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Spring 2024 Electives (Spring 2025 TBA)

American Defense Policy & Military History from the World Wars to the Global War on Terror

  • 4 credits
  • HIST 1571/6571; GOVT 1571
  • David Silbey
  • Friday, 1:00 – 4:20pm

America has fought two wars in the 21st century, in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have been the longest wars in American history and have ended badly, amid much ambivalence about the defense policies that created them. Those wars and policies are part of the long history of the war that America has fought as a global power and the policies that shaped those wars and shaped that global power. This course will look at US defense policies and military experience over the long 20th century, from the earth-spanning conflicts of WorldWar I and II, to the nuclear tension of Cold War conflicts, and finally to the global war on terror.

Constitutional Law

In this course, we will examine one of the most important documents in American history – our Constitution.  Course topics will include the historical background of the document from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation.  We will look at the creation of the Constitution, including the conflict between strong supporters of this proposed new Constitution (Federalists) and their opponents (Anti-Federalists). How did the Founders resolve their differences and what led the States to adopt a document limiting and balancing the powers of the President, Congress, and the Judiciary? We shall look at the constant tension (from the beginning to the present) over the balance of power between the three co-equal branches.  We shall discuss the role of the Constitution from both empirical and theoretical perspectives and look at how it has evolved from 1788 to the present day. Special attention will be paid to the use of Amendments, particularly the Bill of Rights, to address events/circumstances unforeseen by the drafters.  Finally, the course will discuss critical cases where the Supreme Court defined and redefined what the Constitution meant.

History of the U.S. Senate

  • 4 credits
  • HIST 4030; AMST 4218; GOVT 4218
  • Katherine Scott
  • Monday, 6:30 – 9:30pm

Would you like to know more about the U.S. Senate? Why, for example, does it have the sole power to try all impeachments? In this history course we will explore the Senate’s evolution, from its constitutional origins to the modern era. Assigned readings will examine the Senate’s powers and responsibilities, including its advice and consent role in nominations, its oversight responsibilities, and its role in impeachment trials. We will discuss themes of continuity and change, consider the role of individual senators as change agents, discuss the nature of leadership, and debate the filibuster. In addition to general class reading, discussions, and exams, each student will write a short paper, and participate in an oral presentation.

The Economics and Regulation of Risky Health Behaviors

  • 4 credits
  • PUBPOL 4280/5290; ECON 3710
  • John Cawley
  • Wednesday, 6:30 – 9:50pm

Risky health behaviors such as cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, risky sex, drug use, poor diet and physical inactivity (leading to obesity), and self-harm are responsible for hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths and impose billions of dollars in medical care costs each year in the United States. This course teaches the economic approach to studying risky health behaviors. The research literature on the economic causes and correlates of risky health behaviors will be studied, and numerous policies to modify risky health behaviors, such as the minimum legal drinking age and recreational marijuana laws, will be debated in class.

Judeophobia, Islamophobia, Racism

  • 4 credits
  • NES 3523; RELST 3523; JWST 3523
  • Ross Brann
  • Thursday, 4:30 – 7:00pm

Islamophobia and Judeophobia are ideas and like all ideas they have a history of their own. Although today many might think of Islamophobia or Judeophobia as unchangeable—fear of and hatred for Islam and Muslims or Judaism and Jews—these ideas and the social and political practices informed by them have varied greatly over time and place. They even intersected during the Middle Age and in Ottoman times when “the Jew” was frequently represented as allied with “The Muslim”. The first part of this course traces the history, trajectory, and political agency of Judeophobia and Islamophobia in texts and other forms of culture from late antiquity through the present. The second part of the course is devoted to modernity and the present especially in Europe and the United States focusing on representational practices—how Muslims/Islam and Jews/Judaism are portrayed in various discourses including the media, film and on the internet. We will investigate how these figures (the Muslim, the Jew) serve as a prism through which we can understand various social, political and cultural processes and the interests of those who produce and consume them.

US and the Middle East

  • 4 credits
  • NES 3687; JWST 3687; GOVT 3687; AMST 3687; HIST  3687
  • Ross Brann
  • Tuesday, 6:30 – 9:50pm

This seminar examines the history of the United States’ involvement with Middle East beginning with evangelical efforts in the 19th century and President Wilson’s engagement with the colonial powers in the early 20th century during and after WWI. The discovery of vast Middle Eastern oil reserves and the retreat of the colonial powers from the region following WWII drew successive US administrations ever deeper into Middle Eastern politics. In due course the US became entrenched in the post-colonial political imagination as heir to the British and the French especially as it challenged the Soviet Union for influence in the region during the Cold War. And that only takes the story to the mid-1950s and the Eisenhower administration. Our discussions will be based on secondary readings and primary sources as we interrogate the tension between realist and idealist policies toward the Middle East and trace how these tensions play out in subsequent developments including the origins and trajectory of the US strategic alliances with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey and conflict with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the two Gulf Wars.

CIW Inside Congress

This course, tailored for Cornell in Washington students, will offer practical insight into the structure, organization, and dynamics of the U.S. Congress and congressional offices in order to deepen student’s understanding of the legislative process. The course will enhance student experiences in Washington by exposing them to insights from members of Congress and key senior staffers. Featuring periodic visits by Members of Congress and key congressional staff, and a unique learning experience on Capitol Hill, the class is designed to present students with an informed understanding of various staff functions within a Congressional office both in Washington and the Member’s district; the different management styles of congressional offices (i.e.: Member-driven versus staff driven); the relationship of personal, committee and leadership staffs. Students will monitor the progress of legislation as a way of integrating office dynamics into the legislative process. Each class will devote time to a discussion of current events in Congress to integrate policy developments into the curricula.