POL S 407 A: International Conflict

Meeting Time: 
MW 12:00pm - 1:20pm
EXED 110
Elizabeth Kier

Syllabus Description:

 Spring 2017

PS 407: International Conflict

 Prof. Kier

129 Gowen, office hrs: Mon, 5:00-530 & Wed, 130-230, ekier@uw.edu


Note different office hrs for exam week: 230-400 on Tues, June 6

(not Mon, 5-530 & Wed, 130-230) 



The final exam for PolSci 407 overlaps with the PoliSci Convocation. We have scheduled an earlier final for graduating seniors who would like to attend the convocation. It will be the same day (Thurs, June 8), but start at 810am (not 830am). It will be held in Gowen 1A; it is an 80 minute exam.

If you plan on attending the convocation and would like to take the early final, please let me know ASAP (but no later than Fri, June 2) ekier@uw.edu 


Teaching Assistants:

Yu Sasaki, office location: Smith 43; office hrs: Wed, 10-12

Steve Otterman, office location: Smith 31; office hrs: Thurs., 350-550


War is a central feature of international politics. The course begins with an overview of the development of modern warfare, but it focuses on the causes of war. Is war inevitable given the structure of the international system, or can, for example, changes in beliefs or the spread of democracies temper aggressive appetites or eliminate the security dilemma? We will examine these questions by focusing on World War I, World War II, the Persian Gulf War, and the War in Iraq. The course concludes with a discussion of the ethics of war.

Requirements: Grades are based on two exams, a midterm (25%) and a final (30%); a research paper (30%); and section participation (15%). Class participation in lecture can also positively affect the final grade. Make-up exams can be scheduled if 1) the student receives the instructor’s permission prior to the exam, or 2) the student provides written documentation from a physician for having missed an exam. Students must complete all requirements.          

Readings: Readings are to be completed prior to lecture and section. Most are available on the website. The book is on reserve at Odegaard and can be purchased at the University Bookstore: Michael Howard, War in European History, 1976.

Daily reading of the New York Times is required. To subscribe to the print version, stop by or call the HUB Games Area at 206.543.5975 or the By George Newsstand 206.543.4087. The reduced college rate also provides unlimited digital access. For digital subscriptions at the college rate: NYTimes.com/UWashington

To request disability accommodation, contact Disability Resources for Students: 448 Schmitz Hall, 543-8924 (voice), 543-8925 (TTY), 616-8379 (Fax), uwdss@uw.edu. With a letter from their office, we can easily arrange accommodations.

For additional departmental and university policies see: http://www.polisci.washington.edu/Dept_and_Univ_Policies.pdf



Copy of the syllabus is available here 

Outline of course topics is available here 

Lecture outlines are available here

Reading assignments are available here

Reading questions are available here

Past exams are available here

Description of the research paper is available here

Summary of how your research paper will be assessed is available here

Recommended war films list is available here



Mon, March 27: Introduction


Wed, March 29: The Development of Modern Warfare

Carl von Clausewitz, "What is War?" chap. 1, On War, 1837.


Michael Howard, War in European History, chaps. 1-5, pp. 1-93.


Mon, April 3: The Age of Total War

Michael Howard, War in European History, chaps 6-7, pp. 94-135.

Wilfred Owen, "Dulce et Decorum Est," 1918. Read or listen: http://www.warpoetry.co.uk/owen1.html or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qts3K3KznN4

G. Sebald, “A Natural History of Destruction,” The New Yorker (Nov 4, 2002), esp. 67, 70-71.

Recommended: Animated map of the Western Front, including the battles of Verdun, the Somme, & Passchendaele. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwone/launch_ani_western_front.shtml

Film footage from WWI: http://exhibition.europeanfilmgateway.eu/efg1914/welcome

Movie: All Quiet on the Western Front. The trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiObc2XmVqw



Wed, April 5:         Contemporary Warfare

Michael Howard, War in European History, epilogue, pp. 136-143.

Andrew Krepinevich, “The War in Iraq: The Nature of Insurgency Warfare,” CSBA, June 2, 2004.

Recommended: Dept. of the Army, FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency (Washington, D.C.: 2006), esp. pp. 1-29.


Movie: The Battle of Algiers. The trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ca3M2feqJk8



Mon, April 10:  The International System: Polarity

Kenneth Waltz, "The Origins of War in Neorealist Theory," in Rotberg & Rabb, The Origin & Prevention of Major Wars.

Charles Emmerson, “Eve of Disaster, Why 2013 looks like the world of 1913, on the cusp of the Great War,” Foreign Policy, January 4, 2013.


Wed, April 12:   The International System: Power Transitions

Robert Gilpin, "The Theory of Hegemonic War," in Rotberg & Rabb, The Origin & Prevention of Major Wars.

The White House, “Prevent our Enemies from Threatening Us, Our Allies, and Our Friends with Weapons of Mass Destruction,” Section V of The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (Sept 2002).

David E. Sanger, “Beating Them to the Prewar: The ‘Anticipatory Self-Defense’ Talk,” NYT (Sept 28, 2002).


Mon, April 17: The Intl System: The Security Dilemma

Joseph Stalin, "The Hostile Anglo-American Alliance; "Clark Clifford, "American Military Firmness vs. Soviet Aggression;" and Henry A. Wallace, "The American Double Standard," in Thomas G. Paterson, ed., The Origins of the Cold War (Lexington: DC Heath, 1970).

David Cloud & Jay Solomon, “How U.S., North Korea Turned Broken Deals into a Standoff, Wall Street Journal (March 4, 2003).

Steven Lee Myers, “Bush Backs Ukraine’s Bid to Join NATO, Despite Putin’s Objections,” NYT (April, 2, 2008); and John J. Mearsheimer, “Getting Ukraine Wrong,” NYT OpEd (March 13, 2014).


Jack S. Levy, “Domestic Politics and War,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History (spring 1988): 653-673.


Wed, April 19: The State: Diversionary War and Nationalism

A.J.P. Taylor, "Second Thoughts," The Origins of the Second World War (Atheneum, 1961): 277-93.

T.W. Mason, "Some Origins of the Second World War," Past & Present (1964): 67-87.

A.J.P. Taylor, "War Origins Again" Past & Present 30 (1965): 110-13.

J. Overy, “Domestic Crisis,” and War in 1939," in War & Economy in the Third Reich (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994).

Geeta Anaandoct, Tough Stand by India’s Modi on Militants Raises Risks With Pakistan,” NYT, October 23, 2016; Paul T. Miller, “How World War III Could Start in Latvia,” Foreign Policy, November 16, 2016.


Mon, April 24: The State: The Democratic Peace

Christopher Layne, “Kant or Cant: The Myth of the Democratic Peace,” in Karen Mingst and Jack Snyder, eds., Essential Readings in World Politics, Norton, 2001.

David Plotz, “Greens Peace,” New York Times Magazine, June 4, 2000.

Watch the global spread of democracy http://www.mapsofwar.com/ind/march-of-democracy.html and consider its implications.


Wed, April 26: Midterm (bring exam book)


Mon, May 1: Democracies and the conduct of foreign policy

Theodore Lowi, "Policies: Oversell, Not Overkill," The End of Liberalism, Norton, 1969, pp. 174-86.

Ryan C. Henrickson, “Clinton’s Military Strikes in 1998: Diversionary Uses of Force,” Armed Forces and Society, winter 2002: 309-32.

Excerpts from Jeffrey M. Jones, “Bush Averages Near-Record 86% Job Approval Rating in Fourth Quarter,” Gallup News Service, Jan 17, 2002.


Wed, May 3: The Military: Bureaucratic Interests

Alexis de Tocqueville, "Why Democratic Nations Naturally Desire Peace, and Democratic Armies, War,” in in Democracy in America, NY: 1838. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper/DETOC/ch3_22.htm

Stephen Van Evera, “The Cult of the Offensive & the Origins of the First World War," International Security, summer 1984: 58-107.


*** Thursday, May 5: paper topic due ***


Mon, May 8: The Military: Offense-Defense and Stability

Marc Tractenberg, "The Meaning of Mobilization in 1914," in Steven E. Miller, ed., Military Strategy and the Origins of the First World War, Princeton, 1991: 195-225.

Joby Warrick, “As North Korea’s arsenal grows, experts see heightened risk of “miscalculation,” Washington Post, March 11, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/as-north-koreas-arsenal-grows-experts-see-heightened-risk-of-miscalculation/2017/03/11/0a0b5cd2-05be-11e7-ad5b-d22680e18d10_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_usnkorea-6pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.1b55a22fcd7a  


Wed, May 10: The Individual

Robert Jervis, "War & Misperceptions" in Rotberg & Rabb, The Origin & Prevention of Major Wars, pp. 101-26.

Daniel Kahneman & Jonathan Renshon, “Why Hawks Win,” Foreign Policy, Jan/Feb 2007.

David D. Kirkpatrick, “This War is not like the others – or is it?” NYT, Aug 26, 2007.

Richard Fontaine and Vance Serchuk, “Pick your Prism: How foreign policy makers view pivotal years says a great deal about how they act in 2014,” Politico Magazine, Nov 28, 2014. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/11/pick-your-prism-113162.html#.VI9px_TF9aE

Steven Lee Myers, “In Putin’s Syria Intervention, Fear of a Weak Government Hand,” NYT, Oct 4, 2015.


Mon, May 15: The Individual: Misperceptions and War

Richard Lebow, "Cognitive Closure & Crisis Politics," Between Peace & War, Johns Hopkins, 1981, pp. 101-47.

Edward Wong and Andrew Jacobs, “U.S. Army seeks Better Ties with China’s Military,” NYT, Feb 23, 2014.


Wed, May 17: The Individual: Beliefs about War

Norman Rich, “The Ideology of Expansion, in K. Eubank, ed., World War II: Roots & Causes, Heath, pp. 42-50.

Louis L. Snyder, “Militarism: The Development of War - Cult Extremism” in German Nationalism: The Tragedy of a People: Extremism Contra Liberalism in Modern German History, Telegraph Press, 1952.

Margaret Mead, "Warfare Is Only an Invention--Not a Biological Necessity," ASIA, XL, 1940.

William James, “Remarks at the Peace Banquet,” The Atlantic Monthly, December 1904.      


Mon, May 22: The Gulf War, 1991

Background: Anthony Cordesman, “The Persian Gulf War,” in John Whiteclay Chambers II, ed., The Oxford Companion to American Military History, Oxford, 1999: 544-546.

George H. W. Bush, “The Liberation of Kuwait has Begun,” (Speech of Jan 16, 1991), reprinted in The Gulf War Reader, edited by Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, Random House, 1991.

Stephen J. Solarz, "The Stakes in the Gulf," The New Republic, Jan 7/14, 1991.

Micah L. Sifry, “U.S. Intervention in the Middle East: A Case Study,” (adapted from “Iraq, 1958 to the Present: America, Oil, and Intervention,” The Nation, March 11, 1991.

Thomas Friedman, "Confrontation in the Gulf: US Gulf Policy – Vague 'Vital Interest," NYT, Aug 12, 1990.


Wed, May 24: The War in Iraq, 2003

Colin Powell, “We Reserve our Sovereign Right to Take Military Action,” (excerpts from a speech at the World Economic Forum), NYT, Jan 27, 2003; and George W. Bush, “Domestic Security,” “Disarming Iraq,” and “The Military,” (excerpts from the State of the Union), NYT, Jan 28, 2003.

James A. Phillips, “A Strong Case against Iraq,” The Heritage Foundation, Web Memo, #154, Oct 8, 2002.

Project for the New American Century, “Letter to President Clinton,” Jan 26, 1998.

Jeffrey Record, “The Neoconservative Vision and 9/11,” in Dark Victory: America's Second War against Iraq, Annapolis, Md., Naval Institute Press, 2004, pp. 17-29.

John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, “Can Saddam Be Contained? History Says Yes,” Belfer Center for Science and Intl Affairs, Harvard University, Nov 12, 2002.

Andrew J. Bacevich & Elizabeth H. Prodromou, “God is not Neutral: Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy after 9/11,” Orbis, winter 2004: 43-54.


Mon, May 29: Memorial Day (no class)


Wed, May 31:   The Ethics of Warfare

Nicholas G. Fotion, “The Gulf War: Cleanly Fought,” & George A. Lopez, “The Gulf War: Not So Clean,” both in Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Sept. 1991: 24-29, 30-35.  

Eric Schmitt, "US Army Buried Iraqi Soldiers Alive in Gulf War," NYT (9.15.1991); Eric Schmitt, "Navy Finds Fault in Gulf War Raid," NYT, Sept 29, 1991; Kramer, "Death Highway, Revisited," Time, March, 18, 1991.

Jimmy Carter, “Just War - or a Just War?” NYT, March 9, 2003.

John McCain, "The Right War for the Right Reasons," NYT, March 12, 2003.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Statement on Iraq,” Washington, D.C., Nov 13, 2002.


*** June 1, 9am. Research paper due ***


Thurs, June 8, 830-950: Final Exam (bring exam book)





Catalog Description: 
Examines different theoretical explanations for the causes of war, including the role of international, state, organizational, and individual factors; additional topics vary with instructor. May include the development of warfare, deterring weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, intelligence, and the ethics of warfare.
Department Requirements: 
International Relations Field
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:36pm