Intel hosts foreign policy speaker

Erin Almeter, Staff writer

The Mercyhurst National Security Club, under Mercyhurst’s Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences, will be hosting Ross Harrison, Ph.D., an author and Intelligence Studies professor from Georgetown University and University of Pittsburgh.

His visit is supported by both the Intelligence Studies and Political Science departments. It will take place on Oct. 28 from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. in Zurn 114.

Harrison is the author of “Strategic Thinking in 3D: A Guide for National Security, Foreign Policy, and Business Professionals.” This book is currently being used in some of the Intelligence Studies courses at Mercyhurst. At Georgetown, he teaches a wide array of courses about strategy including national security, foreign policy and business. He also teaches courses at the University of Pittsburgh on Middle Eastern politics.

Aside from his teaching experience, Ross is a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and has lectured at the U.S. Department of State, the National War College and National Defense University as well as the Matthew B. Ridgeway Center for International Security Studies.

At the Oct. 28 lecture, Harrison will be discussing the frameworks in his book and use this information to help students understand the challenges of conducting foreign policy.
Harrison will specifically discuss the United States’ foreign policy in regard to Iran.

The questions he will pose deal with how the United States’ policy affects the alliance system between Iran and the United States’ external environments. He will also explore questions of how the U.S. is dealing with Iran “face-to-face” between leaders and how they maneuver in respect to one another, including how both domestic audiences are affected by U.S. foreign policy. He will then finish with an assessment of the prospect of success for U.S. strategy.

Harrison’s book is about the following dimensions of strategy: systems or alliances, opponents or maneuvering between countries and groups, or domestic audiences. It is a framework that he explained as “helping analyze an opponent’s environment.”

He described that this framework is based on strategic thinking as being applicable beyond Iran as it is meant to ask the right questions rather than provide a reader with answers.

Harrison’s interest in foreign policy stemmed from his personal realization that there was both a strategic capacity deficit and a high demand for one. He wanted to provide a framework to help decision makers to ask the right questions about foreign policy

When writing his book, Harrison stated that a senior government official explained that he was “writing the linguistics of strategy.” Harrison worked to find the common elements of strategy.
Harrison expressed it was important for students to study strategic thinking because students need to understand the difference between strategy and tactics.

“Operating strategically is important, as it provides the right questions to ask,” Harrison said, “but is not a template or rubric to provide easy answers.”

Harrison cautions students that they must be careful when using the tool that is strategic thinking and fully recognize “use” versus “abuse” of the framework, much like understanding the difference between a butcher’s knife and a scalpel. For Harrison, the scalpel represents strategic thinking being used appropriately as a tool, whereas the butcher knife represents the abuse that can occur when it is misused.

As for future work, Harrison is working on writing a book about Iranian foreign policies at large.

For any questions about the event, please reach out to Aaron Qiao, president of the National Security Club, at

The event is free for all students and faculty to attend, but registration is required using this link: