Covering Conflict in an Age of Terror: Crisis Management and American Power
UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
Course Number J298 // North Gate Hall B-1
Mondays 3-6 p.m.
Mark Danner and Peter Tarnoff
Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fashionable debate in Washington took up whether we had reached "the end of history." More than a decade later history inundates us: terror, war, nuclear blackmail and the sheer pace of events have become overwhelming. After the attacks of 9/11 led to President Bush's "war on terror," a historic conflict once again dominates coverage of foreign affairs, with "crisis management" and a new "American Doctrine of Preventive War" at its heart.
Through a close study of conflicts both real and speculative and through extensive class discussions and some role-playing, we will investigate how foreign policy crises develop and how they are managed, by senior policymakers and 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: a political confrontation between the U.S. and South Korea over North Korea; a coup attempt in Saudi Arabia; disagreements between the U.S. and the EU/UN over Iran's nuclear program; dealing with a new Palestinian "state" in Gaza; the future of "Plan Colombia"; and the struggle over Kashmir between India and Pakistan. We will also unfold at least one scenario involving domestic terrorism, treating the government's evolving attempts to manage it, and the response of the press. Through a thorough airing of these and other topics in class discussion, supplemented by extensive reading and weekly writing assignments, we will come to an understanding of the structure of international crises - how the U.S. government would likely respond to them and how journalists should seek to 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
*Participate vigorously in discussions
*Do all reading and writing assignments
The class meets only fifteen times and attendance is mandatory. A student's record of attendance and participation in class discussion, together with the thoroughness of his or her preparation, will determine the success of our class and contribute the better part of the grade.
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 thoroughly before the third class.)
Books and Articles: Students will find books for the course on sale at Ned's Books, which is located at 2480 Bancroft Way (Connor O'Brien, course-book buyer; telephone: 204 0900). Other materials, including articles, chapters, case studies, and, in some cases, entire books, we will distribute in photocopy. Copies of all photocopied material will be kept in the office.
Newspapers and Magazines: Although 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 newspapers, preferably The New York Times, The Washington Post or The Los Angeles Times. The Economist, a British weekly available at any good newsstand, is also highly recommended.
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.
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 negotiation;
2) how the U.S. government conducts itself in negotiation with a foreign government even as the situation evolves in the area of 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 and cover 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.
George F. Kennan, American Diplomacy
David Frum and Richard Perle, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror
Clyde Prestowitz, Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions
Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror: Radical Islam's War Against America
Mark Danner, Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror
January 24: Introduction to the Course
Scenarios and how they work.
The shape of the course, requirements and reading, future assignments.
The organization and priorities of American foreign policy in the 20th century.
Write 400 words introducing yourself to the instructors, describing your interests, and explaining what you are looking for in the class.
"Only a Game?" Anne Applebaum, The Washington Post, January 19, 2005
"The Coming Wars," Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, January 24 & 31, 2005
"Ten Years Later," Richard A. Clarke, The Atlantic Monthly, January/February 2005
"Digging Into Seymour Hersh," Max Boot, Los Angeles Times, January 27, 2005
"Under Pressure, Qatar May Sell Jazeera Station," Steven R. Weisman, The New York Times, January 30, 2005
January 31: Making U.S. Foreign Policy
Telephone call from Mark Danner in Baghdad: the day after the Iraqi elections.
How the U.S. government is managing its post-Iraqi-election spin campaign.
The organization of U.S. foreign policy and national security.
Discussion of Seymour Hersh piece and Max Boot's response.
Where to find background material for scenarios on the internet.
Introduction of Saudi Arabia scenario.
Write a 700-word news story on Mark Danner's interview from Baghdad and conditions on the ground the day after the elections.
"Hotel Journalism Gives American Troops a Free Hand," Robert Fisk, The Independent, January 17, 2005
"The War Inside the Arab Newsroom," Samantha M. Shapiro, The New York Times Magazine, January 2, 2005
"Saudis Confront Extremist Ideologies," Craig Whitlock, The Washington Post, February 6, 2005
"Terror in Jeddah," The Economist, December 9, 2004
Additional research to prepare for the Saudi scenario
February 7: A Report From Baghdad and the Saudi Scenario — A Liberal Coup
Report from Mark Danner, who just returned from Baghdad, on the Iraqi elections.
The Saudi Arabia scenario principals meeting, including meeting with Prince Bandar.
The United States learns on CNN that a group of some 150 Saudi dissidents in Dhahran, calling themselves the Movement for Evolutionary Change in Saudi Arabia, is calling for reform in the kingdom. Their requests include free elections within 60 days, equal rights between men and women, and separation of state and mosque. The group is comprised of 150 members of the intellectual class, including American-educated businesspeople and some members of the royal family. Several divisions of the Saudi Army, National Guard, and Air Force back the dissident group or are under their control. In addition, the United States has just heard that dissidents demanding U.S. support have entered the U.S. Consulate General in Dhahran. The principals meet to determine how to respond to the crisis. They also receive Prince Bandar.
Write an editorial discussing what the United States should do; identify the newspaper you are writing for.
Email your department's input on the crisis to the Secretary of State, who will prepare a consensus document.
"Iraqis Cite Shift in Attitudes Since Vote," Doug Struck, The Washington Post, February 7, 2005
"The Shiite Obligation," Kanan Makiya, Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2005
Additional research to prepare for the Saudi scenario
"The House of Saud," Frontline, PBS
February 14: A Liberal Coup, Part II
Conclusion of the Saudi scenario principals meeting.
On- and off-record press briefings by the National Security Advisor on the Saudi crisis.
New Developments in the Saudi Scenario:
The principals learn that all Saudi and U.S. personnel have been released from the consulate. Ariel Sharon has called President Bush to urge that the United States directly support the Saudi dissidents. The CIA has learned that the Saudis have called the French for military assistance and French troops are en route to Dhahran. Republican senators call on the administration to back the Saudi government but explicitly call for reform; Democrats say that this is a test to see if the Bush administration will act in ways consistent with its pro-democracy policies.
The principals recommend that the President issue a public statement expressing concern over what's happening in Saudi Arabia and support for the current Saudi government and emphasizing that democratic reforms should come about gradually and not as quickly or completely as the dissidents want. The statement is as follows: In the past the Saudi government has made great strides toward democracy and has assisted the United States in the global war on terror. While the dissidents' demands include reforms toward which Saudi Arabia should strive, the reality of implementing or imposing them upon Saudi Arabia is implausible. Trying to impose them overnight — as the mostly unknown group of dissidents from Dhahran has tried — would be unwise. One step made too far and too fast forward could equal many steps backward.
Write a 1200-1500 news analysis on the Saudi crisis.
Les Gelb biography: http://www.cfr.org/bio.php?id=3325
Book: The Irony of Vietnam: The System Worked, Leslie H. Gelb
"The Three-State Solution," Leslie H. Gelb, The New York Times, November 25, 2003:
"What Comes Next? How to Leave Iraq With Our Heads High," Leslie H. Gelb, Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2004:
"The Future of Iraq: A Debate," Council on Foreign Relations, Leslie H. Gelb and Martin S. Indyk, February 4, 2004:
"The Lessons of 1787," Leslie H. Gelb, The New York Times, February 2, 2005:
"Vietnam, Test of Presidents, Was Distant War and Battle at Home," Leslie H. Gelb, The New York Times, May 1, 1975:
"Hanoi Is Signaling U.S. on Takeover," Leslie H. Gelb, The New York Times, April 24, 1975:
February 21: President's Day — No Class
February 28: Making Sausage — The Press and the Foreign Policy Process
Special Guest: Leslie H. Gelb, former President, Council on Foreign Relations; Chief National Security Correspondent, The New York Times; and senior official in State and Defense Departments
Conversation about the press and the foreign policy process with Leslie Gelb.
Introduction of the Pakistan scenario.
Write a 1000-word essay on the conversation with Leslie Gelb.
"Iraq: U.S. Problems, Saudi Nightmares, and the Case for a Settlement," George Friedman, Stratfor, February 17, 2005
"Changes in the Kingdom—On 'Our Timetable,'" The Washington Post, February 27, 2005
"Unfulfilled Promises: Pakistan's Failure to Tackle Extremism," International Crisis Group, January 16, 2004:
"Pakistan: The Mullahs and the Military," International Crisis Group, March 20, 2003:
The Idea of Pakistan, Stephen P. Cohen, chapter 1:
Additional research to prepare for the Pakistan scenario
March 7: The Pakistan Scenario — Pakistan Explodes
Discussion of Bush administration foreign policy, developments in the Middle East, and John Bolton's nomination for U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
The Pakistan scenario principals meeting.
The United States has learned that President Pervez Musharraf has been assassinated in Islamabad by men in uniform. The Pakistani Intelligence Bureau has informed the United States that it suspects that Akbar Bugti, a warlord from the province of Baluchistan, was behind the killing. U.S. intelligence believes Bugti may have been a figurehead chosen to carry out the assassination by an anti-Musharraf group with strong ties to the MMA. Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Service Intelligence provides a different picture — that a radical Indian-Kashmiri group is responsible.
New Developments in the Pakistan Scenario:
The principals learn that A.Q. Khan has disappeared from his house arrest location. It is believed that members of the MMA and ISI visited Khan and that he left his place of detention with them. Additionally, a Pakistani general whom the United States knows well has contacted us to tell us that the deputy chief of staff of the Pakistani Army, who is next in line to take charge, is very weak and under the influence of Islamist extremists. The general says the United States should back him as head of the Army to prevent the installation of a fundamentalist regime in Pakistan.
Write a three-page piece on realism and neo-conservatism, referencing the Kennan and Frum/Perle books.
"On the Nuclear Edge," Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, March 29, 1993:
"Did India and Pakistan Face Atomic War? Claim Is Debated," Douglas Jehl, The New York Times, March 23, 1993
Additional research to prepare for the Pakistan scenario
March 14: Realism and Neo-Conservatism
Discussion of the differences between Kennan's realist foreign policy and Frum and Perle's neo-conservative foreign policy.
Truman Doctrine Speech, 1947
The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002
President Bush's Speeches --
9/20/01 (with us or against us)
2002 State of the Union (axis of evil)
VMI, April 2002 (president outlines war effort)
West Point, June 2002
USS Abraham Lincoln, May 2003 (mission accomplished)
Second Inaugural, January 2005
National Defense University, March 2005
Bin Laden Fatwas --
Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places, 1996
Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, 1998
November 1, 2004
March 21: Spring Break — No Class
March 28: Pakistan Explodes, Part II
Conclusion of the Pakistan scenario principals meeting.
Press briefing on deep background with national security adviser.
Introduction of the Cuba scenario.
New Developments in the Pakistan scenario:
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ordered his military to be prepared to carry out contingency military plans in case an Islamist extremist regime comes to power in Pakistan and takes control of that country's nuclear weapons. The Prime Minister also will convene an emergency session of Parliament. A delegation of foreign ministers from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Malaysia, and Indonesia has applied to visit Pakistan. Significant numbers of al Qaeda members are detected moving from Afghanistan to Northwest Pakistan. A.Q. Khan has surfaced as an advisor to the new military leaders. A van with a nuclear device has left a Pakistani nuclear facility and is believed to be driving toward Kashmir. The Pakistani general who warned the United States about the new Army chief of staff has been assassinated.
Regarding the van with the nuclear device, the President should call the leaders of India and Pakistan to inform them at the same time about the van and discuss ways to stop it. Regarding Pakistan's new government and upcoming elections, the United States should refrain from interfering in Pakistan's internal affairs. However, U.S. representatives should contact the Muslim foreign ministers traveling to Pakistan to emphasize that Pakistan should remain committed to our common agenda — which includes fighting the war on terror and maintaining strict political control over Pakistan's nuclear program. The President should consider sending the elite covert Pentagon unit trained to locate nuclear weapons to Pakistan to monitor the weapons' location and movement during the governmental transition.
Write a 5-600-word op-ed on "Cuba: What's Next?"
"Cuba on the Morning After," William D. Rogers, The New York Times, August 16, 2001
"Cuba After Castro," Edward Gonzalez and Kevin F. McCarthy, RAND, 2004:
Additional research to prepare for the Cuba scenario
April 4: The Cuba Scenario — Adios Fidel
The Cuba scenario principals meeting.
Press briefing with the Cuban foreign minister.
The United States learns in radio and television broadcasts from Havana that Fidel Castro has died. Havana media also announce that Raul Castro has been named the new President of Cuba. There has been an outpouring of emotion in South Florida, and hundreds of Cuban-Americans are preparing to leave Florida for Cuba by boat. Many of them seek to force the United States to intervene in Cuba so as to prevent the continuation of the Castro regime. Cubans are also gathering at ports to escape to the United States. Several labor protests have broken out in Santiago and human rights activists have been rounded up across Cuba.
New Developments in the Cuba Scenario:
Following the principals' advice, the president orders interdiction of boats leaving the United States for Cuba. About 300 boats are now stopped in the waters off Florida, but at least 30 have broken through and are heading toward Cuba. News helicopters are broadcasting live footage of the boats. The Cuban Foreign Ministry issues a statement that Cuba welcomes these boats. In a press briefing, the Cuban foreign minister repeats that Cuba welcomes people arriving from the United States and adds that Cuba will not prevent its citizens from leaving for the United States. The principals decide to receive an envoy from the Cuban government.
Write a three-page policy paper, "Beyond Fidel: A New Look at Cuba Policy," from the perspective of your department or agency. Outline specific steps for long-term policy.
"Cuban Terror Suspect Sets Off Propaganda Battle," Jefferson Morley, The Washington Post, April 14, 2005
Additional research to prepare for the Cuba scenario
April 11: Adios Fidel, Part II
Conclusion of the Cuba scenario principals meeting, including meeting with an envoy from the Cuban government.
Press briefing on Cuba.
Introduction of Venezuela scenario.
New Developments in the Cuba Scenario:
The Coast Guard is maintaining its picket line in the international waters outside Florida, but boats continue to get through. Refugees also continue to prepare to leave Cuba. The television news continues to broadcast live footage, including of a small private plane carrying a Cuban-American businessman that crashed in Cuban waters and a small vessel carrying three Cubans that sank. The principals meet with an envoy from the Cuban government. She brings a message from Raul Castro proposing a meeting with the United States in which they have unconditional and open-ended dialogue. Cuba proposes that the meeting be held anywhere, publicly or privately. The envoy also suggests that if the United States agrees to this meeting, Cuba would stem the flow of refugees.
The State Department makes a public statement to the press. The statement explains that shortly after Castro's death, Cuban-Americans began leaving Florida for Cuba, and Cuba announced that it could not control the outflow of refugees. Concerned for the safety of these boat people, the administration instructed the Navy and Coast Guard to stop boats from leaving Florida and turn back boats leaving Cuba. At the same time, the United States received communication from Cuba offering unconditional and open-ended discussions. The administration's response is that there will be no communication between the two governments unless and until the Cuban government resumes the 10-year-old commitment to discourage the outflow of refugees. If Cuba meets this precondition, the President will allow conversations between representatives of Cuba and the United States to take place. Communication of this sort has happened many times in the past, and is not a new development. The position of this administration — that it's very important to the United States that Cuba pursues democratic reforms — is well known and will be repeated in these discussions.
Write a three-page policy paper for the president from the perspective of your department or agency on how to respond to the Venezuela crisis.
"Latin America: Petrobras, Repsol, and Venezuela's Petro-Appeal," Stratfor
"The Venezuelan Oil Crisis," Michelle Billig, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2004
Energy Information Administration Country Analysis Brief: Venezuela:
"Rules-of-Thumb for Oil Supply Disruptions," EIA:
"Energy Price Impacts on the U.S. Economy," EIA:
"Oil Price Impacts on the U.S. Economy," EIA:
"World Oil Prices and U.S. GDP," EIA:
"The Impact of Higher Oil Prices on the World Economy," International Energy Agency:
Venezuela Reading List (prepared by David Goldwyn and sent as an email attachment)
Additional research to prepare for the Venezuela scenario
April 18: The Venezuela Scenario — An Oil Embargo?
The Venezuela scenario principals meeting with David Goldwyn, founder and president of Goldwyn International Strategies LLC and former Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs.
Relations between Venezuela and the United States have been worsening for some time, and the latest development is that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has threatened to cut off Venezuela's oil supply to the United States.
The United States should make a public and private statement. The public statement would assure Venezuela that the United States does not seek confrontation and does not want to unseat democratically elected Chavez. It would add that the continuation of democratic principles in Venezuela is very important. Finally, it would assert that the United States is concerned about Venezuela's oil supply and hopes to continue free trade with Venezuela, but that the United States has alternative energy options.
The private statement to Chavez would more strongly repeat that the United States does not want confrontation and does not seek to unseat Chavez. It would also repeat that the United States hopes to continue free trade with Venezuela but is not dependent on Venezuela and has other energy options. Finally, the private statement would emphasize the importance of democracy in Venezuela and would draw red lines — including starting a war with Colombia or harboring terrorists — that Venezuela cannot cross without consequences from the United States.
The United States should also prepare contingency plans to sustain a Venezuelan oil embargo.
Write a one-page document from the perspective of your agency with prioritized contingency plans for a Venezuelan oil embargo.
Secretaries of State and Treasury prepare a public statement as well as a private statement to Chavez.
"Venezuela Ends Military Ties and Evicts Some U.S. Officers," Reuters, April 25, 2005
"U.S. Considers Toughening Stance Toward Venezuela," Juan Forero, The New York Times, April 26, 2005
Additional research to prepare for the Venezuela scenario
April 25: An Oil Embargo? Part II and "Dirty War"
Press briefing with principals on the Venezuela crisis.
Discussion of U.S. covert operations in Latin America.
Film screening: "Dirty War."
Write a 5-700 word critique of the film, analyzing what British officials did right and wrong, including from the perspective of your role in the smallpox scenario.
CDC smallpox backgrounders:
"Aftermath of a Hypothetical Smallpox Disaster," Jason Bardi, Emerging Infectious Diseases, CDC, Vol. 5, No. 4, July-August 1999:
"U.S. Called Unprepared for Nuclear Terrorism," John Mintz, The Washington Post, May 3, 2005
Additional research to prepare for the smallpox scenario
May 2: Smallpox in Chicago
The smallpox scenario principals meeting.
Press briefings on smallpox crisis with federal and local officials.
The CDC has confirmed at least 100 cases of smallpox in Chicago hospitals. Many more patients are under investigation. Vaccines have not yet arrived. Confusion reigns inside and outside the hospital, where relatives and press are gathering.
New Developments in the Smallpox Scenario:
The health director for San Francisco County telephones the principals to announce that 25 people in the Bay Area have confirmed cases of smallpox. Epidemiological interviews have surfaced that all are Giants fans and attended the Cubs-Giants game in Chicago two weeks before, except for two who have close friends who attended the game. Their seats were distributed throughout the stadium. Meanwhile, several al Qaeda affiliates in the Middle East have taken responsibility for the attack.
Federal authorities should make a public statement as soon as possible explaining the situation and giving factual information to dispel rumors. The statement would say that the government is treating the situation as a terror attack and that al Qaeda groups have taken responsibility. It would say the government is marshaling all its resources to hunt down the perpetrators as well as help the sick and stop the spread of smallpox.
Local authorities would make a public statement outlining the medical situation. They would create clear-cut categories of people — those showing symptoms, those exposed to others showing symptoms, those who attended the game but aren't showing symptoms, and those who have not been exposed — and give clear directions as to what each group should do. This statement should clearly translate the medical facts into simple, clear language, and should advise the worried well that the best thing they can do is stay home.
May 9: Class Round Up
Discussion of the secret Downing Street memo, July 23, 2002:
Discussion of the course as a whole, remaining questions on American foreign policy and the press, and discussion of related careers.
"The Iraq Crucible," Jim Hoagland, The Washington Post, May 9, 2005
"Indignation Grows in U.S. Over British Prewar Documents," John Daniszewski, Los Angeles Times, May 12, 2005