The Society’s “Meeting in a Box” learning modules enable chapters to have a focused, serious foreign policy conversation without much preparation. The modules dig into key foreign policy concepts, historical events, and scholarly works. They are designed so that one person from the chapter can serve as a facilitator – enabling the chapter to engage seriously with learning material without requiring every member to do extra reading. We’ll be expanding the module set over time.

How to Use

A typical module includes a slideshow (in both Powerpoint and PDF form) and a guide for the facilitator. Most modules will be based on a scholarly article. Other than reading the scholarly article, deploying the module shouldn’t take more than 20 or 30 minutes of preparation time.

  1. Read the article.
  2. Look through the slides and the facilitator guide. It may be helpful to glance back through the article as you do so, as the slides are designed to help you explain the key points from the article succinctly and apply them to current foreign policy challenges.
  3. Get the slides onto the computer you’ll use to present them. Make sure the projector works.
  4. Print off the facilitator guide and the article or otherwise make sure you’ll have them handy – you’ll want to have the suggested discussion questions on hand, and it may be helpful to refer back to the article.

In the discussion section, an effective facilitator will let others do most of the talking. Some helpful tips for facilitators:

  • Don’t be afraid of silence after asking a question – some people need time to gather their thoughts. Chapter officers, vocal members, and others with a strong, visible role in the chapter should consider staying silent for a bit too, as it will create a space where others are more comfortable jumping in.
  • Try to get everyone to offer at least one contribution at some point during the meeting.
  • If one or two people are dominating the conversation, make sure to engage others – for example, by asking them what they think about what so-and-so said.
  • Open-ended questions, often beginning with “why” or “how,” drive participants to engage with the material more deeply. Even something as simple as “What makes you say that?” can draw more out.
  • Keep the conversation on track – in a room full of smart people, it’s easy to get on tangents. Circle back to the current discussion question – or bring up a new one.
  • Since you’ll often be the only person who has read the article, you’ll want to be ready to bring out subtler points or explain how you think the author would answer an objection.

Modules

  • What Are America’s National Interests?

    This highly interactive module has a simple structure. There’s a spreadsheet with a list of possible national interests; your chapter should put them in order of importance. Identifying which interests are most important and why will quickly yield a very serious conversation. Our generation will have to make foreign policy in a more competitive world where America no longer enjoys overwhelming military and economic advantages. Prioritization will be necessary, as will an ability to distinguish between truly vital interests and all others. (The module draws on this report for inspiration.)
    National Interests Exercise Spreadsheet
    National Interests exercise guide

  • Ethics and Foreign Policy

    This module looks at the difficulty of achieving moral ends in foreign policy, especially in war. Good intentions are not sufficient to achieve good outcomes; sometimes well-intentioned initiatives lead to disaster. This module looks at the choice to invade Iraq in 2003 and to launch an air campaign in Libya in 2011. Your chapter will watch several videos in which policymakers lay out the ethical goals they aim to achieve by involving America in these conflicts. Other videos then dig into the results of the conflicts. The module closes with a look at an excerpt from John Quincy Adams’ famed July 4, 1821 “Monsters to Destroy” speech, which was an attempt to lay out principles for ethical action in U.S. foreign policy.
    Ethics Module Background
    Ethics Module Presentation Powerpoint
    Ethics Module Presentation PDF

  • Oil and National Security

    We frequently hear that the United States must have a large military presence in the Persian Gulf in order to prevent crises there from disrupting the global economy via massive spikes in the oil price. Similarly, we often hear that any disruption in the global oil market is a source of chaos and economic instability. Thus, in a phrase – blood for oil. But is that theory correct? It may not be. Past disruptions in the global oil market haven’t had the disastrous impact that many expect; moreover, a large Gulf presence is likely to be less helpful than you’d think in preventing larger disruptions.
    Citation: Eugene Gholz & Daryl G. Press (2010) Protecting “The Prize”: Oil and the U.S. National Interest, Security Studies, 19:3, 453-485, DOI: 10.1080/09636412.2010.505865
    Article
    Oil and National Security Slideshow PDF
    Oil and National Security Module Guide

We’re always adding to this list!