The Magic of Cinematography: Becoming a Film Major

Individual Short Policy Memo 1

Short policy memos on timely topics are a crucial part of government and private sector
Policy Memo Topic
Since the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, the countries have engaged in ongoing
conflict over controlling the region of Kashmir. A series of air conflicts in 1972 established a
460-mile border (the Line of Control) and in 2003, both countries signed a cease-fire agreement.
However, a terrorist attack on Indian police officers in February 2019 reignited tensions, with
India blaming Pakistan, and Pakistan denying culpability. Since then, skirmishes have frequently
broken out along the border. In February 2021, however, India and Pakistan issued a joint
statement in which the two countries said they would strictly adhere to the 2003 cease-fire.
Nonetheless, the US State Department states that it is currently monitoring the situation closely.
Write a memo to the US President in which you (i) assess the costs and benefits of choosing not
to intervene as compared to one other policy option (if you are having difficulty in thinking of
ideas, consider the diplomatic, economic, and military tools available to the US); and (ii) make a
recommendation about future efforts the U.S. should undertake to promote its interests.

Submission and Deadline
Your memo is due by 10:00 PM EST on the due date (see syllabus and Canvas for due dates).
Please submit policy memo 1 by uploading a PDF to the Canvas course site. Please note two
things for this PDF:
1. File name should be Memo1.Your-HUID.pdf. “Your-HUID” is your 8-digit Harvard
University ID number. So, for example, Memo1.12345678.pdf.
2. Put the HUID on the top left corner of the first page of the document. (Do not put your
name anywhere in the document.)
Navigate to the “Assignments” tab, and click on “Policy Paper 1” then upload your document
and click submit. If you need additional instructions, see:
No late assignments will be accepted without an official (health/Dean) note submitted prior to
the deadline.

Recipient of the Memo
Memos will be addressed to the President of the United States, and it is safe to assume that they
know some basic background material about the issue (they are, after all, the President, and have
a good chance of having taken E-40), including material we have read in class. Reminding the
President of linkages to particular readings will be useful. You will take the role of a special
advisor to the U.S. President. This means you do not represent the interests of any particular
interest group or government office; rather, your point of view should attempt to mirror the wide
perspective on U.S. interests that the U.S. President themself (should) take.

These memos are designed to get you to apply the concepts you are learning in class to real
world issues. It is important to apply theories we have covered in class and engage with
readings from the syllabus. Memos that regurgitate current events and do not apply key
concepts from class will do poorly. Memos that creatively apply concepts from class/readings to
propose innovative policies will do well. The instructor and teaching fellows will not read drafts
of memos, but will entertain conversation about them. The University has a writing center that

students should feel free to use (see
policies/resources/writing-center). Collaboration is NOT allowed on the policy memos.

Memos should be no longer than 750 words, not including bibliographical references. At the
top of your memo, please write the total number of words. Memos over 750 words will not be
accepted. These means you need to be extremely succinct, not waste space on “throat clearing”
or on regurgitating background information that is irrelevant to your proposal. One common
format for the memo is Summary, Background, Analysis, and Recommendation. (You are not
required to use this structure, but you may choose to.)
The summary goes first – it should be a one-paragraph summary of the policy problem, your
analysis, and your recommendation.
The background should consist of a concise review of the policy problem at hand, your country’s
policy responses in recent years, and why the issue affects the national interest of your country.
Concise means not discussing decades of history – just hit the high notes and get to the current
state of play.
The analysis should discuss the range, sequencing, and likely outcome of possible policy
options. By “possible” I mean those options that could be pursued without sucking up so many
resources that your country’s foreign policy elsewhere could not be executed. I want your
opinions for why a particular option is good or bad, and I want the reasoning behind your
opinion. Simply asserting something like “bombing will not work” is not good enough. WHY?

WHY NOT? You might consider whether the option will receive allied and multilateral support,
or domestic political support. But be clear on why this would or would not matter. You need to
present at least two clearly defined policy options.
The recommendation should sum up your analysis. Remember, you are being asked to choose the
best option from a constrained menu. You can recommend combinations and sequences of
different policy tools, but keep in mind that you have very limited space. Clearly state why you
have selected the policy option you have.

Path to Success
You are going to have to do original research to flesh out the background, current state of play,
and the likelihood of different policy options working. This should include: (1) Monitoring press
outlets; (2) Looking at official policy statements to understand stated objectives; (3) Consulting
think tank reports, policy articles, and scholarly studies of the salient countries.
Innovative incorporation of readings from class, including potentially recommended
readings, is essential to the policy memo. The core idea is to apply theories we are learning in
class to a real-world topic. Concepts need to be explained and put in context to be useful,
however. So, saying, “This scenario creates a prisoner’s dilemma” is a good first step, but needs
to go further. Why is the scenario a prisoner’s dilemma (what are the incentives of the actors?)
And what are the implications of the fact that it is a prisoner’s dilemma (e.g., what predictions
follow as to what strategies the actors will choose?)
Identify interests. It is difficult to evaluate various policy options without first identifying what
the actor’s main interests are. Furthermore, it is important to not only state an interest but also to
justify it. International actors have many interests: why is this interest the most important? For
example, stating, “The U.S. has an interest in maintaining its global hegemony” is a step in the
right direction, but the next step is to explain why the U.S. should want to preserve global
hegemony. What IR theories/concepts suggest that is a valuable national interest?
Consider counterarguments. The strongest memos present both advantages and disadvantages
for each of the policy options under consideration. Every policy involves a tradeoff. The most
compelling way to compare two policies is to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each
in a way that allows the reader to compare both dimensions.
It is imperative that you cite all works that you consult in the research and writing of your paper.
When you report a fact or a theory that you first encountered in another source, you should add a
footnote or a parenthetical note that indicates the source of the fact/theory/idea. Please also
include a Bibliography or Works Cited page at the end of your paper that includes all works you
consulted, whether or not you quoted or cited an idea directly. For more, please see

In addition, please consider the following as you research the topic:
1. Pay attention to your sources. Have you consulted a variety of sources with different
viewpoints (e.g., some journalistic, some political, some advocacy)?
2. While valuable for some purposes, Wikipedia is not a reliable source of information in an
academic context and should not be cited.
3. As the web reveals, there is a diversity of viewpoints on all topics. This is why it is
important to confirm information that you find online, particularly when you are not
familiar with the source, by finding two sources that make the same point/provide the
same information.


Do you need some help completing this research proposal? Hire our professional writers