Political Science

Introduction to International Relations/ POLS 285-1
Fall 2008

POLS 285-1

Class Time:                 Tuesday & Thursday 11:00-12:15 PM, McMurry 202
Instructor:                    Prof. Daniel R. Kempton
Office address:            402 Zulauf
Phone:                          753-7055
Office hours:                Tue, 1:30 pm - 4:30, Wed 10:30 am-11:55, and by appointment.
E-Mail:                        dkempton@niu.edu
                                     (Expect an e-mail response within 2 working days.)

Course description: Welcome to the ever-changing field of international relations. Already in your lifetime, the world has changed dramatically. The Soviet Union was replaced by fifteen new states; the ideological and military divide that once dominated analysis of international relations dissipated. Democracy and capitalism spread to dozens of new states. The communications revolution eroded states’ ability to control the flow of information and ideas. Even the seemingly homogenous Third World, now called the Global South, has lost meaning in the new millennium. New issues such as terrorism, the spread of AIDS, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and global warming have risen to the top of the global agenda. Keeping pace with this changing world requires new tools and new theoretical approaches.

This course has three primary objectives. First, as an introductory course it strives to provide students with a basic understanding of the theories and models analyzing and explaining international relations. Because the field of international relations remains divided, students will be introduced to a number of competing theories including realism, liberal idealism, behavioralism, neoliberalism and constructivism. Students will also learn about a number of associated models for analyzing international relations. Each of these models or approaches emphasizes a different determinant of international relations (e.g., perception, rationality or group behavior). Finally, students will learn the basic terms and concepts used in the study of international relations.

The second objective of the course is to use the theories and models learned in the first part of the semester to analyze some of the most serious international problems now facing the world.  With each of these topics students will be asked to read a short case that presents a specific international decision that was made to deal with the issue. Students will be required to remake these decisions in class as part of a small group case discussion or a class simulation. Other issues will be discussed as they arise in the news and are posted on blackboard.

The third course objective is to help students develop their ability to think and argue logically both orally and in writing. In addition to the tremendous significance of the issues discussed in class, the greatest benefit the course may provide to individual students is to give them numerous opportunities to logically consider international issues and to present their opinions. Toward this end the course employs a number of highly participatory teaching methods including: discussions of CSM stories, issues from lectures and case studies.

This course is an introductory course and presumes no background knowledge in the study of international relations or political science in general. However, the course does require students to read the course materials when assigned and to participate regularly in various class exercises and discussions.


1. The main text for the course is: Charles W. Kegley, Jr., World Politics: Trends and Transformation, 12th edn., New York: Wadsworth--Cengage, 2008. Copies of the text are available for purchase at the University and Village Common bookstores.  Students are strongly encouraged to purchase the main text (but may share copies). Readings from the text are assigned in the Class Schedule (see below).  (If you wish to use an older copy, you may acquire a copy of an older syllabus from the professor to aid you). 

2. Students are required to read all cases "prior to" the day that the case is scheduled to be discussed. The majority of the cases are available at the bookstores. While copyright laws prohibit the combining of these cases into a course package, students may make copies of these cases for their individual use. (One copy of every case will be available from the library’s reserves.  Some of the cases may also be available on the course’s documents section in blackboard.  The first case will be distributed in class.  Questions to guide your case reading will be posted in the Newsgroup (see below). We likely will not have time to discuss all cases in class.  Unless otherwise indicated on the course outline, you are required only to read Part A of each case, although Part B is often included in purchased course packages.  If you wish to read Part B, your encouraged to do so after the case discussion, but you will not be tested on the material covered in Part B.

3. Each week students will be required to read the news storied posted by Professor Kempton or Ms. Cotromanes.  These stories will be posted in the blackboard documents space for POLS 285-1.  

Writing Assignments: Each student is required to keep a course journal.  To maintain the journal you must write an average of two entries each week.  Each entry should include a very brief summary of the major thesis or argument of an article or editorial related to international affairs posted in blackboard readings.  The majority of the entry should consist of your assessment of the argument or thesis of the article.  Do you agree with the writer’s argument?  Are the actors in the article making effective or foreign policy decisions, and why?  Each entry should be of approximately one-half page in length, double spaced.  Please print out, or cut out, a copy of each article you comment on so that copies may be submitted with your journal.  Journals must be submitted twice during the semester.  Journals will first be submitted on September 23 and should include 7 entries.  The second submission date is November 20 and should include 14 new entries.  A total of 21 entries should be submitted.  Journals are best submitted in an inexpensive two pocket folder.  Please be sure to indicate the title, author, date and source for each article with each entry.

Each student will also submit a short case study.  Each student should take an issue previously addressed in his/her journal and mirror the format of the cases used in class.  The topic must deal with an issue in international relations, which was unresolved at the beginning of the semester.  The essay should identify a specific decision maker, the dilemma he/she faces, a clear statement of the objectives of the decision maker, and some discussion of at least two alternatives the decision maker might reasonably adopt.  In the closing paragraph the student should also indicate which alternative the student would recommend and why.  The essay does not need to summarize the dilemma in great detail.  Instead, you can cite news articles, and other sources for background material.  The essay should be approximately 5 pages in length, double spaced (using font 11 or 12) and should use a standard citation method.  Citations must appear either at the bottom of the page, in the text, or at the end of the paper.  A bibliography is required. Although primary consideration in evaluating the journals will be placed on content and the logic of the arguments, presentation (including spelling, grammar, and correct word use) will also be considered. Cases taken from a perspective other than an American one are especially encouraged.  The case study must be submitted by December 2, or it will be deemed late, and downgraded according to the general rule below.

Journals and case studies are due at the beginning of class on the assigned day.  (Skipping class to finish will not help).  Late writing assignments will be downgraded 1/3 letter grade for each day that they are late. (A journal submitted after class will be considered one day late).  Thus, an "A" brief becomes and "A-" after one day and a "B+" after two days. Exceptions to this rule will not be granted under normal circumstances. Therefore, students with sick relatives, paper-eating canines, low-life typists, or virus-prone computers--as well as those students who are routinely taken hostage aboard alien spaceships--are strongly encouraged to compensate for any potential mishaps by preparing their journals and essays in advance of the listed submission deadlines.  To avoid these concerns you may complete your assignments early.  All writing assignments must be completed to pass the class.

Undergraduate Writing Awards: The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies. Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing. Winners are expected to attend the Department's spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50. Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by late February (see Ms. Schweitzer for specific dates). All copies should have two cover pages--one with the student's name and one without the student's name. Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award. However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year's competition even if the student has graduated.

Participation: Participation is an important part of this course, and as such is required of all students. The participation grade will comprise 10% of the final grade and is designed to assess both the quantity and quality of each student's participation in this collective learning enterprise. Participation grades will include attendance, participation in news discussions, participation in cases, and participation in class. Students who miss any more than 4 classes in total, or more than two cases—for whatever reason—will have a deduction taken from their participation grade. Those students who post “at least” five substantive messages to the class discussion group, which can be accessed in blackboard at http://webcourses.niu.edu/, are eligible for a “B” or higher participation grade 

Extra Credit: No individual extra credit assignments will be created or accepted.  Qualifying activities will be announced on the class blackboard announcement page or in class.  Included in these will be movie nights, political science related talks, and POLS related professional activities.  To receive the extra points a student must attend the qualified activity.  For movie nights, students may instead, view the movie individually, but must then submit a half page report relating what he or she learned within one week of the scheduled movie night.  Extra Credit points will be added to the Quiz grade.  If a 100% is reached on the quiz grade, additional points will be accrued toward the participation grade.

Examinations: There will be two examinations, a mid-term and a final. Each examination will be worth 20% of the semester grade. The mid-term examination will be held on October 16, and will include all course materials and readings covered to that date. The final examination will be held on Tuesday, December 9, 10-11:50 a.m. in MC 202. Those who have a conflict, or simply prefer to take the examination on another date, may take the examination on December 11, 3-4:50 p.m. in DuSable, room tba. The alternate examination must be requested in advance in writing prior to the last class day. Each examination will contain:

  • 20 multiple choice questions (each is worth 1 point)
  • 30 points from 15 of 17 identification questions (each is worth 2 points)
  • 50 points from 2 essay questions (each is worth 25 points)


Quiz Grade:  During the semester at least four, but likely more, quizzes will be administered.  Quizzes will not be announced ahead of time.  Quizzes will cover material in the assigned readings or material presented in the previous class sessions.  Extra credit points will be applied first to the quiz grade.  If you miss a quiz, or arrive after the instructor has begun collecting completed quizzes, you will be ineligible to take the quiz. 

Grading:* The final grade will be:

1.                  20% mid-term examination

2.                  20% final examination

3.                  10% Quiz Grade

4.                  10% first journal submission

5.                  20% second journal submission

6.                  10% essay

7.                  10% participation.


*The professor will personally grade all examinations, essays and journal submissions.  All appeals of these grades should go directly to the professor.  Participation in the student news group, attendance at events, and quizzes will be graded by the graduate assistant (Ms. Cotromanes) and appeals of these should go initially to Ms. Cotromanes.


Students with Disabilities: NIU abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 regarding provision of reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. Moreover, your academic success is of importance to me. If you have a disability that may have a negative impact on your performance in this course and you may require some type of instructional and/or examination accommodation, please contact me early in the semester so that I can provide or facilitate in providing accommodations you may need.  If you have not already done so, you will need to register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR), the designated office on campus to provide services and administer exams with accommodations for students with disabilities. CAAR is located on the 4th floor of the University Health Services building (753-1303). I look forward to talking with you to learn how I may be helpful in enhancing your academic success in this course.

Plagiarism Statement: According to the NIU Undergraduate Catalog "Students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university." In short, all ideas that are not your own or well known must be footnoted. A general rule is that if the information cannot be found in three or more commonly available sources it should be footnoted. All direct quotes must be placed in quotation marks. These guidelines will be enforced. If you are unsure as to what should be footnoted either play it safe and footnote, or ask for assistance.

Web Site: Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department event, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to http://www.polisci.niu.edu/index.html. 




Aug 26

I. Introduction & Distribution of Syllabus

Aug 28

A. The Melian Dialogue (Distributed in Class)

Sep 02

II. Theories of International Relations
Read: Kegley, Chpts. 1-2

Sep 04

1. Liberal Idealism 

Read: Kegley, Chpt. 6 & 16

Sep 09

2. Realism
Read: Kegley, Chpt. 4,  13, & 15

Sep 11

B. One Rock, Two Principles: The Gibraltar Problem (Case 281)

 (Available from the Reserve Desk or the Bookstore)

Sep 16

3. Behavioralism & Post-Behavioralism

Sep 18

4. Neo-Realism & Neoliberalism & Other Critiques
Kegley, Chpts. 7 & 8, 17

Sep 23

First Journal Submission is Due!

Sep 23

C. The A New Political Order: Empowering Afghan Women,  Part A

Sep 25

III. The Levels of Analysis Problem & Models of International Relations
Read: Kegley, Chpt. 3

Sep 30

D. The US-Japanese FSX Fighter Agreement Part A (Case 350)
     (Available from the Reserve Desk)

Oct 02

1. Individual Level Models: Rational Actor, Perception & Personality 

Oct 07

2. Group Level Models: The Organizational Model & Bureaucratic Politics

3. Social & National Level Models

Oct 09

E. Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs (KSG c14-80-279.0)

Oct 14

 4. Systems Level Models

Kegley, Chpts. 12 & 18

Oct 16

Midterm Examination


IV. Problems in International Relations

Oct 21

Oct 23

Oct 28

1. Ethnicity and Nationalism
Read: Kegley: Chpts. 5 & 11

F. Watershed in Rwanda: The Evolution of President Clinton's Part A (Case 374)

Oct 30
Nov 04

Nov 06

Nov 11

2. Terrorism
Read: Kegley, Chpt. 13 (esp. 367-396)
G. One American Military Retaliation for Terrorism (Case 238 )
H. The Extraordinary Rendition of Abu Omar, Part A

Nov 20

Second Journal Submission is Due!

Nov 13

Nov 18

Nov 20

Nov 25


3. Weapons of Mass Destruction & Nuclear Proliferation
Read: Kegley, Chpts. 13 & 14
I. Atomic Diplomacy in the Korean War (Case 359) 
J. UP in Arms: Russian Rockets for India Part A (Case 228)

K. High Seas Satellite Launches: Paragon of cooperation or Unregulated Danger? Part A, (Case 267)

Dec 2

Case Study is Due!

Dec 02

Dec 04

4. The UN and International Organizations (if time permits)
Read: Kegley, Chpts. 7, 9 & 10

Dec 09

Scheduled Final Examination, 9:00 am -10:50 am McMurray 202

Dec 11

Alternate Final Examination, 3-4:50 pm & place TBA

* All Cases must be read prior to their discussion and appear in red type and italics in the outline.

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LINKS to Relevant Sites:

News Sources:
BBC World News
Chicago Tribune
Christian Science Monitor
CNN Breaking News
The Drudge Report
International Herald Tribune
Itar-Tass News Service (Russia)
Kyodo News (Japan)
The Times  (London)
New York Times
Reuters World News
Washington Post
Washington Times
Xinhua News Service (China)

Terrorism News Sources:
Terrorism Research Center
General Links on Terrorism
US State Department's Office of Counterterrorism
US Department of Defense on Countering Terrorism
EERI Counterterrorism Home Page & Links

Others Links:
The Kennedy School of Government Case Program
Electronic Citation Style Manuals
Evaluating Internet Sources
Bartlett's Quotations

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