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International Flash Points

International Flash Points

A course taught by Warren Christopher, former U.S. Secretary of State.

By Steve Gamer

This course concentrates on the explosive confrontation points in current international affairs: the flash points that threaten world peace or U.S. vital interests. It will not be a series of lectures, but rather a highly participatory offering to about 18 upper class men and women. The goals of the course will be to create a forum for intelligent and informed debate and to hone students' research and presentation skills.

The first session will be devoted to discussion and selection of the international flash points that the class will focus on. Many of the flash points are fairly obvious -- North and South Korea; India and Pakistan; Israel and the Palestinians; Iraq, Russia and Chechnya; Columbia; Afghanistan and Congo. The purpose of this session will be to get a buy-in from the class as to the issues to be considered. We might also learn something from our choices.

After the flash points are selected, a three-hour seminar, meeting once a week, will be devoted to each one. Each session will begin with a brief scene-setter, then one student will make an oral presentation of the geography, history, and argumentation for one point of view (e.g. India) and another will present the contrasting point of view (e.g. Pakistan). After the initial presentation, there will be a moderated and guided discussion by the whole group. The presenters will be expected to defend their points of view, and the entire class will be expected to participate. Students will turn their presentations into written advocacy papers. In addition, as a separate matter, Mr. Christopher will lead a discussion of media treatment of foreign policy issues on the day of the class.

Winter 2004 Honors Collegium Courses

Warren Christopher has a long history of public service. After graduating from Stanford Law School, he served as law clerk to Justice William O. Douglas of the U.S. Supreme Court and subsequently as the Deputy Attorney General of the United States. He later served as Deputy Secretary of State of the United States (1977-1981), and was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, for his role in negotiating the release of 52 American hostages in Iran. After rejoining his law firm of O'Melveny and Myers, Mr. Christopher went on to Chair the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department in the aftermath of the Rodney King incident. In 1993, he was sworn in as the 63rd U.S. Secretary of State, and served until 1997. His activities since his return to his law firm have involved consultations on a wide variety of international matters, as well as service on many boards and civic entities. He has authored two books: In the Stream of History: Shaping Foreign Policy for a New Era (published in 1998 by Stanford University Press), and Chances of a Lifetime (published in 2001 by Scribner).

Burkle Center for International Relations