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South Carolina Honors College

Promoting Rule of Law in a Turbulent World: Challenges for US Foreign Policy

Taught By: Gordon B. Smith

A major challenge confronting the U.S. and other international actors in transitional, fragile and post-conflict states is the creation of legal institutions for insuring order, preventing crime and dispensing justice.

Legal institutions must be created expeditiously to prevent the emergence of organized criminal groups, vigilantism and terrorist activity. It is also important to create mechanisms for resolving commercial disputes, protecting property rights, and promoting internationally recognized human rights. All of these elements are essential for developing a legal environment conducive to foreign investment and domestic legitimacy and support by the population. Moreover, the promotion of rule of law in transitional and post-conflict zones must be undertaken with due deference to traditional, customary, and religious legal norms and institutions. This course examines these complex aspects of promoting rule of law in turbulent regions and the challenges they pose to U.S. foreign policy.

Course Objectives

This course will provide an overview to the origins and development of rule of law in Western and non-Western cultures, and its relationship to human rights and democracy. We will survey rule of law “lessons learned” from cases as wide-ranging as the former USSR, Iraq and Afghanistan. We will then apply those “lessons learned” to assess current developments in North Africa, the Middle East, China and elsewhere. Topics to be covered include reconciling rule of law with traditional and religious cultural norms, anti-corruption measures, combating narcotics production and trafficking, promotion of gender rights and other human rights, working with NGOs and IGOs, resolving land and water disputes, post-conflict reconciliation and distributive justice.


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.