Assignments

Section Presentations: What They Are

The U.S. Congress often asks experts to present their views on important public policy matters to hearing conducted in Congressional committees. In our sections you will also be asked to testify. As in a real hearing, you will give a short presentation and then you will be questioned by an opinionated and perhaps skeptical panel.

Your presentation will last five (5) minutes. If you run over you may be cut off. Your presentation should include (1) an argument, and (2) supporting evidence or reasoning. Your TA and your fellow students will then pose questions and ask you to address counter-arguments. Be prepared to defend your argument with deductive or historical evidence.

You choose the topic of your presentation. You can make an argument that reacts to an issue raised in class or in the course readings, or you can address a subject of special concern to you. Your presentation can overlap with your paper topic.

We suggest that you bring an outline of your presentation and either hand it out or put it up on the blackboard, to help your audience follow your argument. We also suggest that you summarize your argument in a couple of sentences before marching through it. Again, this makes you easier to follow.

We will try to organize presentations so that there are two presenters for each section meeting in which presentations are made, and the two presentations are on the same topic. Things are most exciting if they disagree.

We recommend that you practice your speech a couple of times--to the mirror or, better still, to a friend--before giving it. You can also practice using the facilities of MIT's Writing and Communications Center, and can get helpful advice from their staff.

First Paper Assignment

Select a major episode in American foreign policy from the following list, and write a short paper that identifies what you believe is the single best explanation for American policies. Please also identify what you believe are the one or two best competing explanations and explain why you find them less compelling. Finally, feel free to identify policy prescriptions that follow from your analysis, if any do. Use historical evidence to support your argument. You may want to draw on one or more theories discussed in this course to construct your explanation but can also rely on other theories.

  1. American entry into and/or conduct of World War I.
  2. American entry into and/or conduct of World War II.
  3. America's decision to wage the Cold War.
  4. The strategies and tactics adopted by the United States in the Cold War.
  5. American entry into and/or conduct of the Korean War.
  6. American conduct of the War on Terror, 2001-present.

If the facts you need to fully assess your explanations are not found in the available course readings, describe what additional facts you would need to provide a more thorough assessment, and explain why these additional facts would shed light on the questions you address.

Note: extra readings, should you wish to consult any, are on reserve at Dewey library. These are denoted in the "further readings" section of your syllabus with a ##. (Extra reading is not mandatory, but we encourage it if your paper seems to call for it.)

Your paper should be 8 typed double-spaced pages (with normal 1" margins and normal-size typeface, i.e., 10-12 characters per inch).

Remember to start your paper with a short summary introduction that states your question(s) and distills your answer(s).

Your paper is due in Class #18 (class time). You can hand it to your TA in class or deliver it to your TA's mailbox.

Your TA will give you early feedback on your paper if you submit an outline or rough draft before you submit your final draft. Get moving soon to leave time for this.

You are encouraged to consult with each other as you prepare this paper.
Late papers will be penalized unless extensions are granted well in advance of the paper deadline. Extensions will not be granted except in emergency situations.

Before writing your papers, please familiarize yourself with the rules of citing sources (handed out in class) and make sure you follow them.

Failure to cite sources properly is plagiarism.

Second Paper Assignment

Select an episode in American foreign policy from the following list and write a short paper that evaluates the policy, or a major element of the policy (that is, a major decision or set of decisions, or a major idea or set of ideas). In offering your evaluation please comment on (a) the validity or falsehood of the factual and theoretical assumptions that produced the policy; and/or (b) the results the policy produced - were they those that policymakers sought to produce? Were they good or bad? If you argue that a policy was mistaken, identify the alternative policy that you prefer. You are also invited to identify prescriptions for current policy that follow from your analysis, if any do. Use deductive logic and historical evidence to support your argument.

If the evidence available in the assigned readings is too thin to allow you to fully evaluate the policy or policy element that you have chosen to discuss, please say so and describe the information that you would need to perform a more thorough evaluation. Alternately, you might consult one or two works listed in the "further readings" section of the syllabus: those noted with ## are on reserve at Dewey. (Extra reading is not mandatory but we encourage it if your paper seems to call for it.)

  1. U.S. entry into and/or conduct of the Korean War.
  2. The national security policies of the Eisenhower Administration (1953-1961).
  3. U.S. policies in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
  4. U.S. policies in Indochina, 1945-1975.
  5. Any other U.S. intervention in the Third World.
  6. The 2001-present War on Terror.
  7. Another U.S. foreign policy of your own choosing.

Your paper should be 8 typed double-spaced pages with normal 1" margins and normal-size typeface, i.e., 10-12 characters per inch. Don't forget to start your paper with a short summary introduction that states your question(s) and distills your answer(s).

Your paper is due in Class #24 (class time). You can hand it to your TA in class, or deliver it to your TA's mailbox.

Your TA will give you early feedback on your paper if you submit an outline or rough draft before you submit your final draft. Get moving soon to leave time for this.

You are encouraged to consult with each other as you prepare this paper.

Late papers will be penalized unless extensions are granted well in advance of the paper deadline. Extensions will not be granted except in emergency situations.

Before writing your papers, please familiarize yourself with the rules of citing sources (handed out in class) and make sure you follow them.

Failure to cite sources properly is plagiarism.