of Sacred Terror
Henry Kissinger, Crisis: The Anatomy of Two Major Foreign Policy Crises (excerpts)


[February 19: Presidents’ Day (No Class)]


February 26: The Saudi Coup
Updates on the Saudi Crisis

What the press is calling “a Saudi coup” is now a major news and diplomatic story.  CNN is on the ground.  The Saudis are moving troops to the area, and there are the first rumblings of dissent and protest elsewhere in Saudi Arabia. Military officers have expressed sympathy with the coup-plotters, but are yet to act.

Writing Assignment:

Draft a statement by the Administration in response to the Saudi scenario.

Identify the source of the statement.

Reading Assignment:  Mark Danner, The Secret Way to War


March 5: The Saudi Coup Press Conference

Writing Assignment:

Write a 3-4 page op-ed essay about where we are ideologically in US foreign policy, making use of Kennan, Pearle, The Age of Sacred Terror.

Begin reading:

Patrick Tyler, A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China (excerpts)

Finish The Age of Sacred Terror.


March 12:  Free-Form Class

Discussion of American movement on the Iran front, the construction of stories to aid American foreign policy objectives.


Read Danner’s Secret Way to War
Finish The Age of Sacred Terror
Do readings left in mailboxes
Find 3-4 Information Sources and Distribute to Class

Anticipate a troubling announcement from the Iranians regarding their nuclear program.

Roles for 03.19.07 Class

Department of Treasury — Ye
Joint Chiefs of Staff — Le Faing
Department of Homeland Security — Fulvio
Director of National Intelligence — Brett
Department of State — John Peabody
Department of Energy — Jordan
Department of Defense — Omar


March 19: Showdown with Iran

The Scenario: A confrontation With Iran.  Israel has informed the US government that it will be launching bombing sorties in 6 hours to take out various Iranian nuclear installations.  The United States must decide how to respond.

Reading Assignment:  James Mann, About Face: A History of America’s Curious Relationship with China (excerpts)


[March 26: Spring Recess (No Class)]


April 2:  A Conflict Over the Straits: The Crisis Deepens

The Scenario:  Confrontation With Iran Continued — Discussion of US talking points, phone call to Olmert, briefing of press.

Reading Assignment: Peter Hart Readings – American Enterprise Institute report on public perceptions & Foreign Affairs Magazine article. ( )

Editorial — The Iranians & Us — after latest Iran’s announcement


April 9: Pollster Peter Hart Visit — Discussion of Current Middle East Politics

Democratic pollster Peter Hart is visiting and will talk about public perception of American foreign policy.

Reading Assignment: James Mann, About Face: A History of America’s Curious Relationship with China

Writing Assignment: Write an analytical article about the situation in Iraq, assessing the role Iraq will play in domestic politics and the coming confrontation between a Republican president and a Democratic congress.


April 16: China Scenario

Writing Assignment:  No Writing Assignment

Reading Assignment:  Patrick Tyler, A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China (excerpts), Flynn Reading Packet, CFR Articles on Homeland Security Vulnerabilities.


April 23: Steve Flynn — Former US Coast Guard Commander — Expert on Counter-Terrorism Policy

Homeland Security Discussion & Steve Flynn Phone Conference


April 30: Iraq Plan B

Six months in the future, the situation in Iraq is not all that different.  Bombing rates are the same, political turmoil continues, and support for the war at home diminishes by the day. The NSC is sitting down to talk through what to do next.

Writing Assignment: 1000-word Editorial titled “Iraq: Plan B” — Due Sunday

Role Assignments

Secretary of Defense: Jordan – assessment of force strength, numbers, National Guard morale, surge performance…  (See Weekly Standard Max Boot)
Secretary of State: Brett — Assess consequences from regional and international perspective
White House Chief of Staff: John — Consider consequences for the Republican Party at home
American Ambassador in Iraq: Omar — Assess current status of government, democratic development, likelihood of Iraq breaking with the US.


May 7: Conclusions

In this final meeting of the class, there will be a general discussion of how Americans can expect to learn about world events and U.S. foreign policies in the coming years. Students will also be invited to raise questions about current and potential foreign policy issues, including those that have not been covered in class. Student views on the methodology of the course will be welcomed. The merits and drawbacks of state- owned and operated radio and television networks in democratic societies will be discussed as well.