Fall 2019 - 59310 - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Fall 2019 - 59310 - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Strategic Communication for National Security

Description: This seminar will examine the history and modern practice of strategic communications, focusing on how government agencies use information campaigns to shape foreign perceptions of national security issues.  Through selected readings, lectures, class discussions, and research, participants will examine how the U.S. government and, to a lesser extent, foreign governments develop and implement information campaigns to support strategic communications objectives. Using case studies that include Cold War crises, 9/11, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the seminar will identify factors that contribute to successful, and less than successful, efforts to inform, influence, and persuade foreign publics to support—or at least not actively oppose—U.S. national security objectives.  The seminar will also consider the limitations of communications and public diplomacy as instruments of “soft power” and examine how new technologies such as social media affect policymakers’ ability to influence the attitudes of foreign audiences.

Objectives:  This course will benefit students interested in learning about communications as a function of government, a tool of statecraft, and a component of national security. Participants will apply insights from commercial marketing, public policy, defense, and intelligence studies to address the challenging question of how to detect and measure influence, with an emphasis on how states use public diplomacy—defined broadly as efforts to inform and influence audiences in other countries—to advance their national interests and promote foreign policy goals. This seminar builds on prior public policy, diplomacy, and intelligence studies courses to enable students to hone their critical thinking, writing, presentation, and collaboration skills.

Requirements: This graduate seminar requires extensive reading, class participation, weekly commentaries, and an individual research paper and briefing. Students will be expected to post a comment on weekly assigned readings before class to help generate class discussion and to follow current perceptions of the U.S. (and countries of personal interest) abroad throughout the course.  Students should monitor public diplomacy initiatives in the news and provide periodic updates on Canvas about information and influence campaigns under active public debate during the semester.

In addition to active seminar participation, students are required to draft and to brief a research report on a strategic communications topic of their own choosing. Reports will demonstrate command of the secondary literature and use primary sources, including statutes, executive orders, presidential remarks and directives, and national strategies, to address a course-related topic of interest. Students are required to develop a research plan that includes a clear analytic question, preliminary outline, and working bibliography for instructor review and approval. Each student will submit a rough draft of their research paper for instructor feedback, and turn in a revised draft by the final class meeting.  

Grading: Student’s grades will be determined by their weekly comments, class participation, and writing and briefing assignment.

  • Weekly Canvas comments               20%
  • Class participation                             20%
  • Research paper                                  40%
  • Briefing                                               20%

Canvas Comments: Seminar participants will post a 250-400-word comment on the assigned weekly readings on the class Canvas discussion board by 9:00 p.m. the day before the class meets.  Weekly comments are essential to drive effective seminar discussions and to tie recurring themes to contemporary national security developments. Comments should convey thoughts on the course readings, but not simply summarize them.  Use comments to react to and critically evaluate the views expressed in assigned readings, convey agreement or disagreement (offering evidence in support of such views), and identify questions and areas for further research to discuss in class.

Required Books: Students should purchase the books below for use throughout the course:

Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (New York: Harper Business, 2006).

Nicholas J. Cull, The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945-1989 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

Jarol B. Manheim, Strategy in Information and Influence Campaigns: How Policy, Advocates, Social Movements, Insurgent Groups, Corporations, Governments and Others Get What They Want (New York: Routledge, 2011).

Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2011).

Clint Watts, Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News (New York: HarperCollins, 2018). 

Books will be available at Co-Op East. In addition, required and recommended readings will be posted on Canvas. Occasionally, we will discuss supplementary material that will be provided either by e-mail, posted on Canvas, and/or handed out in class. Students are expected to keep up on news and current developments related to U.S. foreign policy and to share book recommendations, articles, and webpages that they find of interest. Doing so will make the course more relevant and contribute to informed discussions about historical and contemporary events.

Note on Electronic Devices:  The use of laptops, tablets, and hand-held devices is not permitted in the classroom, except by special permission of the instructor.  Exceptions to this policy may be sought for specific cases, and will be made to support visual course content, student presentations, in-class examinations, and other valid reasons.   

Class Schedule: 
M 9:00AM to 12:00PM
SRH 3.312/3.360