Especially since World War II, and more recently the terrorist attacks on September 11th, students of U.S. national security affairs, intelligence studies, international affairs, public administration and business have developed a focal point for inquiry into the nature and management of crises. This interest has been stimulated not only by the numerous crises themselves, but also by the structures, processes and personalities in the decision-making that attends them. Drawing upon theoretical work in many disciplines, scholars have developed a series of analytical frameworks about crisis management and decision-making as well as techniques to simulate and exercise responses and resolution. Moreover, the emergence of literature on deterrence and systems theory, extensive case study analyses, colorful memoirs, and some glaring failures themselves have contributed to both an interest and need to study leadership behavior under conditions of stress in crisis response. Crisis management and effective decision-making are core challenges for U.S. statecraft, ones that have endured throughout our history and that today are again at the forefront of U.S. national security concerns-and will likely remain both relevant and a challenge for years to come.
This course is designed to acquaint students not only with the extensive literature relevant to the study of crises, but also with the extensive series of complex and diverse crises (both historical and contemporary in nature) that have befuddled leaders. These include: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; Russia's launch of Sputnik; the Cuban Missile Crisis; the Middle East Crises of 1967 and 1973; the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; the Iranian Hostage Crisis; Iraq's invasion of Kuwait; 9/11; and, the ExxonMobil and BP oil spills-to name a few! The course is also designed to contribute to a better understanding of the methodological problems of studying crisis decision-making. It will test propositions drawn from the literature about decision-making, conflict, the role of intermediaries and third parties, internal bureaucratic struggles and international interaction, Congress, media coverage, perception management and public confidence.
S. John Tsagronis