The Daniel Morgan Graduate School of National Security (DMGS)

The Daniel Morgan Graduate School of National Security (DMGS) offers unique Regional Studies courses taught by experienced scholar-practitioners. Courses will bridge the gap between theory and practice and integrate learning outcomes with the Intelligence, National Security, and Managing Disruption and Violence (MDV) programs.

. . .  examines trends in areas important for U.S. interests . . .

Regional Studies

Regional Studies examines trends in areas that are important for U.S. interests such as Russia, Northeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Latin America. It focuses on critical thinking and the analytical skills necessary to analyze the social, historical, political, economic, and culture of state and non-state actors, and evaluates their long-term strengths and weaknesses.

Through simulations, role-playing exercises and group projects, Regional Studies courses will provide students with a firm appreciation and understanding of the politics and security of contemporary regional issues. The knowledge and skills acquired in these courses will help students become very attractive candidates when they graduate to work national security issues whether in the public or private sector.


Understanding contemporary Chinese history, starting with the Qing Dynasty, with a focus on post 1979 normalization of Sino-U.S. relations, will permit the students to better understand China’s approach to relations with the U.S. Knowledge of China’s military and political organizations will permit the students to better understand these organs of power and how they attempt to manage the plethora of international and domestic issues confronting China. It will also permit the student to appreciate the complexity of crafting a national strategy for dealing with an expansionist China.


The centrality of Latin America to the global terrorist movement has increased in recent years. A particularly dangerous area is the highly porous, almost nonexistent, border between Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina, a region is becoming increasingly dangerous, to the point of constituting a clear strategic threat to the U.S., allowing terrorist organizations, and drug traffickers throughout Latin America and the Middle East, to operate almost with impunity. This course will examine the lessons learned from Colombia and Mexico, and draw conclusions for future US actions to combat this danger in our own hemisphere.


China’s increasing aggressiveness in the South China and East China Seas pose major impediments to regional stability in East Asia and the Pacific. This course considers the potential effects of a North Korean implosion, violence in the South China Sea, Sino-Japanese hostilities in the Senkakus/Diaoyutai on US interests and the regional balance of power.


This course will examine the origins of North Korea during the mid-twentieth century and its relationship to both China and the Soviet Union. Its evolution into the world’s closest society and the leadership’s decision to resort to nuclear threat for political blackmail will be studied in the context of the Western, and specifically American, response. North Korean negotiating style and its use of propaganda will be explored in depth. The human rights situation and international reactions are discussed in the context of national security, especially as it involves the recent close relationship with Iran.


The post-Cold War nations of East-Central Europe and the former Soviet Union have followed very different paths, some choosing more economic and political freedom while others have clung to state control over the people’s lives, with predictable results. The effect of joining the EU has proved a mixed blessing, while Russia’s aggressive behavior toward its former colonies has created a sense of deep uncertainty and dismay, particularly in such places as the Caucasus, the Baltics, and the Balkans. This course will explore the historical context of the contemporary strategic landscape, with particular emphasis on the uses of post- communist nationalism.


As the unrest throughout the Middle East has spread to the surrounding areas, Africa has become another breeding ground for terrorism in North Africa (al-Qaeda) and Nigeria (Boko Haram). Environmental issues, famine, ethnic warfare, and the resulting movement of peoples across borders compound regional security problems. This course also considers Africa’s economic growth as a possible stabilizing influence. Emphasis will be placed on the efforts of the international community to address such problems as pervasive corruption, the effect of AIDS, and the failure to consider Africa as a higher priority among the security concerns of developed states, especially the US. It will also examine the role of weak state institutions in attracting emerging threats from piracy, narcotics trafficking and organized crime.


The focus of this course will be on U.S. strategies for reconstituting American political and strategic influence in the 21st Century Middle East and securing our long-range national security interests. We will begin by looking at America’s diverse interests across the region, and end with a look at U.S. policy opportunities and options for reconstituting America’s position and influence in the Middle East and competing on multiple fronts with heterogeneous foes.


The United States has always had a special in and connection with Europe. The overwhelming majority of the U.S. population has European roots and from the beginning of the American Republic until the end of World War II Europe was politically, economically and militarily the most important region of the world. As such, for more than 200 years Europe had been a critical for U.S. national strategy.

  • Analyze Europe in the context of American strategic issues; and
  • Develop U.S. strategic options in context of current European realities.

This course will investigate US strategies and policies concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict and examine how Israel, the Arab-Israeli minority, and various Palestinian elements utilize diverse means to achieve their ends. It will explore Israel’s security challenges from regional state and non-state actors, including Israeli extremists, Hamas, Hezbollah, Salafi Jihadists, and assess regional instability and options for Israelis, Palestinians, other regional actors, and for the United States.

RST 643, The Contemporary Middle East: A New Look at Changing Regional Dynamics

This course aims to provide students with an understanding of the changing regional dynamics of the Middle East. The region serves as the primary source for international energy consumption, yet remains an epicenter of instability, radicalism and terrorism. The 2010 Arab uprisings, Iran’s quest for nuclear capability and the rapid expansion of Islamic State have greatly increased the volatility by threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of regional states. A resurgence of political Islam and growing sectarian divide between Sunnis and Shiites add to the regional disorder. Middle Eastern states too weak to control their territory lack the legitimacy or kinetic ability to exert full control over their borders. In these fragile areas, state and non-state threats thrive and pose tremendous national security challenges and concerns for the region and beyond.
The course will examine the national security challenges facing Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinians, and analyze how recent shifting political, social, and economic dynamics impact them. The course will focus on the regional actors’ attitudes of the challenges and threats they face and on the strategies they have chosen to confront them. It thus provides critical perspective to students seeking a more comprehensive understanding of the changing Middle Eastern landscape and foreign policy. The course is designed for students interested in the Middle East, particularly those interested in national security issues, students of comparative politics and future practitioners, with a curiosity in regional studies.

RST 644, Politics & Statecraft of Sub-Saharan Africa

While threats of the 20th century arose from powerful nation states, the key dimensions of the future – globalization, multi-national violent conflicts, and the potential proliferation of weapons of mass destruction mean great dangers from the relative weak states and ungoverned areas of Africa. Globalization enhances the awareness of the world to the most basic events, making speed of analysis and decision making more important and the consequences more significant. The objective of this course is to transform how professionals think about Africa and its interactions with the rest of the world.

RST 645, Politics and Statecraft of Latin America

This course provides an introductory view of the politics and statecraft of Latin America from the 19th century through today. It will focus on Latin America’s political history, security, economics, and political economy, with a particular emphasis on the role and influence of the United States in the region. It will also analyze the similarities and differences in how regional and global political and economic trends — independence, populism, revolutionary movements, democratization, and neoliberal reforms — have manifested themselves throughout the region. Course materials will include a mixture of books, articles, and multimedia.

By the end of the course, students should be able to:
• Identify and understand the most important analyses of Latin American politics
• Demonstrate a firm understanding of the U.S. role in Latin America
• Summarize the major trends that have swept Latin America in the 20th century
• Develop writing skills based on the course material


Islamic revivalism is one of the most significant political, social and cultural phenomena of the 21st century, and will remain a potent force in the foreseeable future. Islamist movements are not monolithic, and tactics differ toward gaining power and implementing Islamic law. In recent years some Islamists have participated in politics and gained power through elections such as Hamas in Gaza, Ennahda in Tunisia, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Others have taken up arms to resist violently against the state in Libya, Sinai, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The Islamic Republic of Iran expands its empire through proxies and terrorist militias.

Al-Qaeda and Islamic State do not recognize the notion of the international Westphalian state system, and strive to erase recognized borders in the areas in which they operate to resurrect an Islamic empire called the Caliphate. While hatred of Israel, the West, secularism and liberal democracy persists, the immediate victims of militant Islamist violence are non-conforming Muslims and ethnic-religious minorities.

The course will analyze the ideology and goals of Sunni and Shia Islamist movements. It will assess what motivates these movements and why they are successful, and analyze their strengths and weaknesses. The course will explore their attitudes of the crisis of Islam in the contemporary era; the desired form of Islamic governance; the meaning of jihad in the contemporary era; and the compatibility between Islam and democracy. In particular, the course will examine Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Iranian revolutionary regime, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Islamic State.


East Asia is a region that is undoubtedly of critical importance for the entire world: it is home to half the world’s population and rapid economic development in the region has fueled global economic growth. Yet it is also a region experiencing dramatic political and social changes that have profound implications for regional and global stability. Northeast Asia is of particular importance because it is a regional nexus in which the interests of the three largest economies and nuclear powers in the world converge. It is also the only place in the world today in which the Cold War still rages and the potential for major armed conflict is tangible. As such, this course takes a conceptual approach to analyzing the region by examining the security, political, and economic issues focusing on the major and middle powers in Northeast Asia: China, Japan, and the two Koreas, and the United States and its role in the region.

Readings for the course will focus on the current policy debates as well the conceptual/theoretical issues that inform these debates, including the resiliency of alliances in the post-Cold War and global terrorism environments; economic growth and energy/resource needs; national memory and historical animosities; democratization and modernization; multilateralism, and the role of the United States in this globally critical region.

We begin in the first section with an examination of the major theoretical paradigms and frameworks for the study of relations among states. This will lay the groundwork for a rigorous analysis and interpretation of the next two sections in which we will examine each of the major actors in Northeast Asia – China, Japan, the two Koreas, and the United States – and then address the functional issues that are most salient in shaping regional dynamics. The purpose of this course is to equip students with the analytical tools necessary to better examine, understand, and explain some of the most important political and economic phenomena confronting the world today. As such, there will be a heavy emphasis on reading preparation, class participation, and developing analytical skills through effective communication, both written and oral. As a discussion seminar, students are expected to engage in active and informed participation. This requires close reading of the assigned materials and the analytical capability to critique and integrate arguments presented in the readings.

RST 727, Russian Politics and Statecraft

This survey course on Russian politics and statecraft addresses enduring questions on: patterns of cooperation and confrontation with other great powers, a centrally dominated economy, and a political culture that exploits weak formal political institutions to sustain a very small leadership ground. In addressing these issues, we ask: What are the wars that have defined Russia’s borders? When and why do Russian leaders challenge other states? What does power in Russia look like? Who are the rulers and their supporters? How do they obtain, practice, and lose power?
In reviewing the origins and practices of Russian statecraft, we will assess when Russia as a great power has been (dis-) satisfied with the international distribution of economic and political benefits, and when it has sought to revise or maintain the international order. We will use this knowledge to address current issues in Russia’s relations with the Euro-Atlantic alliance and other world powers, including contentious issues such as money laundering, sanctions regimes, “information wars,” and Russia’s declared and undeclared conflicts.

RST 730 - Politics and Statecraft of Central Asia and the Caucuses

This survey lecture course on Central Asian and Caucasian politics, economics, and statecraft addresses the large, diverse, and yet poorly understood area between Europe, Middle East, Asia-Pacific, and Russia. Although the course emphasizes the contemporary period and the divergent paths the states of Central Asia and the Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) have taken following the end of the Soviet Union, we will evaluate the Imperial Russian and Soviet periods of regional history to understand the common origins of the political, economic, and social environments we see today.

RST 731 - Security Government in South Asia

The course will focus primarily on India, Pakistan and Afghanistan but will include examination of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka as well as South Asian links with Central Asia and Burma. Chinese, US and other external actors also will be considered. The course will begin with an exploration of South Asian geographic, environmental and ethnic realities. The historical experiences that shape national identities and aims then will be examined in some detail followed by a d exploration of the evolution of modern India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the other South Asian states. This discussion of tensions both internal and regional will blend into an exploration of South Asian economic realities and potential, The size and power of Indian and Pakistani military forces merit both a class considering their conventional balances and a second assessing their nuclear capabilities, doctrines and strategies. After a class devoted to the presentation and consideration of student research, the course will conclude with examinations of the role of the US, China, Russia and other external actors and; finally, such enduring problems as terrorism and future developments.

RST 732, Eurasian Security

Coming Soon

Program Learning Objectives

Graduates of this degree program will be able to:

  • Evaluate the major trends in regions and countries that are important for U.S. interests.
  • Appraise regional and country challenges, threats, and possibilities to advance U.S. interests.
  • Analyze ideologies, goals, strengths, and weaknesses of non-state actors.
  • Assess the threat of and propose possible solutions to resolve unconventional conflict that are important for U.S. interests.
Michael Sharnoff, Ph.D.

Program Chair

Dr. Michael Sharnoff is the Director of Regional Studies at DMGS, where he is an Associate Professor of Middle East Studies. He is the author of Nasser’s Peace: Egypt’s Response to the 1967 War with Israel (2017).

Dr. Sharnoff has traveled extensively in the Middle East and has lived in three major world capitals. He has congressional experience on Capitol Hill; worked at influential policy centers in Washington; and publishes frequently on the Middle East. His articles have appeared in major publications including The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, Al Arabiya, Palestine-Israel Journal, and Your Middle East. He completed a Ph.D. in Middle East Studies from King’s College, London, and his research interests include the Arab-Israeli conflict, Political Islam, and contemporary Middle Eastern history.