Introduction to international relations: understanding war, peace, and world order

This course is guided by an emphasis on questions about the causes and consequences of war, peace, and world order. It presents the strategic approach to the study of international relations, while keeping a commitment to covering the fundamentals of the discipline. The foundational topics are all there: the major theories of war, the domestic sources of international politics, an exploration of the democratic peace, the problems of terrorism, the role of foreign aid, democratization, international political economy, globalization, international organizations, international law, and the global environment. The course is divided in four parts. The first part of the course lays the foundations, offering highly accessible coverage of key concepts, introducing students to different ways to think about the national interest and showing them how to use game theory and the strategic perspective/selectorate theory to better understand what happens in all aspects of international affairs. This section uses debate over North Korea's nuclear weapons development as an ongoing example to build concepts and build confidence in the student's know how of basic modeling ideas. Also covered is a basic, intuitive introduction to game theory and other evidence and logic based tools for analyzing international relations. The second part focuses on war, and provides a more thorough evaluation of how domestic political incentives and the domestic institutions of governance shape choices about conflict initiation, escalation, and termination. It also surveys major theories of war and conflict, working through hypotheses derived from constructivism, neo-realism, liberalism and selectorate theory and evaluating them against the evidence to see what actually works and what doesn't. The third part focuses on peace, and builds on the logic of collective action to help students see why it is so difficult to get national governments to do what is right even when they can agree on what is right, with chapters covering the effectiveness of international organizations and international law, as well as a thorough evaluation of environmental issues, human rights enforcement and the domestic and the international political economy of trade. The fourth part discusses world order, and emphasizes efforts to promote the spread of democracy and economic prosperity. It also addresses how to understand and deal with terrorism. Whether examining terrorism, the spread of democracy or the alleviation of poverty, topics in this section carefully examine which strategies work, which do not, and why. The Arab Spring provides a useful ongoing example of the strengths and weaknesses of foreign aid policy and military intervention policies.

Payment required

You must pay fees for this course.

Introduction. 1. Evaluating arguments about international politics. 2. The strategic perspective: when foreign policy collides with domestic politics. 3. Tools for analyzing international affairs. 4. An introduction to game theory. 5. Why war: the big picture. 6. Domestic theories of war. 7. How international organizations work, or don’t work. 8. Global warming: designing a solution. 9. Human rights, international law and norms. 10. Free trade or fair: the domestic politics of tariffs. 11. Globalization: international winners and losers. 12. Foreign aid, poverty and revolution. 13. Can terrorism be rational? 14. A democratic world order: peace without democratization.

Indicative reading: 

Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce (2013), Principles of International Politics, 5th edition, Washington: QC Press.

ECTS credits: