Midterm Questions 2012

Questions for PS 321 Mid-term Exam (Fall 2012)
Your midterm exam will take place in class on Monday, October 15th. It will cover all
of the material from the course up until that date, including both readings and
lectures. The emphasis however will be more on using theory to think critically
about international relations than on memorizing details, dates, etc… I am most
interested in your ability to explain the theories and analytic frameworks discussed
and apply them both to important historical examples as well as to contemporary
I will give you four of the following questions to answer in 1-2 blue book pages’worth of writing. You may plan out your answers in advance and even collaborate
with your peers. The only restriction is that on the exam day you must write your
own answer without the assistance of notes, etc… (closed-book).
For almost every question, I will ask you to state your own opinion. Have fun with
this! There is no right answer, just make sure to 1) present both sides of the
argument at some point in your response, 2) state a clear opinion, and 3) offer some
evidence in support of your argument.
1) Thucydides wrote his history of the Peloponnesian War over 2,000 years ago,
yet it is still highly relevant to international relations today. Pick three
lessons from Thucydides that you think President Obama or Gov. Romney
would be wise to heed. How are these “lessons” portrayed by Thucydides
and to what current challenges do you think they are most applicable?
2) What does the debate between Cleon and Diodotus tell us about the role of
morality in war? Explain each of their arguments. What would each say
about the use of torture against terrorist suspects today? Whose argument
do you find more persuasive in this modern context?
3) Use the levels of analysis to evaluate the causes of the (Peloponnesian War,
WWI, WWII or Cold War…TBD on exam day). Provide at least one plausible
explanation at each level and present historical details in support of each
argument. Which explanation do you find most convincing, and why?
4) Describe how realists and liberals differ in their assessments of interests,
interactions, and institutions? Which paradigm do you find most applicable
to the 21st century and why?
5) What is the concept of “sovereignty” and how did it become such an
important principle in international relations? Make reference to Hobbes,
the 30 years war, and the Treaty of Westphalia (date?). Should sovereignty
still be the bedrock principle of international relations in the 21st century?
6) Identify and describe the 5 phases of the balance of power from the Treaty of
Westphalia to the start of WWI. In your opinion, did the balance of power
system of 19th century Europe provide stability? Or was it responsible for the
onset of WWI?
7) What three big ideas did Woodrow Wilson bring to Paris in 1919? Where did
he get these ideas from and to what degree were they implemented in the
Treaty of Versailles? Can we blame Wilson’s ideas for the failure to avert a
second world war?
8) What explanations does Gaddis offer for the beginning of the Cold War? Cite
specific events/actions in support of each explanation. Which argument do
you find most convincing and why?
9) What is the security dilemma? What factors can exacerbate or mitigate the
security dilemma? Using Jervis’ logic of offense and defense, how can we
create stability in a nuclear world?
10)What is the “bargaining” approach to international conflict as presented in
your FLS textbook? Why do states sometimes fail to reach a negotiated
agreement even though war is so obviously costly? Are there ways to
overcome these obstacles? Which do you think are most effective and why?
(Give an example)
11)How do realists, neoliberals, and constructivists each view the role of
institutions. Which do you find most convincing? Use an example of the
influence/inefficacy of the United Nations or European Union to support
your argument.
12) How has Europe evolved from the site of the two deadliest wars of the first
half of the 20th century to the most successful project of transnational
institutionalization? Does this disprove realist critiques of international
institutions? Cite evidence both for and against and state which argument
you find most convincing.