The 2019 Hamilton National Institute (HNI) gathered 15 students in Washington, D.C. for a one-week seminar on the foundational framework of Hamiltonian studies. With two classroom sessions per day led by a master teacher and supplemented by guest speakers, the HNI educated students in the fundamentals and first principles of American Exceptionalism, War and Politics, Grand Strategy, the American Economic Order, and Advancing Democracy Abroad. Participants kicked off the week with an opening reception at the home of Walter Russell Mead where he discussed the importance of studying intellectual history.
In preparation for their seminars, students explored a diverse array of works, some with enduring importance, like the Federalist Papers and Carl von Clausewitz’s On War, and others which are shaping the contemporary policy discussion, like Robert Kagan’s essay “The Strongmen Strike Back.”
Seminar discussions were complemented by conversations with past and present national security practitioners. General (Ret.) David Petraeus discussed the strategic, operational, and tactical decisions behind the surge in Iraq as well as the fight against Islamic extremism. Paul Lettow, former Senior Director at the National Security Council and Brent McIntosh, General Counsel for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, examined interagency functions. Mark Strand, president of the Congressional Institute, explored Congress’ influence on foreign policy. Theresa Campobasso of KPMG’s Federal Advisory spoke with students about the security clearance process.
The week culminated with a crisis simulation, centered on deterring a nuclear-armed North Korea. Directed by Ryan Boone (AHS Johns Hopkins University, SAIS, ‘18, and Duke University ‘13) of the U.S. Department of Defense and Adam Lemon (AHS Duke University ‘17) of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis, the simulation required students to take on the roles of major actors like the United States, Japan, and China. The exercise forced participants to reckon with a fast-paced, multi-player conflict. It exposed students to the reality that real-world contingencies move much faster than seminar discussions allow.