POL 4885W: International Conflict and Security

3 CreditsGlobal PerspectivesWriting Intensive

Why do states turn to military force and for what purposes? What are the causes of war and peace? What renders the threat to use force credible? Can intervention in civil wars stall bloodshed and bring stability? How effective is military force compared to other tools of statecraft? How can states cope with the threat posed by would-be terrorists? What is counterinsurgency doctrine? What is the future of military force in global politics? This course addresses these questions - and others. The course is organized loosely into three sections or themes. The first section explores the causes and consequences of interstate war and peace. We will examine whether and how the international system, domestic institutions and politics, ideas and culture, ethnic and racial prejudice and inequity, and human psychology shape the path to war. Along the way, we debate whether war has become obsolete and why great power rivalry might be raising its ugly head once again. Attention is also devoted to the impact of war on economy and politics as well as the relations between armed forces and civilian government. The second section of the class explores the possibilities, limits, and challenges of more limited uses of force - such as the threat of force (coercion), peacekeeping and humanitarian intervention, and terrorism and counterterrorism. A third theme explores the strategic and ethical implications of the use of force and especially of innovation in military technologies - nuclear weapons, cyber, drones. Across all three sections, we examine how war and society mutually affect each other, including how racial, ethnic, and other categorical identities affect critical dynamics in security, from threat perception to military mobilization. The course is organized around theoretical arguments, historical cases and data, and policy debates. Sessions are deeply interactive, engaged discussion is a must, and the class often divides into smaller groups for more intensive debate. Class time is also devoted to helping students craft an effective final research paper.

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All Instructors

B+ Average (3.186)Most Common: A (23%)

This total also includes data from semesters with unknown instructors.

274 students
  • 4.58


  • 4.14


  • 4.74


  • 4.59


  • 4.48



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