POLS 285: Introduction to International Relations


Fall 2009

DU 459

MWF 1-1:50pm


Instructor: Kevin Marsh

E-mail: kmarsh@niu.edu

Office Hours: TuTh 12-1:30pm, or by appointment

Office Location: DU 476 (the POLS TA lounge)



Course Description



Why do countries go to war with one another?  Why does peace break out?  Why do various nations cooperate or disagree on issues like environmental regulation, arms control, terrorism, and economics?  Why is the United States the preeminent power in the world, and will the US continue to maintain its dominance in the international system in the 21st century?  What are the major threats to peace and security in the international system in 2009?


This course seeks to help the student understand, analyze, and explain these concepts and questions.  International relations is a particularly important topic of study for Americans in the post-9/11 era.  We must understand the world in order to become effective global citizens.  This course will examine the key issues of international relations, including theories of IR, power politics, anarchy, foreign policy, military policy and war, terrorism, international organizations and law, international trade, environmental regulation, human rights, international development, and other topics.  Particular attention will be given to the role of the United States in the international system and how these various issues affect the US, and the impact that the United States has in these issues in the international system.


The main goal of this course is to provide the student with the means to analyze, examine, and explain various aspects of international relations, and to think critically and employ different theoretical perspectives to IR.  The student will be able to go beyond simply reading or watching programs about international relations, and will be able to apply the various theories and frameworks of analysis to practical problems in the world.  International relations affects us all, and an ability to properly examine, understand, and apply the issues and concepts of IR allows the student to better understand our world, regardless of their intended major or field of study.


Course Requirements:



  1. Attendance Policy: Students are required to attend every class.  Therefore, it is imperative that students attend each class in order to succeed in the course.  I will take attendance at every class session, so don't skip class!   Attendance is up to you.  If you don't show up, don't expect to pass this course.  Missing classes will result in loss of points in your participation grades.


  1. Class Participation: Class participation is 10% of your final grade.  I encourage and enjoy thoughtful participation by students in my courses.  The course format will be structured as a combination of lecture and questions for discussion.  I encourage discussion, and I will ensure that participation is respectful and professional decorum will be maintained.  If you have a question, please ask!  Trust me; if you have a question, there are likely other students with the same questions.


            This course will be a lot more interesting and valuable for both students and instructor if           there is thoughtful and repeated participation and discussion by the students.


An important element of class participation is being prepared for class.  This means completing the readings before class.  There are readings due for every class session.  The reading load for this course is designed to be challenging, but the readings have been selected in order to provide the student with a comprehensive knowledge of the fundamentals of international relations.


The following scale will be used for determining class participation grades.


A = regular and thoughtful participation

B = occasional and thoughtful participation

C = regular attendance, but little or no participation

D = less than regular attendance

F = little or no attendance



  1. Required Textbook: International Politics: Power and Purpose in Global Affairs by Paul D'Anieri. Wadsworth, 2009.


Additional readings will be available on Blackboard.


  1. Grading: The following scale will be used for this course: A 100-90, B 89-80, C 79-70, D 69-60, F 59 and below.


  1. Course Assignments:

Class Participation: 10%

Quizzes: 15%

Mid-Term Exam: 25%

Take-Home Essay: 25%

Final Exam: 25%


The Mid-Term Exam will cover the first half of the course, and the final exam will cover mainly the second half of the course, with some comprehensive elements.  Both the mid-term and final exams will be a mixture of key term definitions and significances, and essay questions.


The five quizzes will cover the readings and material from lectures.  These quizzes will be multiple-choice format, and I will drop the lowest quiz grade at the end of the semester.  The quizzes will be averaged together at the end of the semester to compute the student's quiz average.


The take-home essay consists of three possible essay questions, of which students will answer one.  The questions will be addressed in class and will be put up on Blackboard.  The essay is intended to produce a well-argued, cogent, well-supported, properly cited work of 5-7 pages.  This essay will be due Monday, November 23.  The essay MUST be submitted to Safe Assign on Blackboard or else the instructor will not grade it, and will result in a zero.



  1. Course Policies:


            Make-up Exams: A make-up exam or quiz will only be given in extraordinary            circumstances.  You must inform me as soon as possible before the scheduled exam.      Requests without prior notification and documented evidence will not be accepted           and will result in a zero grade for the exam or quiz.


Classroom Etiquette: This is very important to me.  You are adults and will be expected to act accordingly in my classroom.  Any usage of cellular phones (talking, texting, playing games, etc.) is not allowed and will result in first a verbal warning, and then the instructor reserves the right to remove disruptive students from the classroom for repeated offenses.  Usage of any other electronic devices with the exception of laptops to take notes is not allowed either.  You are not going to succeed in this course if you are texting during my class.  Simply turn your phone to vibrate and IPods off in my class and there will be no problems at all in this regard.


            Another important element of classroom etiquette is respect for your fellow students and         the instructor.  Respect for students means that all opinions, questions, and discussions by      your fellow students are respected.  Politics is an art of discourse and is dependent upon        people feeling comfortable to express their opinions on issues.  Respect for the instructor    means don't come late to class, don't leave early (unless you notify me ahead of time),             don't sleep in my class, and don't disrupt class by excessive talking with your neighbors.

            Basically, act like an adult, and you will be treated like one in my class. 


            Students who continually violate the standards of classroom etiquette will have their     classroom participation grades penalized accordingly.


Extra Credit: Under no circumstances will extra credit be granted on an individual basis.        However, the instructor reserves the right to incorporate extra credit questions on the case study quizzes or exams.


            Academic Dishonesty/Plagiarism:  You really, really, really don't want to do this in this          course.  Academic dishonesty and plagiarism include cheating on tests, failing to cite in      the final essay, or copying and plagiarizing for their papers.  Regarding plagiarism, the        NIU Undergraduate Catalog states: “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.” The above statement encompasses the             purchase or use of papers that were written by others.  In short, students are advised to do     their own work and learn the rules for proper quoting, paraphrasing, and footnoting.


            Essentially, if you cheat or plagiarize, you will receive a zero for that assignment or                exam and will be referred to the University for additional sanctioning.  Don't do it, it's            simply not worth it!


            I would like to repeat, if you plagiarize, WHETHER INTENTIONALLY OR NOT,     you will receive a zero on the assignment, paper, test, or quiz.  It is the student's    responsibility to ensure that assignments are properly cited.


Late Assignments: Late assignments will be penalized by one letter grade per day, or ten points per day.  This standard will be waived only in extraordinary circumstances.


Submission of Written Work: Assignments should be handed in personally to me at the beginning of class on the day that they are due.  Students who e-mail their assignments must receive prior permission and e-mail the assignment by 1pm on the due date.


            Incompletes: Incompletes will be granted only in extraordinary circumstances.


Auditing: Students who request an audit must attend all classes and participate in class to satisfy the requirements of an audit.


            Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities: Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with     documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their             coursework for which they may require accommodations should notify the University's   Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR). CAAR will assist students in making    appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and          instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the             semester.


            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 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.

            Department of Political Science 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, tracking           department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities.


Course Calendar


Part I: The International System


August 24th: Course Introduction, Review of Course Policies and Syllabus


August 26th:  Survey of the International System in 2009


August 28th: Historical Evolution of the International System: Ancient World through World War II

Read: Textbook pgs 23-45


Part II: Theories of International Relations


August 31st:   Historical Evolution of the International System: 1945-Present

Read: Textbook pgs 45-54


September 2nd: Realism: Central Assumptions

Read: Textbook pgs 57-67


September 4th: Realism: Variants

Read: Textbook pgs 68-73

Read:  “Security Seeking Under Anarchy” by Jeffrey Taliaferro


September 9th: Realism: Critiques and Case Study/Discussion Day

Read: The Melian Dialogue” by Thucydides

Assignment: Come prepared to discuss the tenets of realism



September 11th: Liberalism: Central Assumptions

Read: Textbook pgs 73-84, 121-131




September 14th: Liberalism: Variants and Critiques

Read: “Liberal International Theory: Common Threads, Divergent Strands” by Zacher and Matthew


September 16th: Liberalism: Case Study and Discussion Day

Read: “The Democratic Peace Idea”

Assignment: Come prepared to discuss the concept of the democratic peace and of liberalism in general


September 18th: Constructivism: Central Assumptions

Read: Textbook pgs 95-102


September 21st: Constructivism: Case Study and Discussion Day

Read: Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations”

Assignment: Come prepared to discuss Huntington


September 23rd: Domestic Politics and IR

Read: Textbook pgs 131-148


September 25th: Foreign Policy Analysis: Models of Decision-Making

Read: Textbook pgs 151-168


September 28th: Foreign Policy Analysis: Individuals and Decision-Making

Read: Textbook pgs 168-179


October 2nd: MIDTERM EXAM



Part II: International Conflict and Security


October 5th: Causes of War

Read: Textbook pgs 183-201


October 7th: Resolving the Security Dilemma: Arms Control, Collective Security, Peacekeeping

Read: Textbook pgs 201-208

Read: UN Peacekeeping Factsheet


October 9th: Military Force: Purposes and Competition for Security

Read: Textbook pgs 211-217

Read: “The Utility of Force in a World of Scarcity” by John Orme


October 11th: Military Force: Warfare and Weapons Technology

Read: Textbook pgs 221-227





October 14th: Nuclear Weapons and Proliferation

Read: Textbook pgs 217-221

Read: Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

Read: “Effects of Nuclear Weapons” and “Status of World Nuclear Forces”



October 16th: Chemical, Radiological, and Biological Weapons

Read: “Introduction to Chemical Weapons”

Read: Dirty Bombs Fact Sheet

Read: “Potential Biological Weapons Threats”


October 18th: Terrorism: Causes, Characteristics, and Major Terrorist Organizations

Read: Textbook pgs 227-240


October 21st: Terrorism: Responses

Read: “U.S. Counterterrorism Options: A Taxonomy” by Daniel Byman


October 23rd: Ethnic Conflict

Read: “The Enduring Challenge: Self Determination and Ethnic Conflict in the 21st Century” by David Callahan


October 26th: The Changing Face of War?  War and Conflict in the 21st Century

Read: “A Balanced Strategy: Reprogramming the Pentagon for a New Age” by Robert Gates



Part III: International Political Economy



October 28th: Fundamentals of International Political Economy

Read: Textbook pgs 243-262


October 30th: Globalization Part I: International Trade and Finance

Read: Textbook pgs 271-295



November 2nd: Globalization Part II: Costs and Benefits

Read: Textbook pgs 295-299

Read: “Globalization: Benefits and Costs”



November 4th: Case Study in International Political Economy: The Global Financial Crisis

Read: “The U.S. Financial Crisis: Global Repercussions

Read: “Timeline of the Credit Crunch”


November 6th: Poverty and Foreign Aid

Read: Textbook pgs 301-331



Part IV.  International Organizations and Soft Security



November 9th: The United Nations

Read: Textbook pgs 333-345


November 11th: The European Union

Read: Textbook pgs 346-353



November 13th: International Law

Read: Textbook pgs 363-388


November 16th: Human Rights

Read: UN Declaration on Human Rights

Read: U.S. Bill of Rights

Read: “Are Human Rights Universal” by Thomas Franck


November 18th: Environmental Issues and IR

Read: Textbook pgs 399-406

Read: “Global Environmental Outlook Executive Summary”


November 20th: Global Health Issues

Read: Textbook pgs 406-417

Read: “The Lessons of HIV/AIDS” by Laurie Garrett


November 23rd: Transnational Crime

Read: Textbook pgs 391-399

Read: “Mexico’s Drug War”

Read: “Transnational Crime and U.S. Responses”










Part V.  The Future of International Relations


November 30th: American Primacy: Characteristics and Challenges

Read: “A Balanced Strategy” by Robert Art

Read: “Power and Weakness” by Robert Kagan

Read: “Conclusion and Summary: Domination or Leadership” by Zbigniew Brzezinski



December 2nd: Emerging Powers: The Return of Multipolarity?

Read: “Russia and the West” by Eugene Rumer and Angela Stent

Read:  “A Nuclear Iran: The Reaction of Neighbours” by Dalia Dassa Kaye and Frederic Wehrey

Read: “The Rise of China and the Future of the West” by G. John Ikenberry


December 4th: Course Conclusion: The Future of IR

Read: “One World, Many Theories” by Stephen Walt