Harvard University

Courses offered at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government

Ambassador Nicholas Burns

Diplomacy: War and Peace Negotiations (1990-Today) 

This is a class about war and peace negotiations from the end of the Cold War in 1989-90 to the present day.  We will focus on the importance of diplomacy as a central policy instrument for the United States, China, the European countries and other powers. Specifically, we will look at those instances—German Unification in NATO, the end of Apartheid in South Africa, the Peru-Ecuador border dispute, the first Gulf War, and Bosnia—when the international community deployed diplomacy successfully to prevent war, end an international crisis, or achieve a positive outcome.  We will also study examples of when diplomacy fails and war, crisis or disagreement ensue—the 2003 Iraq War, the North Korea nuclear issue, and the South & East China Sea crises. We will pay close attention to the “how” of diplomacy and negotiations. How is diplomacy conducted at the highest levels? How can a country use negotiations and the combination of diplomacy and the threat of force effectively? How can the United Nations and other international organizations operate more effectively to prevent human rights violations, injustice and war?

In addition to lecture and class discussions, we will use class debates, case studies and student presentations to help you practice the skills that are critical to success in public service as well as the private sector—deep intellectual knowledge of the core issues of our time, analytical thinking, effective writing skills and the ability to make clear and succinct oral presentations.

Great Power Competition in the International System

The global balance of power is changing dramatically.  This course focuses on the compelling transformation we are witnessing: the rise of China to great power status; the changing nature of European and Russian power; the new roles that India, Brazil, South Africa and others are exercising in global politics; and, most importantly, the change in U.S. leadership under President Donald Trump’s America First agenda.  Our major objective will be to discuss and debate whether nations can find ways to cooperate in addressing the most consequential challenges ahead in this still new century—climate change and changing energy dynamics; nuclear proliferation, cyber threats, the scourge of pandemics, the refugee crisis, and other issues. We will also examine competition among the great powers in the North Korea nuclear crisis, the South and East China Seas, the Middle East wars, and renewed divisions in Europe.  We will conclude the course by investigating what the world power balance might look like in 2050 and by examining the more positive economic, technological and social trends that should give us some hope as we think about the global future.


Secretary Ash Carter

Leading the National Security Enterprise

IGA-282 analyzes primary issues in the international security arena with a focus on best practices in management and decision-making for future practitioners, senior officials, and policymakers in a variety of settings in the United States and other countries around the world. Students put themselves in the position of national security leaders and learn how to navigate complex bureaucratic, strategic, economic and transnational landscapes to formulate and execute effective policies.

The first half of the course explores today’s five main global security challenges and discusses grand strategies to address each–the rise of China; Russia’s growing geopolitical ambitions; the balance of power in the Middle East; North Korean WMD development; and transnational terrorism. We will also consider emerging trends like the future of warfare, the shifting global balance of power, and the role of advanced technology in national security. The second half of the course offers lessons learned and best practices for leading large public institutions like the Pentagon, while considering the influence of political leadership and the media. We will also discuss key management priorities in the national security apparatus—specifically the need to effectively and appropriately spend public funds, devise strategies to attract and retain talent, and create effective command structures.  

The objective of the course is both to strengthen students’ grasp of the underlying challenges in international security and to hone the professional skills that will make them effective policymakers and practitioners in national governments, international organizations, or NGOs. Although many of the sessions will employ the U.S. national security enterprise as the starting point, the lessons and skills students will develop during the class will be broadly applicable internationally and across sectors. Students will be required to produce professional products including concise memos, briefings, and oral testimony.

Practical Solutions For Technology’s Public Dilemmas 

This course identifies and analyzes alternative solutions to the dilemmas that disruptive technology is posing to public good in the digital, biotech, and jobs and training domains. The objective is for students to craft technologically-informed practical public-private approaches to some of the key policy issues of our time. It begins with a brief history of successful and unsuccessful governance of far-reaching technological changes in the past. The first part of the course treats the ongoing digital revolution, crafting solutions to issues of social media responsibility, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence (AI).  It then turns to the biotech revolution that is gathering momentum, addressing genome editing, bioweapons and bioterror, and the role of venture capital in biotech. The third segment of the course addresses the ways that technology is disrupting the nature of work and lifelong training. The example of driverless cars will be used to illustrate the challenges and opportunities that technology provides to sustain cohesive and prosperous societies in the era of tech “disruption”. Assignments stress development of key writing and speaking skills.



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