International Relations


Topics in International Relations

This course will enable regular or visiting faculty members to examine topics in International Relations not treated in the established curriculum. Subjects may therefore vary each time the course is offered.

GOVT 50.01 - Topics in International Relations

International History of Human Rights (Identical to History 6.02)

In this course, students will study the history of human rights in the modern era, tracing the idea of the "Rights of Man" from the time of the Enlightenment; the uneasy coexistence of democracy and slavery; 19th century humanitarian movements, including abolitionism; the internationalization of humanitarianism and the Red Cross; the socialist challenge to "liberal" human rights; and the development of the international human rights movement per se since World War II. Dist: SOC or INT, WCult: W.


Civil War, Insurgency, and the International Response

This course examines why civil wars begin, how they are fought, how they end, and what the international community can do to mitigate their cost. We will use these ideas to ground analysis of prominent conflicts, including Iraq, Vietnam, Colombia, and Congo. Some specific topics include theories of insurgency and counterinsurgency; successes and failures of international peacekeeping; the role of ethnicity and religion; and the relationship between civil conflict and economic development. Dist: TMV or INT, WCult:  NW.


The Rise of China

This course explores the international strategic implications of the growth of Chinese power. We begin by studying periods of Chinese strength and decline, and by learning the history of China's relations with its neighbors and with the United States. We examine China's recent transition from a position of weakness into one of growing wealth and power. Next, we explore China's relations and disputes with its neighbors, focusing on Japan, the Korean peninsula, and Southeast Asia. We then turn to the issue of U.S.-China relations, and examine the potential for the growth of Chinese power to lead to superpower confrontation. This course has two primary goals: (1) to familiarize students with the international strategic issues – in East Asia and in U.S.-China relations – that are salient to China's rise; and (2) to provide students with analytic tools (theories and military analysis) useful to the study of security relations in East Asia. Course Prerequisite: Govt 5 is strongly recommended but not required.   Dist: SOC or INT, WCult:  NW.


War and Peace in the Modern Age

This course is designed to acquaint students with the fundamentals of war and peace; that is, with the political uses of military power and the respective roles of military and civilian leaders in formulating and implementing foreign policy. We will also investigate how war affects civil society's social movements and how the characteristics of states' domestic politics arrangements affect or constrain the ways that leaders choose to execute their most preferred strategies.  Finally, we will also try to come to an understanding of what war is actually like for those, both combatant and non-combatant, that must participate in war on a daily basis. Dist: SOC.

GOVT 50.05 - Topics in International Relations

Human Rights and International Relations

States’ human rights practices are no longer viewed as simply a domestic political issue. Since the end of WWII, a complex system of international laws and institutions has developed that aims to regulate the human rights practices of states. In this course we will study the politics of the human rights regime and consider the following big questions: What exactly are human rights? Does international human rights law have any impact on states' behavior? If so, how? Is economic globalization good or bad for human rights? Is the evolving human rights regime changing what it means to be a state in the 21st century? Prerequisites:  Govt 5 & Govt 10.  Dist: SOC or INT.

GOVT 50.06 - Topics in International Relations

Nuclear Weapons: Physical and Strategic Effects

This course examines the effect of nuclear weapons on the conduct of international politics.  It begins by examining the physical properties of nuclear weapons, and then uses evidence from the Cold War to address the following questions:  Why did the United States and Soviet Union build such large arsenals?  What did they plan to do with these weapons?  How did nuclear weapons fit into U.S. and Soviet military strategy at various phases of the Cold War?  The course uses evidence from the Cold War to evaluate theories of nuclear deterrence and the so-called "nuclear peace".  The last section of the course focuses on current issues relating to nuclear weapons: the spread of nuclear weapons in the developing world, the dangers of nuclear terrorism, the potential for effective missile defenses, and the changing strategic nuclear balance of power. Dist: SOC or INT.

GOVT 50.08 - Topics in International Relations

International Institutions

What, if anything, can psychology tell us about international security? This seminar looks at the various ways in which IR scholars have drawn upon psychology to enhance existing theories and develop new insights into world politics. Political psychology has been leveraged to make sense of puzzles at the core of IR, from nuclear proliferation to war and institutional cooperation. The course is designed around substantive psychological topics, which will form the basis of our critical discussions each week. Topics include decision-making, risk assessment, trust, reputation, emotions, social identity, nationalism, and leader personality/beliefs. This course does not require a background in psychology. Dist.

GOVT 50.11 - Topics in International Relations

Politics of Asia

This course introduces the international politics of modern Asia. It will first examine the interplay of Asian powers, including China, the US, India, Japan, Taiwan, and North and South Korea. It will evaluate a number of key zones of sub-state conflict in territories such as Kashmir, Southern Thailand, Aceh, and Mindanao. The course will also focus on Asia's regional economy, security, multilateral relations, and its role amidst processes of globalization.

GOVT 50.13 - Topics in International Relations

Leading Voices

American interests and values are increasingly affected by events that occur beyond our borders. This course addresses the major issues in U.S. foreign policy today. These issues include American grand strategy, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, international public health, international economic development, international trade and finance, climate change, human rights and humanitarian intervention, as well as regional issues such as U.S. policies towards China, the Middle East and Afghanistan.  One course meeting each week will be devoted to preparing for the week's guest speaker and discussing the content of the previous week. The second class meeting will be reserved for the guest speaker who will be asked to address an assigned topic.

GOVT 50.15 - Topics in International Relations

United Nations Crisis Resolution and Peace Keeping

Why does the UN intervene in some places, but not others? What are the conflict resolution tools available to the international community? How can we make peacekeeping more effective? In this course, we will explore these questions as we delve into the international politics of resolving crises. The focus is on the crises that have emerged since the end of the Cold War particularly in the areas of civil war and state failure.  We begin by introducing a framework whereby students can analyze competing theories of why states intervene in international crises and evaluate the conditions for success in different types of intervention, such as peacekeeping. Then, we will consider current issues facing the UN and how they may be addressed via a simulation of the UN Security Council. By the end of the course, students will be able to intelligently evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of various peacebuilding strategies in light of evidence from social science and apply their insights in a foreign policy paper. Dist: SOC or INT;

GOVT 50 - Topics in International Relations

Race and Gender in International Relations

This course examines the effects of race, gender and ethnicity on different aspects of international relations. Although generally under-emphasized, these three factors often exert significant influences on a variety of global issues. Race often plays important roles in immigration policies, supranational integration, and foreign military interventions. Similarly, ethnicity often impinges decisively on the outbreaks and resolutions of internal wars, secessionist conflicts, and major human rights abuses. Meanwhile, gender often significantly affects international economic production, human trafficking, and global labor migrations. In addition, gender, race and ethnicity (often in conjunction with other ideational factors) play important roles in global civil society movements, conflicts between international and traditional norms, and the politics of international organizations. This course analyzes these and other related topics theoretically and empirically by investigating various recent cases in international relations. Dist: INT; WCult: CI.

GOVT 50 - Topics in International Relations

Consequences of Globalization

What are some of the consequences of economic and social globalization? Can it be said to be either good or bad for causes such as human rights or protection of the environment? In this course we’ll critically examine arguments on both sides of the debates about the effects that globalization is having on a number of different outcomes including human rights, the environment, democratization, international security, women’s rights, worker’s rights, and national identity formation. Dist: INT or SOC.

GOVT 50 - Topics in International Relations

East Asian Security: Theory and Practice

This course introduces and applies theories of international relations to inform contemporary debates about major security issues in East Asia.  After examining the historical background necessary to understand current events within the region, we will focus on China's emergence as a great power and the regional and global impact; the stability of deterrence in the Taiwan Strait; Japan's security strategy (its roots and future directions); the North Korean nuclear crisis, and the prospects and regional implications of Korean unification; disputes over history and calls for atonement from Japan's past victims of war and colonization; and U.S. security policy toward the region.  The course also examines the development of potentially pacifying trends such as East Asian institution-building, economic integration, and democratization. Dist: INT; WCult: NW.

GOVT 50 - Topics in International Relations

European Union as a Foreign Policy Actor

This course deals with the ‘adventure’ of 27 sovereign European states seeking to develop a common foreign and security policy. Why are they doing it and how are they going about it? What decision-making procedures have they developed and what foreign policy concepts? What are the results in terms of policies? Where do the strengths and weaknesses lie? Is the European Union a potential superpower? How is the United States affected?

GOVT 50 - Topics in International Relations

Globalization and International Politics

In this course, we will explore how economic globalization (that is, recent shifts in the structure of international trade, finance, and production) is shaping international relations. Special emphasis will be placed on the changing role of multinational corporations. The course begins with an overview of economic globalization and then turns to analyze how it is influencing the political world. Is globalization likely to make the world more peaceful? Will globalization significantly reduce the power of the nation state? Will globalization lead to a single world culture? How will globalization affect the environment? How stable is globalization? Does globalization lead to increased inequality among and between nations? These are some of the central questions that we will explore. While there are not yet clear answers as to exactly how economic globalization influences world politics, grasping the key issues involved in these debates is essential to understanding today's world. Dist: SOC or INT.

GOVT 50 - Topics in International Relations

International Conflict and Cooperation

This course examines instances of political and legal cooperation in response to cases of large scale conflict in the international system. From classical to modern times political and legal thinkers have used various forms of government as a means to create non-violent, enduring, and ultimately, ever advancing civilizations. This course will examine the theories, patterns, and frameworks that have provided for the origins as well as the potential failure of governmental forms that have been intended as tools for stabilizing societies.  It will examine phenomena such as nationalism, humanitarian intervention, terrorism, and consociational democracy. Solutions that have been offered for territories such as the Palestinian Territories, Northern Ireland, and Bosnia will be explored.


International Law

An introduction to international law, with particular emphasis on law that attempts to govern the use of force by states.  Materials include the United Nations Charter and other multilateral treaties, decisions of the International Court of Justice, and commentary by scholars. Dist: INT


Russian Foreign Policy

 This course is intended to enhance your understanding of both the process and substance of post-Cold War Russian foreign and defense policy.   You will gain a grounding in the grand sweep of Russia’s relations with the world both as the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, but the focus will be on using the tools of international relations theory and foreign policy analysis to understand Russia’s contemporary relations with the US and Europe, Asia, the global South, and the post Soviet region of Eurasia. Prerequisite: Government 5.  Dist: SOC or INT; WCult: EU.


International Security

This course will focus on military strategy in the post-cold war world. The course will cover deterrence theory, crisis stability, nuclear strategy, and the political uses of military coercion. Other topics may include the obsolescence of major war, collective security, nuclear proliferation, and escalation of regional wars. Prerequisite: Government 5 or permission of instructor. Dist: SOC or INT.


United States Foreign Policy

An inquiry into relationships between the social structure and ideological tradition of the United States and its conduct in world affairs. Attention is given to the substance of American foreign and military policy; to the roles of the White House, State Department, CIA, the military, Congress, private elites, and mass opinion; and to foreign policy impacts on domestic life. Prerequisite: Government 5 or permission of instructor. Dist: SOC; WCult: W.


International Organization

A survey of the historical development, structure, and role of international organizations in several issue areas, including international security, development, and human rights. Attention is given to the evolution of the United Nations during and after the Cold War. The course also evaluates competing theoretical approaches to international organization. Prerequisite: Government 5 or permission of the instructor. Dist: SOC or INT.


International Relations Theory

Is war unavoidable? Or is most violent conflict unnecessary and preventable? How should statesmen best protect the interests and physical security of their countrymen? Do they meet that standard, or fall short? Can a people ever be truly safe? Or is the international environment inherently uncertain? Which peoples ought to live together? Or are identities dynamic? These are the enduring questions of international politics. Perhaps not surprisingly, theorists come to different conclusions. This course explores a wide variety of international relations theories and evaluates their implications for real world politics. Realism, Liberalism, Constructivism, and other major strands of IR theory will be discussed as will American hegemony, international laws & norms and grand strategy. Dist: SOC or INT.


International Relations of East Asia

East Asian international relations have an important impact on global stability and on the security of the United States. North Korea poses a growing nuclear threat and an ongoing risk of political instability. China’s rise is transforming the regional balance of power, and may challenge the post-World War II liberal order created by the United States and its partners. Territorial disputes threaten regional instability and dangerous escalation. This course has three goals: (1) to introduce students to salient issues in East Asian international politics; (2) to situate current events within a historical context, and (3) to provide students with analytic tools to analyze contemporary issues. We begin with an examination of the regional balance of power: what is power, who has it, and how is the balance of power shifting? We then focus on the military relations between key countries, assessing the conventional and nuclear balance of power, and the prospects for stable deterrence. We next move to the realm of ideas, where we explore how history and national identities affect the security strategies of states, and how they affect regional relations. We will then consider the prospects for a “liberal peace” in the region, made possible through increasing economic interdependence and through democratization. The course incorporates a crisis simulation in which students are tasked with representing a country in a significant multinational regional dispute.   Dist: SOC or INT; WCult: NW.


International Political Economy

The political aspects of international and transnational economic relations will be examined. Topics will include economic imperialism, politico-economic dependence and interdependence, economic instruments of statecraft, the role of economic factors in foreign policy making, economic causes of international conflict, economic determinants of national power, the politics of international economic organizations, and the role of multinational corporations in world politics. Prerequisite: Government 5, or permission of the instructor. Dist: SOC or INT.

GOVT 50.16 - Topics in International Relations

Rise and Fall of Great Powers

Great powers disproportionately affect the stability and character of world politics. In this course we explore the complex and consequential process that is the rise and fall of great powers. We examine the nature of the international system, the nature of power, and how the anarchic world system encourages countries to behave.  We then turn to the process of “rising” and study how countries achieve economic growth. We examine what is needed for them to sustain growth over time, as opposed to seeing their growth fizzle, as many fast-growing economies have done. We also look at how countries manage the environmental and human consequences of industrialization. We look at how great powers succeed or fail at developing and deploying effective military power. Finally we examine the causes and consequences of decline—why great powers fall, and whether the process of decline is expected to be associated with international instability.


Foreign Policy and Decision Making

This course examines how foreign policy is made and how that process might be improved. We will discuss the political, organizational, cultural, and psychological influences on foreign policy decision-making, and we will evaluate how well practitioners grapple with these challenges in practice. As we analyze and critique foreign policy, we will also seek to develop broader intuitions for understanding and improving decision making in everyday contexts. Dist: INT or SOC.