Action Memos for World Leaders

In Chuck Freilich's Freshman Seminar, "Comparative National Security of Middle Eastern Countries," each student writes four action memos for world leaders in the Middle East on security topics. 

Here are the instructions from the syllabus. See below for the full syllabus attached.

In the role of a senior decision maker from four different Middle Eastern countries of your choosing (Foreign or Defense Minister, National Security Adviser, Chief of Staff, senior advisor), students will draft brief action memos to the leaders (premier, president, king, leader), proposing a Policy Review in an important area of that nation's national security (foreign or defense) policy or strategy. Maximum 6 pages double spaced.

The action memos will present:

• The reasons for proposing the Policy Review, what the policy issue to be addressed is, why the need has arisen.

• The interests, threats, or opportunities facing the chosen country.

• Relevant Middle Eastern/international and domestic political/bureaucratic players whose interests or concerns must be addressed.

• Propose a realistic overall strategy for addressing the issue:

o Clearly articulated policy objectives and priorities.

o Primary alternative approaches or options, advantages and disadvantages, prospects for successful implementation (i.e. achieving the proposed objectives at acceptable costs).

• Relevant bibliography from the required readings and/or additional readings (recommended and beyond).

• Each student will present one draft memo orally to the "cabinet" (class), prior to written submission, in order to benefit from its input and incorporate the comments in the final draft. See presentation dates below.

• Students are strongly urged to come to office hours to discuss their memos.


Students have to go out and research the policies of a given country on a subject of their choice and in two out of four cases present their findings to the class, in two cases just to the professor, in all cases writing a policy paper. This means learning the background of the issue, analyzing the policy options open to the actual leader in office at the time, and then presenting recommendations. Class discussions are designed to promote critical review of the work done by the students, where both peers and the professor would make comments on the methodology and options proposed. So as to ensure an open discussion, the presentations are not graded, though the papers are.

Professor Freilich finds that students very much seem to like the idea of doing real world policy papers, putting themselves in the position of the actual leader in office. The problem is their lack of knowledge, which makes it hard to really do this effectively, especially in the setting of the freshman seminars program in which grades are not given and students naturally give precedence, in terms of their workload, to other courses.

freshmen_seminar_syllabus.doc144 KB