Mark Danner

Present at the Creation: Reporting on America Abroad

Present at the Creation

Reporting on America Abroad


Journalism 298// Fall 2021// Mondays 9 to 12 // North Gate 209

Mark Danner


After three decades of the so-called “post-Cold War world,” and foreign policy fiascos in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, the myth of American omnipotence has been definitively put to rest. The Cold War consensus is a distant memory. The “Unipolar Moment” of supposedly predominant American power passed in the blink of an eye. Now Joe Biden, a near perfect embodiment of “the Blob,” the Washington foreign affairs cabal, is left with the unenviable task of rebuilding US foreign policy in a world in which the country is no longer all powerful economically — and in which the public is as deathly sick of foreign entanglements as it is mistrustful of the discredited elite responsible for them. For foreign correspondents, security commentators and intelligence writers, this is a target-rich environment, for during the next months and years the officials of the Biden Administration must somehow seek to craft a new, more limited foreign policy, one which finally attains what Walter Lippman called “solvency”: matching the country’s commitments with the country’s power. In this class, even as we read some of the best foreign reporting and commentary yet written, we will seek to study and debate this fascinating process as it unfolds — and to analyze its progress and nuances in at least three pieces of reporting or commentary.

Course Goals In this seminar we will seek to achieve three broad and interconnected goals:


1.) To explore the present transitional moment in US foreign policy and highlight why it is important.


2.) To gain familiarity with certain current conflicts and “hot spots” abroad and at home and with those covering them.


3.) To highlight basic techniques of reporting from abroad.


Class Requirements This seminar will be a mixture of lecture, class discussion and written assignments, backed up by selected readings of books and articles. The most important requirements are that students


*Attend all class sessions

*Keep up with reading and writing assignments

*Participate in discussions

*Do one presentation on a correspondent or a problem of foreign policy

*Complete two or three works of foreign reporting or commentary


A student’s record of attendance and participation in class discussion, together with the quality of their writing, will determine the success of our class and contribute the better part of the grade.


Schedule Note that classes will meet Mondays at 9 am in North Gate 209 (aka The Greenhouse). This means class begins promptly at 9:10 and will normally break for about ten minutes at 10:30 am. Please plan to do any texting and telephoning you find necessary during the break.


Reading Our primary reading will draw largely from a number of books and articles of foreign reporting, classic and contemporary, and books and articles on foreign policy. I strongly urge you to obtain these books in your own copies and in the edition specified, either from local bookstores or from online suppliers, so that you will be able to highlight and annotate them.

Tracking the News A significant part of each class will be given over to tracking and discussing foreign policy as it takes shape around ongoing conflicts. Following these events closely in various publications, beginning with the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and other newspapers and websites, and familiarizing yourselves with the work of the leading contemporary foreign correspondents and commentators, is essential. Even if you are not a habitual newspaper reader, you must become one for this class. Also strongly recommended are The Guardian, The Economist, Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs, among other publications.

Presentations Each student will make one presentation to the class. This may take one of two forms: first, present a discussion on the work and career of a foreign correspondent of your choice, contemporary or not. (If the correspondent is contemporary, work to secure an interview.) Second, take up a major issue or event in contemporary foreign policy and report or comment on it. We will be discussing these projects extensively in class sessions and in individual meetings. Use of multimedia and social media during the presentation is strongly encouraged.

Writing You will write two or three pieces during the course of the semester. You will also spend time editing the work of your colleagues. We will discuss these assignments more fully in the first class. Note they are currently due September 27, November 1 and November 29. It is possible these dates will change.

To bolster the clarity and vigor of your prose, I strongly suggest studying two works: George Orwell’s essay, “Politics and the English Language,” which can be readily found online, and Strunk and White’s little manual, The Elements of Style.

Office Hours I will count on meeting with each of you individually at least once during the course of the term. We will make these appointments on an ad hoc basis. I am best reached via email, at My office is North Gate 32. My writing, speaking and other information can be found at my website,

Grading Students will be graded on their preparedness and their participation in class, the strength of their presentations and the quality of their written work, as follows:


Attendance            25 percent

Participation          25 percent

Presentation          25 percent

Project                   25 percent


Note that regular attendance is vital. Those who miss multiple classes will not do well in this course.


Films During the semester we hope to be screening a number of films that bear closely on the subject of foreign reporting and foreign affairs.


Syllabus and Texts Note the list of assignments and books below will certainly change during the semester. Some books we will read in excerpt, not in full. As the semester progresses some articles will replace books or supplement them. The syllabus will be regularly updated on bCourses and you will receive a fully revised syllabus at the end of the course.


Course Assistant Our course assistant this semester will be Imran Malik. Imran will be updating the syllabus with notes from each class, taping the sessions, keeping a list of presentations and otherwise making the trains run on time. Imran can be reached via email at


Required Texts

Spencer Ackerman, Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump (Viking, 2021)

Andrew Bacevich, After the Apocalypse: America’s Role in a World Transformed (Metropolitan, 2021)

Vincent Bevins, The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World (Public Affairs, 2020)

Marie Colvin, On the Front Line: The Collected Journalism of Marie Colvin (Harper, 2012)

Paul Conroy, Under the Wire: Marie Colvin’s Final Assignment (Weinstein, 2013)

Mark Danner, The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War (Vintage, 1994)

Mark Danner, Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War (Nation, 2009)

Carlotta Gall, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001 – 2014 (Mariner, 2015)

Michael Herr, Dispatches (Vintage, 1991 [1977])

Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (Mariner, 2020 [1998])

Ben Hubbard, MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed bin Salman (Duggan, 2020)

Evan Osnos, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China (Farrar Straus, 2015)

Harun Maruf and Dan Joseph, Inside Al-Shabaab: The Secret History of Al-Qaeda’s Most Powerful Ally (Indiana University Press, 2018)

David Wallace Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth (Penguin, 2019)



Jennifer Baichwal, Anthropocene

Scott Z. Burns, The Report

 Bryan Fogel, The Dissident

Davis Guggenheim, An Inconvenient Truth

Roland Joffé, The Killing Fields

Sebastian Junger, Restrepo 

Ziao Liang, Behemouth

Haifaa al-Mansour, Wadjda

Joshua Oppenheimer, The Act of Killing 

Rithy Panh, S-21

Laura Poitras, Citizen Four

Gillo Pontecorvo, Battle of Algiers

Gillo Pontecorvo, Burn!

Jeremy Scahill, Dirty Wars 

Ridley Scott, Black Hawk Down

Oliver Stone, Salvador

Michael Ware, Only the Dead


Annotated Syllabus

Note the emphasis here on “tentative,” for the list will change during the semester and likely some books and readings will replace others


August 30, 2021 – Present at the Creation: Covering A New World Order

Covering Afghanistan. The historical moment and the plan of the course. The Biden Administration and the reshaping of US foreign policy. The end of the “forever wars.” The tilt toward Asia. Where we start and where we’ll finish. Being a foreign correspondent. Reading your colleagues. Doing the job. Dividing the world. War and peace. Looking at the present world. Afghanistan: the end of the forever war. Covering Afghanistan. Foreign policy and domestic politics. Goals of the course: Learning the hot spots. Judging foreign policy. Mastering the trade. Course requirements. Presentations.


  1. Class Poll: Who believes the U.S. should have pulled out of Afghanistan in August 2021?
  2. Present at the Creation – classed named after the memoir of Dean Acheson, the central figure in determining U.S. foreign policy for the past 50 years.
  3. Discussed concerns about lengthy weekly readings.
  4. How to read like a journalist (a.k.a. reading aggressively)
    1. Read the table of contents and determined the structure of the book and try to understand what the author is trying to achieve. Figure out where to spend your time.
    2. Read the introduction, read the conclusion, then get into the rest of it.
    3. Use a pencil/pen to mark up and take notes in the book.
  5. Covering the syllabus:
    1. If you want to do well in the class, show up for the class. The major work we’re doing in the class is what we do around the table.
    2. Stay up to date with the current news on foreign affairs. Pick out pieces that you think are great, and send it around so we can all read it.
    3. Discussions – what we are here to do is to talk.
    4. “Always ask the question.” – a principle in journalism is to ask the question bothering you the most as soon as possible — same goes for this class.
    5. Presentations – follow the work of one foreign reporter, potentially do an interview with him/her. Do something that is meaningful to you, and the presentation is a 15 minute audio/visual presentation.
    6. Writing – 2 to 3 pieces that are reporting/commentary.
  6. Discussion: there is a kind of neocolonialism in the structure of the foreign reporting of our journalistic institutions.
  7. Video: Clarissa Ward Vox Pop in Taliban controlled Afghanistan
  8. Potential areas we’d like to add to the syllabus:
    1. Climate Change Reporting (Ben Wallace-Wells? Ben Ehren)
    2. Southeast Asia / Guam / Burma
  9. Geopolitics / “Realpolitiks”
    1. TIMELINE:
      1. 1945/1950 – 1989: Cold War
        1. Danner’s Thesis that the structures and thinking created around 1945/1950 still dominates today.
          1. N.
          2. NATO – bound the U.S. to Europe – “to keep the Americans in, Soviets out, and Germans down”
          3. IMF
          4. World Bank
          5. WTO (fka GATT)
        2. 1978/79 – Iranian Revolution, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, leads to creation of U.S. CENTCOM.
      2. 1989 – 2001: Unipolar Moment / Post-Cold War / Age of Predominance, where the U.S. had no predominant rival. “End of History” (Fukuyama) suggested that the new world order would last until the end of time.
      3. 2001 – 2021? GWOT: Global War on Terror
  1. George Kennan – Containment Theory of the Soviet Union – it will eventually collapse on its own accord.
  2. Afghanistan represents “Strategic Depth” for Pakistan against India. Needs to not be stuck between two hostile powers
  2. What are U.S. Vital Interests? Important to understand the history and developments in what are considered U.S. Vital Interests. Why does Biden say Afghanistan is not a vital interest?
  3. Arguably the U.S. has lost 3 wars in the last 20 years: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan


September 6 – Labor Day, No Class


September 13 – Dying to Get the Story: Syria and Marie Colvin’s Story

Required Reading

  1. Selections from Marie Colvin, On the Front Line: The Collected Journalism of Marie Colvin (Harper, 2012)
    1. Syria Coverage pg. 514-529
    2. Jenin: the bloody truth pg. 224-233
    3. Chechnya & East Timor pieces 137-167
  2. Paul Conroy, Under the Wire: Marie Colvin’s Final Assignment (Weinstein, 2013)


Suggested Reading: In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin (2018) by Lindsey Hilsum


Class Notes

  1. 20 year coverage of 9/11
    1. History and Journalism do not always go hand in hand, sometimes at odds
    2. Sometimes speeches enunciate the real foreign policy position of the U.S.
  2. Watching Biden’s speech on Afghanistan
    1. Begins with a defense – what looks like a failure is actually a victory
    2. “Only America could pull this off.”
    3. Explanation of the decisions
    4. Confrontation of the argument that we could have stayed with a small # of troops
    5. Speaking to Taliban as well as his own audience.
    6. “The real choice” – we had to honor U.S. removal of troops or add another 10,000
    7. First 11 minutes of the speech are a rebuttal of the foreign policy pundit convos for the previous few weeks
    8. Common political strategy – “wrapping yourself in the flag” – if you criticize me youre criticizing the soldiers, the servicemen, etc.
    9. Defines “Biden Doctrine” –
      1. Protect only Vital Interests, e.g. protection against terrorist attack
      2. New world, different threats
      3. Defend against threats of today and tomorrow, not 2001
      4. Fight terrorism via “over the horizon” strategies (continuing Obama era drone policy)
        1. Says he hit ISIS-K with a drone, weeks later NYT reveals the drone strike killed an aid worker and his family
        2. “Always mistrust what the government says.” – Martha Gellhorn – because govt’s are in the business of defending their actions
      5. Larger threats alongside terrorism: competition with China, Russia, Cyberwarfare, climate change
      6. Learn from our mistakes – set missions with clear achievable goals – fundamental national security
      7. Not in the business of remaking other countries
      8. The end of NeoCon policy (“spreading democracy” around the world)
      9. “Elongated Imminence” – extending AUMF, the efforts to repeal it
  1. Colvin
    1. Writing Style –
      1. Longform Newspaper Writing (Sunday Times)
      2. Reflective Piece
      3. Forensic Piece – example – Jenin piece to figure out who is responsible
        1. How did she do this piece?
        2. Talk to everyone – Colvin was a charismatic, charming, and endlessly curious person. Listen to the same story over and over again and take detailed notes.
        3. She positions her narrative between two extremes.
        4. It’s really easy to get facts in pieces like this wrong.
      4.  Discussion on the role of a journalist – evil is a near useless concept in covering a war – you want to above all show what is happening, and make even the most incomprehensible characters comprehensible.
      5. “Bearing Witness” – what did it mean to Colvin?
      6. Watch for words like “reflect” – usually means you haven’t found the right verb yet.
      7. Read passages that struck us
      8. Presentations are coming up – we need someone to sign up for next week
      9. Read foreign policy pieces everyday.

Links used in class:


September 20 – The Perils of Nation Building: The Third Afghan War


Required Reading

  • Carlotta Gall, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001 – 2014 (Mariner, 2015)


  • Sebastian Junger, Restrepo

Suggested Reading: Craig Whitlock, The Afghanistan Papers (2021)

Class Notes

  1. NYT Visual Investigations: How a U.S. Drone Strike Killed the Wrong Person in Afghanistan
  2. Discussing historical reasons for Pakistan viewing Afghanistan as “strategic depth.”
  3. Danner’s Basic Rule of Reporting: Geography + History = The Present
  4. Ingredients to NYT VI piece:
    1. CCTV
    2. Satellite Imagery (COMSAT)
    3. Eyewitness Accounts – Colleagues, Family Members, Witnesses
    4. Cell Phone Footage – After the explosion, rooftop, alleyway
    5. Photos/videos from before and after the attack
    6. Pentagon briefing room footage
    7. On the ground journalists photo and video
    8. Stock footage of drone and hellfire missiles
    9. NGO promotional video and video of their activities


Links Used in Class:

  1. WaPo’s Visual Forensics Team:
  2. Tom Brouns Pieces:
  3. Anand Gopal New Yorker Piece:
  4. Afghan Drone Strike Reaction:
  5. Glenn Greenwald – Pentagon Lies:



September 27 – Central America and a Parable of the Cold War

Required Reading

  • Mark Danner, The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War (Vintage, 1994)
  • Mark Danner, Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War (Nation, 2009), excerpts


  • Oliver Stone, Salvador


First Piece Due


“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner

Presentation on U.S. Govt Dynamics by Tom Brouns as a long-time and current State Department employee (on leave).

  1. Congress makes laws, executive enforces, congress checks on enforcement.
  2. Secretary of State under Executive Branch
    1. Embassies
    2. Regional bureaus: AF, EAP, EUR, NEA, SCA, WHA, IO – the heads of which are assistant secretaries. Appointed by President, approved by congress.
    3. Focus on whether ambassadors are career state dept folks or non-career appointees.
    4. State Dept and Defense Dept divide the world in different ways.
    5. Ambassadors also called “Chief of Mission”

Reporting on El Mozote

  1. Reporting trip was Nov 1992, a 9 day trip to Salvador
  2. Learning to distinguish between sources that “want to confess” vs “professionals” – if they do it long enough, they become professionals.
  3. The piece is technically a Tick-Tock. This is extremely hard to do when you have people that won’t speak to you.
  4. Searched for a man named “Chepe Mozote”
  5. Thought: “This story is huge and I have no f*ing time”
  6. But he finds him. He becomes convinced that he doesn’t remember it really well. Danner regrets including his memories in the piece – it became a criticism published in WSJ
  7. Structure of piece: foreground, background, foreground, background… climax, a second rising action. That’s because it was meant to be a 2 part piece.
  8. Struggled with structure – where to put the massacre?
  9. The key thing on the ground is to get in the room.
  10. People want to talk to you because:
  11. You’re knowledgeable
  12. This will be the only complete account of the event.
  13. As soon as you arrive, everyone knows that you’re there.
  14. Rented a standard shift pickup and would always pick up hitchhikers, so he could always have people he could interview (an advantage of reporting in a small place)
  15. “Clothesline technique” – exposition hangs on a narrative rope.
  16. Use an image to pull back.
  17. Where you are, what happened at that space
  18. Idris’ Question: Whose Truth Do You Tell?
  19. That’s the key question and it’s the job. There was this counter narrative that Rufina was making this all up. At the time of writing this piece, the reality of this massacre was not considered fact. Had nightmares until it was published.
  20. Getting your subject in touch with specific memories instead of the rote story is by asking specifics, which can get you in trouble. It can come off as insensitive.
  21. Go to the bookstore and see what else has been written, in the place you’re reporting. What are local people saying, writing, feeling, sensing.
  22. There are certain mysteries in this story that remain. Why were these particular people killed at this particular moment?
  23. The U.S.’ role in Salvador was to increase the violence, as it became a central story of the Cold War.


HAITI (Stripping Bare The Body)

  1. In 1986, the story about Haiti was “the transitions to democracy.”
  2. The arc that you’re looking at in a given piece of journalism is short
  3. Stories can continue to live in ways that you wouldn’t expect.
  4. Now Haiti’s story is one that is cursed and people are migrating.
  5. It’s no accident that these places have histories of great political violence.


  1. In early depictions of journalism, all journalists were working class (see: His Girl Friday). Watergate is when journalism became respectable. Now it’s in disrepute again, but that’s a political thing.
  2. Your job as a journalist – three words: tell what happened
  3. The closer you come to the story, the more complicated it becomes. You can’t help but draw conclusions, but you never want to say anything that is not fundamentally true.
  4. You want to get people talking. You want them to think you’re sincere. You can build on a relationship – but you want to get that start.


October 4 – The Imperial Shadow: The Roots and Dynamics of Colonialism

Required Reading

  • Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (Mariner, 2020 [1998])





Class Notes

Hochschild discussion

  1. You don’t find narratives, you have to make them.
  2. How did he put this book together?
  3. The story must be constructed. Tell a story through characters.
  4. He picked main characters – “casting”
    1. Side discussion: When reporting in a foreign country, who do you talk to?
    2. When you first arrive, you want to talk to as many people as you possibly can? Artists, voodoo priests, cab drivers. Political parties. Opposition leaders. Heads of newspapers.
    3. What’s the lede?
  5. Victorians and Edwardians were huge diary and letter writers.
  6. Memos, Government documents.
  7. Colonialist systems remain long after it ends. The go-betweens become native elites, who sell off their country’s resources for personal gain.
  8. D. Morel becomes a crusading journalist when he discovers what he believes to be evidence of forced labor.
  9. History gets written by what survives – what is made possible to see and what isn’t. Leopold talks about destroying documents (294)
  10. Idris’ Recommendation – Britain’s Gulag: Britain’s Gulag : The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya – Amazon … › Britains-Gulag-Brutal-Empi…
  11. Danner, Iraq: The War of Imagination (2006)
  12. You have the tendency to want to draw conclusions that are universal.
  13. Francisco’s presentation: Biden is rearranging the government to address climate change. Critical to know the bureaucracy to form them into something understandable to explain policy.
  14. Editing conversation: first build trust. It’s a technical activity but above all a diplomatic activity.
  15. Cathexis – you want to bring in the feedback but not change what you’ve done.
  16. Distinction between po
  17. Civilization war
  18. Bizarre intimacy of the drone strike operator stalking his target
  19. In the first 6 months of 2021, most civilians killed in any period of the WOT
  20. Rules of Engagement were loosened under Trump. Have they been tightened now?
  21. Subtle distinctions
  22. Why did Biden say that? Analyze the subtleties.


October 18 – The Syndrome: Vietnam, Cambodia and the New Journalism 

Required Reading

  • Vincent Bevins, The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World (Public Affairs, 2020)


  • Joshua Oppenheimer, The Act of Killing


Class Notes

  1. Discussion on The Jakarta Method by Vincent Bevins
    1. A rewriting of the Cold War narrative – a narrative for why the world is set up the way that it is.
  2. Audio of Vincent Bevins’ WhatsApp Audio interview conducted by Freddy Brewster


October 25 – The Syndrome: Vietnam, Cambodia and the New Journalism

Required Reading


  • Rithy Panh, S-21
  • Roland Joffé, The Killing Fields 

Class Notes

If we look at the Cold War, Vietnam splits it in half. Comes right in the middle of the Cold War. It was a spectacular feat for the United States – an attempt of maintaining a neocolonial order, putting pressure on the periphery and keeping the USSR from expanding.

  1. The Strategy of Rollback in Korea
  2. Policy wise, Vietnam was a callback to Korea
  3. The Best and The Brightest – David Halberstam – recommended reading of New Journalism – one of the first to alert people that the ground truth was different from the official narrative. Sulzberger was asked to remove him from Vietnam but refused.
  4. Vietnam coverage is unique because there was a lot of access, a lot of drugs amongst the foot soldiers.
  5. From an American policy perspective, this was about resisting communist encroachment.
  6. Looked at Esquire covers and discussed the golden era of magazine print journalism, when the glossies paid big money for journalism.
  7. Discussed the prose of Michael Herr – lax grammar, casual, and a stream of consciousness style that illustrates interior life of himself and the soldiers he was embedded with.


October 25 – Imperialism Meets 9/11: The War on Terror

Required Reading

  • Spencer Ackerman, Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump (Viking, 2021)
  • Mark Danner, Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War (Nation, 2009), excerpts


  • Michael Ware, Only the Dead Know the End of War
  • Laura Poitras, Citizen Four

Class Notes

  1. Discussion on Ackerman’s book
    1. Two main narrative threads
      1. How the WOT became a self-propagating machine under the security state
      2. The rise of nativism among the white working class stoked by WOT
    2. What could the U.S. response been after 9/11 that could have prevented these outcomes?
    3. What Terrorists Want – Louise Richardson
    5. Obama represents the legalization of things in the War on Terror that were not legal before. Rather than stop government action, they expanded the law to accommodate them.


November 8 – Covering Climate and COP26

Required Reading


  • An Inconvenient Truth (Netflix/Prime Video)
  • Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (Prime Video)

Class Notes

  1. Discussed Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace Wells
  2. Climate change is a complex of issues that dominates many other issues, for example national security in ways that we really can’t predict.
  3. 1 degree Celsius: the temperature rise over baseline from the start of the industrial era. The Paris Accord goal (2016) was to keep it from getting to 1.5.
  4. Peiyun Jiang on Uyghur detention in Xinjiang.



 November 15 – The Rise of China and the Eclipse of Human Rights

Required Reading



Class Notes

  1. Evan Osnos, Age of Ambition
    1. Classic reporter’s notebook type of book. Better example of a genre that’s not typically very good.
    2. S. is the #1 trading partner for 56 countries. China is the #1 trading partner for 126 countries.
    3. Astonishing rise of China’s GDP since the 1980’s.
    4. 144: Chinese Nationalism. Prosperity has curbed dissent, and Evan notes that the younger generation takes a utilitarian, opportunistic approach.
    5. The news ecosphere in China is dramatically different than the U.S. – for one, it’s far less concerned with human rights issues, and it’s a question whether the western insistence on covering this is an unfair imposition.
  2. Belt and Road Initiative
    1. China building infrastructure worldwide in the trillions of dollars:
      1. China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor
      2. New Eurasia Landbridge Economic Corridor
      3. China West Asia Central Asia Economic Corridor
      4. China Pakistan Economic Corridor
      5. Bangladesh China India Myanmar Economic Corridor
      6. China Indochina Economic Corridor
    2. Geostrategic Shift: China is opening the heartland – dramatic connections across the Eurasian landmass. Direct, new land bridge between China and the rest of the World. Revitalization of a world trade route that existed a thousand years ago. An attempt to reverse western dominance under neoliberalism.
  3. Presentation from Idris Mukhtar


Nov 22 – Shaping the Creation: Toward A New Foreign Policy

Required Reading

  • Andrew Bacevich, After the Apocalypse: America’s Role in a World Transformed (Metropolitan, 2021)


  • Scott Z. Burns, The Report
  • Jeremy Scahill, Dirty Wars

Class Notes

How imperialism brought us to our Post Cold-War World. Bacevich, retired lieutenant colonel who is highly critical of U.S. foreign policy and it’s failure to adapt to the current world.

  1. Danner’s perspective on the business of foreign reporting: When covering a foreign nation, you should keep things in a broad perspective that understands how it relates to U.S. politics. Others would contend that it’s more important to be true only to what is seen on the ground.
  2. Class discussion on Bacevich’s proposals.
  3. S. has a national security budget greater than the next 10 nations combined. Primus Inter Pares.
  4. S. has military assets to protect all around the world in addition to aircraft carriers that make up the various COMs.
  5. Discussed potential consequences on true U.S. withdrawal per Bacevich’s proposals. U.S. withdrawal could lead to sectarian conflicts between Sunni and Shia for example.


November 29 – The New World of the Persian Gulf

Required Reading


  • Bryan Fogel, The Dissident (2020)
  • Haifaa al-Mansour, Wadjda (2013)


Class Notes

  1. MBS, Ben Hubbard
    1. Describes the politics around Muhammad Bin Saud, the crown prince in Saudi Arabia, and a future that journalists may have to cope with for 20, 30, 40 years
    2. MBS on one hand a social modernizer, while also an autocrat that destroyed the inscrutable consensus system that prevailed in Saudi Arabia for generations.
    3. That system tended to be cautious domestically and in its dealing with foreign powers.
    4. MBS’ repressive style: Arrest by decree of various members of the royal family and inscrutable violence upon journalists and female activists. His message is clear: “Nobody is safe. Nothing will stop me.”
    5. An autocrat who is free to do what he wants while decreasing the protection of other Saudis
    6. Increase of power at the top with liberalization at the bottom.
    7. De Tocqueville: you can’t liberalize slowly, otherwise an autocracy crumbles.
    8. Do not draw the conclusion that this was the result of breaking the rules, by arresting them and torturing them. We have to think about liberalization and its relation to the rule of law. You’re establishing an autocrat, in a sense reducing the protections of individual saudis. His power grows
  2. Importance of learning the history of a locale when reporting on it.
    1. Presentation on the formation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
    2. FDR and the Saudi King – 1) the first element was that the Saudi would supply oil, ARAMCO, sparsely populated and very rich, makes for a vulnerable country. We’ll sell you arms, and fix the Palestinian issue, you give us oil at a good price
    3. 1979 Iranian revolution – drastically changes relationship of the west with Iran, which had been closely allied with the U.S. since 1953.
    4. Highly recommended film: COUP53
    5. Highly recommended book: Shah of Shahs by Rejard Kapuscinski which describes the Islamic revolution.
    6. S. ams deal to Saudi has been the same from 1945-the present (tens of billions of dollars every year)
    7. Despite the massive arms purchases, Saudi isn’t considered to be a great military power.
    8. Dynamics between Shia and Sunni populations. The central line is Iran using Shia contacts to stir up trouble around the region – most notably Yemen.
    9. The end of the PETRA
  3. Presentation by Subuk Hasnain on Saudi’s war on Yemen’s Shia Houthi population
    1. Watched Frontline Film on Saudi’s Yemen Houthi War


Third Piece Due


Monday, December 6 — Terror and Broken States: The Horn of Africa

Required Reading

  • Harun Maruf and Dan Joseph, Inside Al-Shabaab: The Secret History of Al-Qaeda’s Most Powerful Ally


Class Notes

  1. Geostrategic implications of the Horn of Africa
    1. Choke point: Significant amounts of oil shipments go through strait of Hormuz
    2. Djibouti U.S. Base – Camp Lamonier
    3. AFRICOM (recent, as in since WOT)
  2. Discussion on Black Hawk Down
  3. Discussion on the way Africa is covered – “If it bleeds, it leads (ledes)” – tends to always be covered as a warzone, and in relation to U.S. foreign policy.
  4. Vice News coverage of Al-Shabab
  5. Presentation from Olivia Hammershoy on the Sahel.