POLS 456: War, Empire and Ethics

Northern Illinois University

Department of Political Science

Fall 2008



  • Dr. Andrea Radasanu


  • Zulauf 408

Phone Number

  • 753-7052

Email Address

  • aradasanu@niu.edu

Office Hours

  • Monday 12:30pm-1:30pm; Tuesday, 1pm-2pm; Wednesday 3:30pm-4:30pm


  • DU 459

Class Time

  • Monday and Wednesday, 2pm-3:15pm



Course Description:


“War, Empire and Ethics” is a course in which we ask the question: What makes a war just? Given that the United States finds itself in a controversial war, the justice of which is hotly debated, there is no more timely a question. On what basis do you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with the current Gulf War? On what basis do we judge any war to be just? In this class, we probe the western tradition as we attempt to put this question in historical and philosophical context. We will consume philosophical tracts, explore theological positions, watch a movie on the French occupation of Algeria, and read a play about the moral dilemmas of scientists who invented the atomic bomb, all with a view to developing our knowledge and our ability to form meaningful judgments about morality and war.




The following are REQUIRED texts. They can be purchased at either of the campus bookstores.


v     Course packet

v     Michael Frayn, Copenhagen, Anchor Books, 1998

v     Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan. Hackett.

v     Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace and Other Essays. Hackett.

v     Robert D. Kaplan, Warrior Politics, Vintage Books, 2002

v     Montesquieu, Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline, Translated by David Lowenthal, Hackett, 1965.

v     Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars. Basic Books.


Course Requirements:


1. Attendance and Participation:


Your attendance and class participation are important components of the course and will make up 10% of your course grade. You are expected to participate in a lively manner, by answering questions about the texts, asking questions about the texts, and, generally, by offering insightful comments that will enrich your experience as well as that of your fellow students.


Attendance will be recorded every class, and class participation will be monitored. Attendance will be recorded in the first FIVE minutes of class. Please do not come in after that hoping to sign your name on the attendance sheet. Four or more classes missed, for whatever reason, will result in an automatic 30% penalty of your participation grade.


Since particular passages of the text will be referred to and read in class, please bring the appropriate texts to class.


2. Reading:


All reading assignments must be completed BEFORE the beginning of the relevant class. Please keep in mind that your ability to participate effectively will depend on your diligence in completing the readings as assigned. All readings as well as all lecture material are fair game for tests and examinations. You must study your readings and take good notes in class in order to do well on the tests and examinations.


3. Tests and Assignments:


i) Quizzes. There will be four quizzes through the course of the semester. The first quiz will test familiarity and facility with the material covered up to the point of this quiz. Each subsequent quiz will deal with the material covered since the previous one.


ii) Paper. This paper will be interpretive rather than research-based. Essay topics will be handed out in the first couple of weeks of the course. The parameters of the papers will be spelled out at that time.


iii) Final Exam. The final exam will take place in the University mandated exam time. It will deal with the themes covered throughout the course, which is to say, it is a comprehensive exam.



Grading Scheme:


Attendance and Participation: 10%

Four Quizzes: 10% each, 40% total

Essay: 25%

Final Exam: 25%


Grading Scale:


93%-100% =


90%-92.9% =


87.5%-89.9% =


83%-87.4% =


80%-82.9% =


77.5%-79.9% =


60%-69.9% =


Less than 60% =





Lateness Policy:


In principle, NO lateness is permitted in this course. Quizzes cannot be rescheduled. Exams will not be made up and the paper will not be accepted late unless extraordinary circumstances intervene.


IF there are extraordinary circumstances that make it impossible for the student to complete work or come to class, the professor must be notified as soon as possible. Let it be clear that only EXTRAORDINARY and unexpected circumstances will be considered. For example, a heavy workload within or without the university does not count as extraordinary –and neither does a common cold. If there is a serious medical problem that has impeded the student’s ability to do his or her work, then please let the professor know and bring supporting documentation. NO consideration will be given to those students who do not alert the professor of a problem prior to the due date of an assignment, presentation or exam.


Class Decorum:


You are expected to be courteous and collegial in this class. Here are some of the decorum guidelines:

v     Be on time for class.

v     Do not leave during class. Use the restroom, get a drink of water, etc. before class begins or after it ends. If you must leave early or come in late, please provide a reasonable explanation and be as undisruptive as possible when you are coming or going.

v     Respect your classmates. Do not interrupt your colleagues, and make sure that your comments are civil. Discussion is wonderful and encouraged, but it is only possible when we listen to one another and make comments that are courteous.

v     Do not disrupt lectures. No cell phones, no private conversations, no snoring. If you wish to interrupt to ask a question, please put your hand up. Questions are encouraged!


Unannounced Quizzes:


The professor reserves the right to give unannounced quizzes if it becomes clear that students are not doing the assigned reading, and the quality of class participation and discussion is unsatisfactory.


Extra Credit:


Extra credit assignments will not be given on an individual basis to raise final grades.


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 fourth 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 Policy:


According to the NIU Undergraduate Catalogue “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 quotations 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. Failure to adhere to the University’s plagiarism policy will result in punishments ranging from a failed course grade to suspension and even expulsion, depending on the egregiousness of the infraction.


Political Science Web Site:


Students 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 events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach this site, go to http://polsci.niu.edu


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 $50.00. Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28.  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 spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.


Religious Observance:


If classes or assignments coincide and conflict with your religious observance, please let the professor know as soon as possible so that you can be accommodated in the best possible way.


Course Outline and Due Dates:      



August 25



§         Purpose and aims of course.

August 27


Realism: Are ethics a relevant dimension of international relations?

§         Walzer, Preface and Chapter 1

§         Kaplan, Chapter 1


September 1


Labor Day – University Closed

September 3


ThucydidesFather of Realism

§         Thucydides, Pericles’s Funeral Oration: In defense of empire (Packet)


September 8 & 10

Thucydides, con’d

§         Thucydides, Melian Dialogue (Packet)

§         Kaplan, Chapter 4


September 15

Christian Just War Theory

§         Augustine, City of God (Packet)

Quiz 1

September 17

§         “A Christian Declaration on Peace, War, and Military Service,” The Position of the General Conference Mennonite Church on love and nonresistance as adopted at Portland, Oregon, August 22, 1953 (Packet)


September 22


§         Catholic Bishop’s Letter, Chapter 1(Challenge of Peace) (Packet)


September 24

Machiavellian Response to Christianity

§         Kaplan, Chapter 5


September 29


October 1

Hobbes and Modern Realism

§         Hobbes, Leviathan, Chapters 10-15


§         Hobbes, Leviathan, Chapters 17-20, 29-30


October 6

Montesquieu: Modern Critique of Empire

§         Montesquieu, Considerations (Chs. 1-4, 6, 8)

Quiz 2

October 8

§         Montesquieu, Considerations (Chs. 9-11, 15-16, 19, 21)


October 13

Kant and Modern Idealism

§         Kant, Metaphysics of Morals (packet)

October 15

§         Kant, Perpetual Peace

§         Kaplan, Chapter 8


October 20


§         Finish Kant et al.

October 22

Walzer’s Just War Theory

§         Walzer, Chapters 2 and 3


October 27


Crime of Aggression

§         Walzer, Chapter 4


October 29

§         Walzer, Chapter 5

Quiz 3


November 3


§         Movie: “Battle of Algiers”

November 5

§         Movie: con’d

§         Walzer, Chapter 12


November 10

Non-Combatant Immunity & the Nuclear Conundrum

§         Walzer, Chapter 8 & 9

November 12

§         Copenhagen, Frayn


November 17


§         Copenhagen, con’d

November 19

§         Walzer, Chapter 17

§         Catholic Bishops Letter, Chapter 2 (53-84) (Packet)


November 24


Quiz 4 (In Chicago with Model UN Club)

November 26

Thanksgiving – University Closed


December 1

Future of War, Empire and Ethics

§         Kaplan, Chapter 10 and 11

§         Fukuyama (packet)

Essay Due

December 3



Final Exam: Monday, December 8, 2008 – 2pm-3:50pm