Write a Policy Memo: National Security and Foreign Relations

Follow the instructions to draft a 1 to 2-page memo based on the given prompts. Once you have finished the assignment, grade yourself according to the grading rubric that follows the instructions.


Each of the prompts below outlines a hypothetical scenario requiring a policy response. Pick one of the two prompts below, and create a 1-2 page memo responding to the prompt of your choosing. Marshall what you have learned in this unit to outline a plan of action and to describe the justification for that plan. Please review the tips for composition and the self-grading rubric listed below before you begin.


1. Imagine you are the national security advisor to the chief executive of a constitutional democracy that has constitutional requirements of due legal process in capital punishment. You have received reliable intelligence that there will be an attack by a non-state actor (criminal organization, domestic or foreign terrorist organization, or a lone-wolf) on a major city in your country. Write a memo advising the chief executive with respect to using or not using lethal military force. Make sure to address the way one should weigh the cost of taking one or more human lives versus the value of saving others. Also, make sure to address the cost of acting contrary to the values of your legal system by circumventing the legal process.

2. Imagine you are the secretary of state for a constitutional democracy that actively tries to promote constitutional democracy abroad. A repressive autocracy with a history of human rights violations has proposed a trade-pact that will benefit both of your economies. Write a memo advising the major players in your government to accept or reject the pact. Speak to the trade-offs between promoting economic development for your country and strengthening a repressive regime

Tips for Composition

  • Begin your essay by clearly stating the position you want to adopt at the beginning of the memo. Follow with a series of succinct and clearly-written arguments that support your position. These arguments may vary from one paragraph to several paragraphs.
  • Organize your arguments logically and coherently. They should build upon each other to reach a final conclusion.
  • Each argument you present should come from the readings in the course. Make sure your arguments are relevant to the scenario you choose.
  • Practice citing the information, theories, arguments, and data you use from the readings. Use any of the standard citation formats for English language composition (MLA, Harvard, Chicago, Cambridge, etc.), just make sure you use the same format throughout.

Self-Grading Rubric:

  1. (50% Argument) Give yourself full credit for making a creative and compelling argument. Is your position clear and well-defined? Are there gaps in your logic? Would your argument persuade someone with decision-making power? Have you anticipated and addressed likely counterarguments? Can you think of a better or stronger position you could take? Consider making an argument you do not personally believe in!

  2. (25% Source Use) Give yourself full credit for accurate and cogent use of course material to support your argument. Do you have empirical or theoretical support for your key claims? Do you point to cases or theoretical frameworks that suggest likely outcomes? Do you use the sources fairly? In other words, can you see any areas where you may have misrepresented the core argument an author makes to better support your own?

  3. (25% Unit Treatment) Give yourself full credit for broad and balanced use of course materials. Have you used supporting arguments from most of the resources in this unit, or have you ignored large sections? You should avoid cherry-picking the most compelling material in the course.

Assign yourself a letter-grade for each of the above sections. Translate those letter grades into numbers according to the following scale:

  • A: More than 90 percent Exemplary work!
  • B: 80–89 percent Good work, but there are one or two obvious instances where you have not addressed one of the questions in the grading rubric.
  • C: 70–79 percent Satisfactory work. You have answered most of the questions in the self-grading rubric, but review your work since you have not addressed several areas.
  • D: 65–69 percent Please review your arguments and make sure they are clearly written.
  • F: Less than 64 percent Please try again! Your memo does not make a coherent or clear argument.

To calculate your final grade, use the following formula:
(percent for argument x 0.5) + (percent for source use x 0.25) + (percent for unit treatment x 0.25) =

Grade Assignment

For example: If you gave yourself an A- for argument (90%), B for source use (85%), and B for unit treatment (85%), calculate your grade as:

(90 x 0.5) + (85 x 0.25) + (85 x 0.25) = (45) + (21.25) + (21.25) = 87.5%

Last modified: Thursday, September 23, 2021, 11:17 AM