The Politics of American National Security Policy

Fall, 2013
Mr. Stoll
TR 1:00 - 2:15
Room: HRZ 212

Contact Information:

Office: 120 Herzstein Hall
x3362, stoll AT rice DOT edu

Office Hours:

Tu 10:30 - 11:30
Th  2:00 -  3:30
You may also make an appointment. Also, I am usually in my office Friday afternoons until 4.


The study of national security policy is a unique area of political science. It has developed on its own, away from the other mainstream areas of international relations, and it encompasses a wide variety of subjects, from the physics of nuclear explosions to the sociology of small group interactions. Since the subject matter of this course is scattered across a number of different areas, it does not lend itself to a tight, well-integrated course of study. Nevertheless, we will attempt to impose some order on this vast subject, and to provide you with the basic knowledge that will allow you to form your own opinions about the major defense problems of the US, and their solutions.

We live in interesting times. For most of the post-World War II era, we have spent most of our time on two defense issues: strategic nuclear weapons, and "the next war" in Europe. Both may seem obsolete, but they are still important to study because they have dominated US thinking on defense, and because aspects of each may well become important again. We will as well consider a number of other defense topics in the course, including some that appear to be more relevant to our current situation.


Your final grade in the course will be determined as follows:
Written Assignments  30%
Midterm Exam         25%
Final Exam           45%

Failure to take the final exam will result in a grade of F for the course.

The written assignments in the class will be done in groups. Groups will be formed early in the semester, and will work together on all assignments. Groups will consist of at least 3 students. It is not always possible to divide the work evenly across a particular assignment. As well, there may be legitimate reasons why a group member cannot completely meet her or his obligations to the group on a particular assignment. However, if a student feels that a fellow group member is seriously shirking, the student should inform me immediately. As well, at the end of the course I will ask each of you to inform me if a group member has consistently failed to meet her or his obligations. Students who consistently fail to meet their obligations in the group assignments will be severely penalized.

Makeup Exams. There will be a makeup exam given for the midterm and the final. A sign-up list will be posted by my office; students will be advised in lecture when the list will go up, and when it will be taken down. The makeup will be given at one time and in one place, and will not be the same exam that is given to the rest of the class. The makeup may occur several days later or several days earlier than the regular exam.

Regrades. If you wish to register a complaint about a grade, you must observe the following procedures:

  1. You have 1 class week from the time the answer key for a piece of work is available to lodge a complaint.
  2. Before you submit the work to be re-graded, you are advised to check the answer key (available on the bookshelf to the left of Dr. Stoll's office).
  3. Turn in the work to the regrade box (the box is labeled "Stoll To Be Regraded") that is on the bookshelf to the left of Dr. Stoll's office. Do not put any marks on the work to be regraded. Instead, on a separate piece of paper, indicate what question(s) you wish to be regraded. You can also indicate why you think that you should receive a different grade.
  4. Dr. Stoll will re-grade only the part(s) you request. Your new grade may be higher, lower, or the same as the original grade.

Group Grades. The assignments in the course will be done in groups, not by individual students. By default each student in the group will receive the same grade on the assignment. It is not always possible to divide the work on an assignment so that each student in the group does exactly the same amount of work. However, it may also be the case that a student is shirking her/his responsibilities and does not deserve the same grade as the rest of the group. While I sincerely hope this does not happen, the following will help me to determine if a student is shirking:

  1. On any assignment if a member of your group is not fulfilling her/his responsibilities, the remaining students in the group should report this to me.
  2. At the end of the semester I will ask students if a member of the group consistently shirked. If this has happened the remaining students should report this to me.
  3. If the rest of the group believes someone has shirked I reserve the right to lower one or more of the assignment grades for that student.

Attendance. You are not required to be in lecture. However, the lecture material may be very different from the reading. Consequently, students who wish to do well in the course should both do the reading and attend the lectures.


The following books will be used in the course. All have been ordered from the bookstore. Note: Haass will be read in conjunction with written assignments.

Special Needs

Any student with a documented disability seeking academic adjustments or accommodations is requested to speak with me during the first two weeks of class. All discussions will remain as confidential as possible. Students with disabilities will need to contact Disability Support Services in 111 Allen Center. Contact information:

Changes to the Course

The information contained in this syllabus, other than the attendance policy, may be subject to change with reasonable advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the instructor.