Syllabus - Department of Political Science

Political Science 289-10
Fall 2009
Professor Henry R. Nau
Wednesday 3:30-5:30 pm
Origins of Major Wars and Terrorism: Identity,
Institutions and Power in International Politics
This course explores the origins of major wars, including recent terrorist conflicts.
It does so from the perspective of three principal theories of international relations –
realism, liberalism and constructivism (individual and social identity). What causes major
wars? Is it primarily the distribution of relative power in the international system? For
example, wars are more likely in multipolar than in bipolar systems. Or is it a failure of
diplomacy, a breakdown in communications and international institutions? Wars are a
consequence of misunderstandings, misperceptions, and lack of effective intermediaries.
Or do wars occur primarily because shared, embedded ideas make them acceptable or
political ideologies among states differ and clash? Democratic countries fight wars
against non-democratic states but not against other democracies. If all of these factors
matter, how much do they matter relatively and under what circumstances? We will read
various accounts of major wars – 18-19th century Europe, WWI, WWII, origins and end
of the Cold War, war on terror – to see how arguments differ depending on their
underlying theoretical evaluations of the evidence.
The course deals with theory as well as history. At first glance, that may not seem
interesting to policy-oriented students. But theory is indispensable to the assessment of
policies and facts. Why? Because we can never consider all the policies and facts and
theories guide us as to what policies and facts have priority. Our objective is to recognize
the role of theory in whatever specific research, policy or professional area of interest we
may be engaged in. The course is designed for both Ph.D. and M.A. students. Ph.D.
students can explore academic subjects (e.g., soft balancing under unipolarity); full-time
M.A. students can address professional interests they anticipate in future job assignments
(e.g., role of international institutions in arms inspections); and part-time M.A. students
can explore policy areas they deal with at work (e.g., role of group think, turf battles, and
role responsibilities in bureaucratic decision-making).
The principal requirements in the course are to participate in class discussions and
write a research paper. Students will prepare oral and written critiques of course readings.
These critiques (no more than 1 page single-spaced in outline form) will be presented and
distributed in class on the day of the readings. Students will also prepare a research or
policy paper (no more than 15 pages double-spaced: “if I had more time, I would write a
shorter letter”) that examines a major conflict or war and carries out an empirical
assessment of the relative influence of identity, institutions and power in causing that
event. Preparation of the research paper begins early in the semester with deadlines for
outlines, drafts and final manuscripts.
Most of the readings for the course are in journal collections in GWU’s Library
(3rd Floor) or various other libraries (at work or in public libraries closer to the student’s
residence). Many are these articles are also accessible through the Library on the internet
under JSTOR. Three books are available in the University bookstore.
Dale Copland, The Origins of Major War, Cornell University Press, 2000.
Mark L. Haas, Ideological Origins of Great Power Politics 1789-1989, Cornell
University Press, 2005.
Henry R. Nau, Perspectives on International Relations: Power, Institutions, and
Ideas, CQ Press, 2009, 2nd Edition.
My office is located in 1957 E Street, NW, Room 501F. My regular office hours
are Monday 2:00 - 4:00 pm, Wednesday 1:30-3:30 pm, and at other times by
appointment. Tel: 202-994-3167. Email: [email protected]
As a result of completing this course, students will be able to:
1. recall significant events in the history of major wars
2. understand the different conceptual approaches to the study of major wars
3. apply the history and concepts of major wars to contemporary events and debates
4. write more succinctly and engagingly
Disability Support Services (DSS)
Any student who may need an accommodation based on the potential impact of a
disability should contact the DSS office at (202) 994-8250 in the Marvin Center, Suite
242, to establish eligibility and to coordinate reasonable accommodations.
University Counseling Center (UCC)
The UCC offers assistance and referral to address students’ personal, social, career, and
study skills problems. Services for students include: crisis and emergency mental health
consultations, confidential assessment, counseling services and referrals. Contact them
at (202) 994-5300.
In the case of emergency, if at all possible, the class should shelter in place. If the
building that the class is in is affected, follow the evacuation procedures for the building.
After evacuation, seek shelter at a predetermined location.
Academic Integrity
This class holds strictly to the GW Code of Academic Integrity. It states: “Academic
dishonesty is defined as cheating of any kind, including misrepresenting one’s own work,
taking credit for the work of others without crediting them and without appropriate
authorization, and the fabrication of information.” Each student is responsible for
reading the academic code in its entirety at
September 2, 2009
I. Introduction
September 9, 2009
II. Three Perspectives on War
Jack S. Levy, "War and Peace", In Walter Carlsnaes, Thomas Risse, and Beth A.
Simmons, eds., Handbook of International Affairs (London: Sage, 2002), 350-369.
Available under Files Tab
Michael Barnett, "Identity and Alliances in the Middle East" in Peter Katzenstein, ed.,
The Culture of National Security, (Columbia University Press, 1996), 400-451. Available
under Files Tab
Henry R. Nau, Perspectives on International Relations: Power, Institutions, and Ideas
(Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2009, 2nd Edition), Introduction and Chapter 1 (1-73).
September 16, 2009
III. Realist Perspective on War
Dale Copeland, The Origins of Major Wars (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000), 156.
John Mearsheimer, "The Causes of Great Power War", The Tragedy of Great Power
Politics (New York: Norton, 2001), 334-360. Available under Files tab.
Victoria Hui, "A Dynamic Theory of World Politics” in War and State Formation in
Ancient China and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2005), 1-53.
Available under Files tab.
September 23, 2009
IV. Liberal and Identity Perspectives on War
G. John Ikenberry, "Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Persistence of American
Postwar Order", International Security, 23, 3 (winter 1998/99). 43-79. Available on
[email protected]/01cc99333c1135610609045857&dpi=3&config=jstor
Thomas Risse-Kappen, "Collective Identity in a Democratic Community", in Peter
Katzenstein, ed., The Culture of National Security (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1996), 357-400. Available under Files Tab
Mark L. Haas, The Ideological Origins of Great Power Politics, 1789-1989 (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 2005), Chapter 1 (4-40).
Research Paper Topic and Initial Bibliography Submitted
September 30, 2009
V. War in the 18th and 19th Centuries
Paul Schroeder, "Historical Reality vs. Neo-realist Theory", International Security, 19, 1
(Summer 1994), 108-149. Available on JSTOR at
[email protected]/01cc99333c1135610609045857&dpi=3&config=jstor
Paul W. Schroder, "The 19th Century International System" World Politics, XXXIX, 1
(October 1986), 1-27. Available on JSTOR at
[email protected]/01cc99333c1135610609045857&dpi=3&config=jstor
Mark L. Haas, The Ideological Origins of Great Power Politics, 1789-1989 (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 2005), Chapter 2.
October 7, 2009
VI. Wars in the 18th and 19th Centuries
Mlada Bukovansky, Legtimacy and Power Politics (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 2002), 165-211. Available under File Tab
Martha Finnemore, The Purpose of Intervention (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004),
85-14. Available under File Tab
Mark L. Haas, The Ideological Origins of Great Power Politics, 1789-1989 (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 2005), Chapter 3.
Research Paper Outline Due
October 14, 2009
VII. World War I: Offensive (including Preventive) Theories
Copeland, Origins of Major War, 56-118.
Henry R. Nau, Perspectives on International Relations, chapter 3.
Kier A. Lieber, “The New History of World War I and What It Means for International
Relations Theory”, International Security, 32, 2 (Fall 2007), 155-91. Available through
October 21, 2009
VIII. World War I: Defensive (including Preemptive) Theories
Marc Trachtenberg, "The Coming of the First World War", History and Strategy
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 47-100. Available under Files Tab
Jack Snyder, "Germany and the Pattern of Late Development", Myths of Empire (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1991), 66-112. Available under Files Tab
Jack Snyder and Kier A. Lieber, “Correspondence: Defensive Realism and the ‘New’
History of World War I”, International Security, 33, 1 (Summer 2008), 174-195.
Available through JSTOR.
October 28, 2009
IX. World War II
Copeland, Origins of Major War, 118-146.
Nau, Perspectives on International Relations, chapter 4
November 4, 2009
X. World War II
Haas, "The 1930s and the Origins of the Second World War", The Ideological Origins of
Great Power Politics, 105-146.
Thomas J Christensen and Jack Snyder, "Chain gangs and passed bucks", International
Organization, 44, 2 (Spring 1990), 137-169. Available through JSTOR
November 11, 2009
XI. Origins of Cold War
Readings: Copeland, Origins of Major War, 146-176
Nau, Perspectives on International Relations, Chapter 5.
Research Paper First Draft Due
November 18, 2009
XII. End of Cold War
Haas, "The 1980s and the End of the Cold War", The Ideological Origins of Great Power
Politics, 176-211.
Mark L. Haas, “The United States and the End of the Cold War: Reactions to Shifts in
Soviet Power, or Domestic Politics?” International Organization, 61 (Winter 2007), 145179. Available through JSTOR.
Thomas Risse-Kappen, "Let's Argue!: Communicative Action in World Politics",
International Organization, 54, 1 (Winter 2000), 1-39. Available through JSTOR
John Lewis Gaddis, "Reagan, Gorbachev, and the Completion of Containment",
Strategies of Containment, 342-380. Available under Files Tab
Research Paper Draft Returned
November 25, 2009
XIII. Terrorism and Ethnic Conflict: War, Crime, or Ideology
Stephen G. Brooks and William C. Wohlforth, “Realism, Balance-of-threat Theory and
the ‘Soft Balancing’ Constraint”, in World out of Balance (Princeton University Press,
2008), Chapter 3 (pp. 60-98). Available under Files tab
John Mueller, “Ordering the New World”, The Remnants of War (Ithaca: Cornell, 2007),
chapter 7 (pp. 117-141). Available under Files tab
Nau, Chapter 7. Available under Files tab
December 2, 2009 [No Class – Rescheduled for December 9, 2009]
December 9, 2009
XIV. Conclusion
Research Paper Due
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