Professor's book, co-written by students, offers in-depth analyses of modern presidential crises
Connecticut College Professor Alex Roberto Hybel didn’t have to go farther than his own classroom to find the high quality of writers and researchers he needed to complete two new foreign policy books.
Hybel, the Susan Eckert Lynch Professor of Government and International Relations, recently published two works analyzing critical presidential policy decisions – “US Foreign Policy Decision-Making from Truman to Kennedy – Responses to International Challenges” and “US Foreign Policy Decision-Making from Kennedy to Obama – Responses to International Challenges.” Released in March by publisher Palgrave Macmillan, the books focus specifically on key decisions made during times of international conflict or war.
The comprehensive titles cover more than 60 years of foreign policy, examining closely the challenges that were presented to each president, from the Cold War through the ongoing strife in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Examples include President Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II and President George H. W. Bush’s approach toward the Gulf War in the early 1990s. In both books, Hybel analyzes the mindset of the various presidents, the way each one approached the foreign policy decision-making process, and how receptive each president was to alternative information and options.
“No one has yet to place in a two-volume book US foreign policy decision-making cases that are so diverse, that cover such an extended period, from near the end of the Second World War to the present,” Hybel said.
Also unique is the singular voice that Hybel applies to the topics. He tests the applicability of multiple theories to each case he analyzes. The work was extensively peer-reviewed prior to publication, and journalist and television commentator Bob Franken lauded the books for taking the reader inside the minds of the presidents.
Hybel had considerable help in researching the subject matter. Connecticut College undergraduate students assisted in researching and co-writing different chapters. Hybel selected the students based on their performance in his classes, and each undergraduate knew that the project would be rigorous.
“They already know me as being very demanding and there was never any objection on their part to how much work was imposed on them,” Hybel said, of the students. “From the time I made the offer for them to contribute, they jumped at the chance.”
Benedikt Gottwald ’15, an international relations and economics major, was one of the students who was eager for the opportunity to contribute to a scholarly work. He co-wrote a chapter about the Kennedy administration and the Cuban Missile Crisis. “Working with Professor Hybel not only helped me significantly broaden my understanding of the subject, but enhanced many other skill sets that are not usually developed at such an early stage in the undergraduate experience,” Gottwald said.
In all, nine students participated in the project, each co-writing at least one chapter with Hybel. Three current students took part: Gottwald , international politics and religious studies major Marina Sachs ’15 and Ducheng Jiang ’14, a triple major in international relations, economics and classics.
The other students to contribute to the project have since graduated: Brian Gooch ’13, Aditya Harnal ’13, Sarah Flecke ’13, Caitlyn Turgeon ’08, Joanna Gillia ’07 and Justin Kaufman ’04.
Gooch, who majored in international relations, is now an admission officer at the College. He co-wrote two chapters about the Afghan War with Hybel, one examining George W. Bush’s administration and the other Barack Obama’s administration policy. Gooch was a junior when he took a class with Hybel, and after writing an impressive paper, the professor presented an opportunity to join the project.
“The more I thought about it, the more excited I got,” Gooch said. “The chance to be published as an undergraduate is very rare.”
Gooch described Hybel’s approach as a mix of steady guidance and independent work. As explained by Gooch, Professor Hybel would help students develop their own thoughts and ideas, while teaching them to generate printable concise arguments.