Fall 2024 - 60304 - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy


Resistance and Rebellion
Throughout history, poorly armed groups—and even unarmed ones—have effectively resisted and even defeated technologically and materially stronger forces.  This graduate course examines organized resistance, rebellion, and revolt with an eye towards identifying both challenges and opportunities for foreign policy decision-making.

The course begins with a theoretical exploration of the conditions under which individuals, communities, and groups rebel.  Students will survey the theoretical literature on resistance, read excerpts from political philosophers of rebellion, and study the original writings of theorists and practitioners of Twentieth Century armed rebellion, such as Mao Zedong, Che Guevara, Vo Nguyen Giap, Vladimir Lenin, T.E. Lawrence, and more. Next, we explore the strategy, organization, and activities of distinct types of resistance movements and examine the specific impediments organizers face in mobilizing support and forming durable movements.  We then turn to an investigation of the various repertoires of resistance available to groups and individuals beyond taking up arms, to include acts of “everyday resistance,” such as shirking and sabotage, symbolic resistance, and the formation of non-violent political movements.  For cases studies, we will analyze select instances of violent and non-violent organized resistance from World War II and the Cold War to the Arab Spring and more.

In the second part of the course, we survey the various instruments available to decision-makers seeking to either defeat a resistance movement abroad or empower it.  Here, we will review current U.S. doctrine on insurgency/counterinsurgency, resistance operations, and unconventional warfare and investigate the unique challenges U.S. policymakers faced when supporting organized resistance in places like Syria, Libya, and Ukraine.  In addition, we will briefly discuss the challenges posed by other states empowering organized resistance against the United States and its partners and allies in the form of proxy warfare.  Lastly, we will examine the role that structural factors, such as global environmental change, demographic change, urbanization, shifting energy markets, and emerging technologies, play in enabling organized resistance and adding complexity to policymaking.  

Instruction Mode