POL S 407 A: International Conflict

Meeting Time: 
MW 11:30am - 12:50pm
SMI 211
Elizabeth Kier

Syllabus Description:

Spring 2018


MW, 1130-1250, SMITH 211


Prof. Kier

129 Gowen, office hrs: Mon, 430-600, ekier@uw.edu


Teaching Assistants:

Chris Colligan (AA & AB): office hrs: M, 10-11 & Th, 1:30-12:30, Gowen 26, cpcoll93@uw.edu

Shihao Han (AC & AD): office hrs: MW, 3-4 pm, Gowen 28, hans36@uw.edu


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? What role does the military and developments in cyber warfare play in the potential for armed conflict? 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: A midterm (25%); final (30%); research paper (30%); and section (15%). Participation in lecture can also positively affect your final grade. Exams must be taken on the scheduled date. To avoid sanction for missed exams or late papers, students must submit a written note from a physician (or some recognized authority). 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.


Grading Policy: To request a re-grading of your work (outside of tabulation errors):

  1. Within a week of receiving your exam, give your TA your work and a typed statement of no more than one page that explains why you believe the grade should be altered. This must be about the substance of your work, not the effort you put into the class.
  2. Your TA will review and return your materials within the passing of two quiz sections.
  3. If you’re still dissatisfied, the other TA will review your materials.
  4. If the second evaluation is still to your dissatisfaction, your TA will pass the materials to Kier for her evaluation.

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 

For reading assignments, go to "Files" on left and click on "reading assignments." 

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 26: Introduction


Wed, March 28: The Development of Modern Warfare

Carl von Clausewitz, "What is War?" chap. 1, On War, 1837. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1946/1946-h/1946-h.htm#link2HCH0001 

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


Mon, April 2: 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, 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 4:  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. http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm3-24.pdf

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


Mon, April 9:  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 11:   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).

Lawrence Wilkerson, “I Helped Sell the False Choice of War Once. It’s Happening Again, NYT oped (Feb 5, 2018).


Mon, April 16: 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 18: 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).

Paul T. Miller, “How World War III Could Start in Latvia,” Foreign Policy (Nov 16, 2016).

Thomas Erdbrink, “Long Divided, Iran unites against Trump and the Saudis in a Nationalist Fervor,” NYT (Nov 26, 2017).


Mon, April 23: 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.

Consider the implications of The Economist’s Democracy Index for peace and stability. https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2018/01/daily-chart-21?cid1=cust/ddnew/email/n/n/20180131n/owned/n/n/ddnew/n/n/n/neu/Daily_Dispatch/email&etear=dailydispatch


Wed, April 25: Midterm (bring exam book)


Mon, April 30: 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 2: 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 3: paper topic due ***

see instructions above


 Mon, May 7: 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.

Chris Horton, “Airliners Have Become China’s Newest Means of Pressuring Taiwan,” NYT (Jan. 19, 2018).


Wed, May 9: The Military: The Offense-Defense Balance and Cyber warfare

Guest Lecture: Chris Colligan, Ph.D. candidate, Political Science; University of Washington;

International Security Colloquium Graduate Fellow

Lily Hay Newman, "The U.S. Gives Cyber Command The Status It Deserves," Wired (Aug 19, 2017): https://www.wired.com/story/cyber-command-elevated/

David Sanger and Mark Mazzetti, "U.S. Had Cyberattack Plan If Iran Nuclear Dispute Led to Conflict," NYT (Feb. 16, 2016): https://nyti.ms/2jHG8Tk

David Sanger and Eric Schmitt, "U.S. Cyberweapons, Used Against Iran and North Korea, Are a Disappointment Against ISIS," NYT (Jun. 12, 2017): https://nyti.ms/2sdR2F6

Eric Niiler, "The U.S. Takes on the World in NATO Cyber War Games," Wired (Apr. 29, 2017): https://www.wired.com/2017/04/us-takes-world-natos-cyber-war-games/

Matt Gallagher, "Army of 01101111: The Making of a Cyber Battalion," Wired (Mar. 28, 2018): https://www.wired.com/story/army-cyber-troops-fort-gordon/


Mon, May 14: The Individual: Misperceptions and War

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

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

Edward Wong & Andrew Jacobs, “U.S. Army Seeks Better Ties with China’s Military, NYT (Feb. 22, 2014).


Wed, May 16: The Individual: Beliefs and War

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

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

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

William James, “Remarks at the Peace Banquet,” The Atlantic Monthly (Dec 1904).          


Mon, May 21: 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 23: 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 28: Memorial Day (no class)

Focus on completing your research paper as you will present your findings in section on Tues., May 29.


Wed, May 30:   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 (Sept 5.1991); 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).


*** May 31, 9am. Research paper due ***

Submit on Canvas and provide TA with hard copy


Wed, June 6, 230pm: 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: 
October 17, 2018 - 9:10pm