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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Denis Basic
JSIS 495
Seattle Campus

Task Force

Small-group seminars address current problems in international affairs, each focusing on one specific policy question and producing a joint task force report. Restricted to senior majors in International Studies. Prerequisite: JSIS 200; JSIS 201; JSIS 202.

Class description

As of August 29, 2013, the Obama administration is considering “a limited military strike” against the Syrian government forces in retaliation to an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians near Damascus. Russia and China have stepped up their warning over strike. Russia, that has a military base in Syria, is cautioning of “catastrophic consequences for the region.” Is the Syrian civil war about to turn into a proxy war between the super powers? Or has it been a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia who support the opposing sides in the conflict ever since the beginning of violence? Keeping in mind the situation in Egypt since the Egyptian revolution, would the policy of weakening the Syrian government and consequent strengthening of the Syrian opposition, that also includes some serious Islamist elements, work well for the “American national interests?” What should the U.S. policy toward Syria be in these volatile times?

Student learning goals

students will possess a solid basic knowledge of Syrian politics, economy, geography, society, and culture before and during the Civil war

Students will know the pro- and counter-intervention arguments in the the case of the Syrian civil war

Students will be familiar with the complexities of and internal disagreements among conservatives, liberals, neo-Marxists, feminists, and constructivists in regard to the intervention and non-intervention policies

Students will become more aware of the roles that foreign powers play in the Syrian crisis, especially Saudi Arabia, Qatar, U.S., U.K., France, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Russia, China, & Iran, as well as non-governmental paramilitary forces

Students will better understand the perception of the U.S. in the region

Students will learn how to develop a succinct, yet convincing and all-encompassing policy proposal

General method of instruction

Brainstorming, discussions on all kinds of materials from printed to video formats, intensive writing, rewriting, and editing.

Recommended preparation

Familiarize yourself thoroughly with the contents of the following materials before the beginning of the quarter: 1. James Gelvin, The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know, Oxford University Press, USA (March 6, 2012) 2. Nader Hashemi & Danny Postel, The Syria Dilemma, The MIT Press; (September, 2013) 3. Syria in Crisis website by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Class assignments and grading

1. initial quiz (20%) 2. punctual submissions of contributions to the final report and of peer edits (20%) 3. solidarity with and support of colleagues (10%) 4. quality of writing (20%) 5. attendance (5%) 6. participation in discussions (15%) 7. presentation and PPP (7%) 8. poster (3%)


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Denis Basic
Date: 01/06/2014