“Classes of Situations”, Dr. Richard Stoll, Political Science

For the most part, when I teach undergraduates, it is at the introductory or intermediate level.  One of the things I’m trying to do in my undergraduate courses is not to talk about current events for their own sake, but as examples of a class of situations. For example, the NATO involvement in Libya had a lot of similarities to what NATO did in 1999 against Serbia. So when Libya happened, I gave a lecture on the basics of the situation.  What I wanted the students to consider was this: what happens when you try to use air power against an opponent when there is almost no ground power on your side? So what I want students to remember is not the details of Libya (or Serbia), but the more general features of this kind of situation.

Let me give you another example.  Many Americans noticed that during the Bush administration the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense did not get along very well. Most media coverage attributed that to personality problems. What I stress is this was not the only time the people in those two positions have been in conflict. What I want a student to take away from my lecture is that unless you’re willing to assume that every president appoints the same personality types to those two offices, there has to be something else going on. Now, what might that be?  You’ll have to take Political Science 211 to find out!