Unit 1: Studying International Politics


Topic 1: Introductory


Class 1: Introduction to and Overview of the Course

(Tuesday, February 14)
  • [There were no readings assigned for today.]

Topic 2: Approaching International Politics: Conceptions of the International System


Class 2: Classical Realism

(Thursday, February 16)
  1. In “The Melian Dialogue,” what do the various commentators suggest is the relationship between power and morality, between “might” and “right”?
  2. What do the various commentators suggest is the relationship between morality and self-interest? Is the “observation of right” “folly”?
  3. What do the various commentators suggest is the relationship between fortune in war and the righteousness of a cause?
  4. According to Hobbes, is there justice in the state of nature? What are the primary motives of human behavior?
  5. What did Hobbes see as the natural consequences of equality among individuals in the state of nature?
  6. In what ways is Hobbes’ account of the state of nature useful for understanding international politics? What did Hedley Bull suggest are the most useful insights?
  7. What did Carr suggest was the relationship between power and morality, between “might” and “right”?
  8. On what basis did Carr criticize internationalism?

Class 3: Realism: Modern Approaches

(Tuesday, February 21)
  1. What is the role of the distribution of power in Waltz’s account of international politics? Which distribution of power leads to the greatest stability? Given the context in which he formulated his theories, which case(s) do you think he had in mind when he formed this theory?
  2. Waltz & Mearsheimer are both systemic theorists. What does it mean to be a “systemic theorist”?
  3. According to Mearsheimer, what are the tenets of defensive realism? What are the tents of offensive realism? Which does Mearsheimer think more appropriately characterizes international relations? On what basis does he defend that claim? Do you think he is correct? Why or why not?
  4. What is the security dilemma?
  5. What is the offense-defense balance? How does it relate to the security dilemma?

Class 4: Liberalism: Cooperation and Institutions in the International System

(Wednesday, February 22, 6:00 PM)
  1. What is the difference between harmony and cooperation? Which is harder to achieve in international politics, and what is the significance of achieving it?
  2. According to Keohane, is hegemony necessary to secure cooperation in international politics? What functions/roles can international regimes play in securing cooperation?
  3. What are the strategies Axelrod & Keohane suggest lead to cooperation in IP? What is the special role played by reciprocity? What do they mean by “conditional cooperation”?

Class 5: Domestic Politics Approaches

(Tuesday, February 28)
  1. What, according to Russett is the single best predictor of electoral success? Why do you think this variable matters so much?
  2. What is the role of interest groups in Rogowski’s account? What determines actors’ economic interests? Do you think the Stolper-Samuelson model best captures actors’ economic interests? How else might we classify actors on the basis of their interests?
  3. Why, according to Bailey, Goldstein, & Weingast, did the Democrats pass the RTAA in 1934? What were the significant institutional innovations included in the law? How did these innovations influence subsequent policy?

Class 6: Ideas and Culture in the International System

(Thursday, March 1)
  1. What does Wendt mean by the suggestion that “anarchy is what states make of it”?
  2. What is the relationship between structure and process in the constructivist approach? What is the role of “culture”? What is meant
  3. How does constructivism compare to rationalism?
  4. Alexander Wendt has famously suggested that is it possible to be a “realist constructivist.” What did he mean by that? Do you agree that it is possible? Why or why not?
  5. What does it mean to suggest that ideas serve as “road maps”?

Unit 2: War and Peace


Topic 3: Theories about War and Peace


Class 7: General Theories of International Conflict

(Tuesday, March 6)
  1. What relationship does Carl von Clausewitz see between war and policy? How does Schelling see this relationship?
  2. What is the difference between a “rational” and “irrational” explanation for war? Under what conditions is war rational?

Class 8: The Democratic Peace: Institutions and Norms as Determinants of Conflict

  • (Thursday, March 8)
  1. According to Kant, what features of liberal republics will lead them to establish a “separate peace”?
  2. How does Kant’s understanding of these features compare to the understandings developed and deployed by Doyle and Russett?
  3. According to Farber & Gowa, under what conditions is the empirical regularity of the democratic peace robust? How, then, would they explain it?
  4. In class 7, you read Waltz’ consideration of “liberalism.” Does he think it is possible to establish a “perpetual peace”? Why or why not? What significance would he assign to the democratic peace, from the standpoint of formulating policy prescriptions?

Class 9: Grow or Die: An Imperialist Impulse

(Tuesday, March 13)
  1. What did Burke mean by the formulation “armed doctrine”? What might be some contemporary examples of “armed doctrines”?
  2. What is “the white man’s burden”? If one were to recast the burden as “the privileged person’s burden,” how would you find this policy prescription?
  3. What are the conditions under which imperialism–broadly construed (see course lectures)–is justified? Is protecting human rights such a condition? If so, how are we to determine which “rights” are included as actionable “human rights”?
  4. What are the conditions under which Luttwack suggests “giving war a chance”? Do you agree with his suggestion?
  5. Why did the US allow the Rwandan genocide to occur? What could the US have done to prevent it? What course do you think the US should have taken?

Class 10: “The Savage Wars of Peace” — Universalism, Sovereignty, & Foreign Intervention

(Thursday, March 15)
  1. What did Burke mean by the formulation “armed doctrine”? What might be some contemporary examples of “armed doctrines”?
  2. What is “the white man’s burden”? If one were to recast the burden as “the privileged person’s burden,” how would you find this policy prescription?
  3. What are the conditions under which imperialism–broadly construed (see course lectures)–is justified? Is protecting human rights such a condition? If so, how are we to determine which “rights” are included as actionable “human rights”?
  4. What are the conditions under which Luttwack suggests “giving war a chance”? Do you agree with his suggestion?
  5. Why did the US allow the Rwandan genocide to occur? What could the US have done to prevent it? What course do you think the US should have taken?

Topic 4: Case Studies


Class 11: World War I

(Tuesday, March 20)
  1. According to Gordon, what role does domestic conflict play in having caused the First World War? Do you agree with his accounts of the influence of domestic conditions in these two cases?
  2. What was “the cult of the offensive”? What role does Van Evera suggest it played in causing WWI? What role does Sagan suggest it played?
  3. According to Sagan & Van Evera, what is the relationship between military strategies and political objectives?

Class 12: World War II: The Twenty Years’ Crisis in Europe

(Thursday, March 22)
  1. Why was Adolph Hitler such an asshole? What role did this play in causing the Second World War?
  2. According to Bullock, what was the relationship between Hitler’s fanaticism and his cynicism?
  3. In recent years, historians have increasingly focused on Hitler’s laziness, drug addictions, and military incompetence. How does that rendering compare to the rendering given by Bullock? Is there any way to reconcile to the two accounts?
  4. In several previous readings, we have seen authors using the particular rhetorical trick of framing their arguments in the same terms in which their opponents’ arguments have been framed. In what ways did Hitler suggest his policies were built on the same starting points as those in practice in Britain, the United States, and the other future Allies?
  5. What was “lebensraum”? How did Germany hope to secure it? To what extent was Germany’s pursuit of “lebensraum” a departure from the previous policies of other major European policies?
  6. What system-level variables contributed to the eruption of the Second World War?

Class 13: World War II: The War in the East

(Tuesday, April 3)
  1. According to Sagan, what impelled the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor? Was their decision rational?
  2. What impelled the Japanese to build an empire? In what mode did they build this empire? What were the principal similarities and differences between the approach to IP taken by the Empire of Japanand the approach taken by the Nazis?
  3. What were the key variables at each level of analysis that led to the Pacific War?

Class 14: The Cold War: East versus West

(Thursday, April 5)
  1. According to Kennan, what were “the sources of Soviet conduct”? What are his primary explanatory variables? Which level(s) of analysis does Kennan emphasize? Which sources do you think mattered the most?
  2. What was the strategy of “containment”? How was this theory implemented in the context of Western Europe, Korea, and Vietnam?
  3. What was the “domino theory”? What was the relationship between the “domino theory” and Kennan’s theory of “containment”?

Class 15: Nuclear Weapons and the Cold War

(Tuesday, April 10)
  1. According to Brodie, how does “the weapon” change the nature of warfare? How ought it influence our strategies in conducting foreign policy?
  2. Did JFK handle the Cuban Missile Crisis in the right way? Which theory or theories of international politics best explain JFK’s approach? Were his threats credible?
  3. According to Waltz, what role did nuclear weapons play in shaping international politics during the Cold War? What role do nuclear weapons play in assuring deterrence? How effective is deterrence? How do his views compare to the views developed by Jervis and Mueller?

Unit 3: International Political Economy


Topic 5: IPE Issue Areas


Class 16: Models of Trade Policy

(Thursday, April 12)
  1. Why do economists think that free trade is mutually beneficial? If that is the case, how do we explain the reluctance of states to embrace free trade in their foreign economic policies?
  2. According to Barton, et al, what is the role of power in shaping international trade negotiations?
  3. What have been the principal factors that have driven the evolution of the trade regime?
  4. According to Rogowski, what is the role of domestic interest groups in shaping foreign economic policy? What determines the composition of the coalitions? What variables might drive the coalitions to form along lines other than those suggested by Rogowski? What other variables–besides domestic interests–shape foreign economic policy?

Class 17: Bringing People to Capital and Capital to People

(Tuesday, April 17)
  1. What does it mean to suggest that trade and factor mobility are “substitutes”? In what ways are they not substitutes?
  2. As the Second World War drew to a close, international regimes were created to manage international trade (the GATT/WTO) and the international financial system (the IMF); but there has never been a regime to manage migration. What is the significance of this “gap” in the IPE regimes? How do we explain this gap? If a new regime were to be created, what do you think would be its main features and why?
  3. What variables determine the amount of bargaining power enjoyed by states and MNCs? In what ways can states increase their bargaining power? In what ways can MNCs?

Class 18: The International Monetary System

(Thursday, April 19)
  1. What is an exchange rate? What is an exchange rate regime? What role do exchange rates play in shaping international economic relations?
  2. Are exchange rate regimes defined de jure or de facto? What variables cause the two to separate?
  3. What type of explanation does Jeff Frieden offer for states’ exchange rate policies? What are the key variables in his analysis? How well do these variables explain the exchange rate policies of the US, the EU, and China today?
  4. How does Barry Eichengreen explain exchange rate policies? What type of explanation does he offer? How does his explanation compare to the explanation offered by Frieden? How well does Eichengreen’s theory explain the exchange rate policies of the US, the EU, and China today?

Topic 6: An IPE Case


Class 19: The Mexican Case: NAFTA, Crisis, and Bailout

(Tuesday, April 24)
  1. What was the role of political unrest in triggering the Peso Crisis?
  2. What does Edwards mean when he says that the “Mexican miracle” was an “invented miracle”?
  3. If the US, Canada, and Mexico are all part of the WTO, how is it legally possible for the three to share a preferential trade agreement?
  4. Did NAFTA create or divert trade? What does it mean to say that trade agreements “create” or “divert” trade?

Unit 4: International Organization


Class 20: The United Nations

(Thursday, April 26)
  1. What are the founding premises of the United Nations? Are these premises at odds at all? Insofar as they are, which has/have traditionally taken precedence? Which do you think should take precedence? Why?
  2. What are the various mechanisms available to help organize the international system? What does it mean for the international system to be “organized”? Does that answer to that question vary depending on the issue area with which we are concerned?
  3. What is the significance of the UN Security Council?

Class 21: International Legal Organization

(Tuesday, May 1)
  1. What are the principal organs that preside over the international legal system? Who enforces their decisions? To what extent does international law influence state behavior?
  2. What are jus cogens, jus ad bellum, and jus in bello?
  3. Do treaties constrain international actors? According to Simmons and Hopkins, why do or don’t they?
  4. According to Abbot, how do each of the major schools and approaches to international politics think of international law?

Unit 5: Contemporary Issues in the International System


Class 22: The Environment

(Thursday, May 3)
  1. What was TR Malthus’ “principle of population”? What are the available types of “checks” to population growth? What role (if any) does Malthus’ theory play in contemporary debate?
  2. What is the tragedy of the commons? How does it relate to climate change?
  3. Does free trade lead to environmental degradation? Why or why not? What are the distributive implications of these effects?
  4. Why is Thomas Schelling critical of the Kyoto Protocol? Do you agree or disagree with him?

Class 23: Terrorism and the War on Terror

(Tuesday, May 8)
  1. What do we mean by the term “asymmetric political violence”? How does this term compare to the term “terrorism”?
  2. According to Huntington, what will be the major axis of political conflict in the post-Cold War world? Do you agree? Why or why not?
  3. Is terrorism rational? What is the strategic logic of terrorism? Does it work?
  4. In what ways has US foreign policy changed since September 11th? Which theory best describes US behavior?
  5. Why did Mearsheimer and Walt think the war in Iraq was “unnecessary”?
  6. How does contemporary “faith-based terrorism” compare to the “faith-based terrorism” of the past? What lessons can we learn from our previous experience with this type of asymmetric political violence?

Class 24: Understanding and Evaluating Globalization

(Thursday, May 10)
  1. What is the relationship between globalization and economic development? What is the relationship between globalization and political development?
  2. According to the advocates of globalization, what are its advantages?
  3. According to the critics of globalization, what are its disadvantages? What proposals do they make for reforming globalization?
  4. How does the current era of globalization compare to the First Era of Globalization (at the turn of the 20th Century)? What lessons can we learn from that past that might help us today?