This Month at the War College: October-November
Beginning in late October, students at the National War College moved into the third core course of the school year—Course 6300, “Instruments of Statecraft and Diplomacy.” The course follows 6200, “War and Statecraft,” and between the two they provide students with a four-month examination of the various means of national strategy.
The core curriculum at NWC is designed to support an in-depth examination of strategy and the strategic art. In particular it offers major courses in a number of the main requirements of strategy: Understanding context; appreciating the capabilities, constraints, risks and costs of various means; developing strategic concepts–“ways”–to tackle problems; and more. Course 6200 and 6300 focus on means.
Specifically, course 6300 considers such possible tools of statecraft as diplomacy, economic sanctions, and covert action. Through general readings as well as case studies, the course aims to help students deepen their understanding of each tool. Of great value is the fact that–as with the course on war and statecraft–dozens of War College students and faculty have had practical experience trying to put these means into action, and can speak from this experience in class. Indeed the current course director, Dr. Omer Taspinar, explains that his “guiding philosophy in building a core course is to balance theory and practice. As core course director I always remind myself that our student body is composed of policy practitioners rather than graduate students.” This focus extends to the choice of materials, but also–as in all War College courses–to planned seminar activities, which stress critical and creative thinking, experiential learning, and peer-to-peer dialogue.
The first section of the course focused on the concept of power–its definition, how and why states pursue it, and its various forms. Topics then transitioned into a detailed examination of diplomacy–its character, means states use to pursue it, and case studies of success and failure.
As with all core courses at NWC, 6300 is shaped by the vision of the current course director, who is responsible for developing the content of the course–its design, readings, flow, guest speakers, and options for faculty seminar. In each core course, 17 different instructors teach from the same broad syllabus–some making minor modifications to readings or emphasis, but all driving home the same general lessons. The course director therefore has significant influence on the tone, themes, and tenor of a course.
Dr. Taspinar, the current course director, is a world-renowned expert on Turkey. He explains that the “most important purpose of this course is to analyze the concept of statecraft as the orchestration of the instruments of power.” Case studies and readings stress the challenge of making various tools work together to achieve a goal. Two key parts of the course, Omer explains, are “diplomacy and the economic context”; the course considers diplomacy “not only as an instrument of statecraft, but also as an overarching method that seeks to orchestrate the other instruments of statecraft in a globalized world.” At a time of when “serious economic downturn, such as the financial crisis experienced in 2008, has affected all other instruments and altered the strategic context,” consideration of the economic context for statecraft is more important than ever.Readings in the course, which the students will be making their way through over the next seven weeks, include experienced diplomat Dennis Ross’s book Statecraft, the new Joseph Nye volume The Future of Power, an edited volume on global political economy, as well as dozens of articles and op-eds from authors including Colin Gray, John Ikenberry, Robert Kagan, Richard Haass, Francis Fukuyama, Hans Morgenthau, and Walter Russell Mead. In an average NWC course, assigned readings change 20% to 40% per year, even in the core, to reflect new developments, new research, and major new titles by established authorities and practitioners. “In my three years as core course director,” Omer notes, “the changes in the readings usually reflected changes in the economic and foreign policy context.”