Foreign Policy: International Development & Security

Taught by Professor Mike Tierney & Professor Samantha Custer

  • 3 credit hours

DC Winter Seminars welcomes Professor Mike Tierney & Professor Samantha Custer to lead the 2019 Foreign Policy Seminar!

This course explores how policy is made and implemented in Washington DC.  We will analyze the factors that shape policy choices and their execution / enforcement across a range of issue areas and institutions at both the national and international level.

Learn about the Seminar from the Professors themselves!

The course will will focus substantial attention on the utility and shortcomings of a political economy approach to the subject of policymaking.  Students will be introduced to principal-agent theory, which focuses on the locus of formal policy making authority and the conditions under which actors who have policymaking authority (principals) will delegate authority to other actors (their agents).  These actors employ a wide array of delegated authority, rules, norms and legal principles in an effort to coordinate and influence policy.  We will also attempt to understand the incentives that agents have to behave in particular ways. Principal-agent theory does not explain everything about the policy process or policy outcomes, but it is a powerful analytic framework that helps us to think clearly about the actors who have policymaking authority, the incentives they face, and the policy outcomes that result from these interactions.

In particular, we will seek to better understand the following:

  • How can we understand the decisions and behavior of policymakers, those who implement policy, and those who advocate for particular policies?
  • Why and when do policymakers create new policies or alter existing policies in pursuit of their interests?
  • When are policymakers effective in achieving their stated (and unstated) goals?
  • To whom are policymakers accountable…and when are they not?
This principal-agent approach will provide the conceptual foundation for the class, with case studies, site visits, guest lectures, and mini-simulations used to provide the context within which students can leverage these tools, and test their limits.  Students will be directly exposed to policy practitioners in DC to better understand how different actors define their goals, analyze complex situations, and achieve (or not) their objectives in the policy process.  In the course of the class, students will have a chance to propose their own policy recommendations, via written briefs and verbal presentations, and to receive feedback from policy practitioners in their substantive areas of interest.  By the end of the course students will be equipped in both the tools of the trade (e.g. policy memos) as well as a thorough understanding of the context by which decisions are made (e.g. policy windows). 
Guest lectures and site visits will include representatives from such organizations as:
  • The National Security Council
  • State Department
  • Department of Defense
  • U.S. Agency for International Development
  • The World Bank and the International Finance Corporation
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • Millennium Challenge Corporation
  • Congressional Research Service
  • The Gates Foundation
  • Albright-Stonebridge Inc.
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Brookings Institute
  • Center for Global Development
  • The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition
  • The New York Times
  • The Washington Post
  • Foreign Policy Magazine