Political Science

Introduction to International Relations/ POLS 285-H / Fall 2009


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Course Description

Course Outline



Writing Assignments


Department Page

Course Newsgroup




Class Time:                 Tuesday & Thursday 2:30-3:45 PM, CL110
Instructor:                   Prof. Daniel R. Kempton
Office address:           110B Campus Life
Phone:                         753-0694
Office hours:               Mon & Wed, 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm, Tue 3:30-4:30, and by appointment.
E-Mail:                        dkempton@niu.edu
                                      (Expect an e-mail response within 3 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. There is greater economic differentiation within the developing states. 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 edition, 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.  These stories will be posted in the blackboard documents space for POLS 285-H001 and on the discussion board of POLS 285-3.  

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 22 and should include 7 entries.  The second submission date is November 19 and should include 7 new entries.  A total of 14 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.  Each student will submit a one paragraph proposal as part of their first journal submission on September 22.  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 10 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 1, 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 case studies 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.  While an e-mail version may be submitted to meet the due date, a printed version must be provided for grading purposes.

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 Mrs. Pam Kombrink, Undergraduate Studies Secretary, Zulauf Hall 415, (815) 753-1015, pkombrink@niu.edu, 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” six 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.  Only postings made prior to the final class will be counted.  Although grades will be maintained on the Blackboard Space for POLS 285-H001; the discussion board will be in POLS 285-3.

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 15, and will include all course materials and readings covered to that date. The final examination will be held on December 8, 3-4:50 p.m. in CL110. Those who have a conflict, or simply prefer to take the examination on another date, may take the examination on Tuesday, December 10, 10-11:50 a.m. in Du 246. 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.                  10% second journal submission

6.                  20% essay

7.                  10% participation.


*The professor will personally grade all 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 assistants, and appeals of these should go initially to him.


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. You may get more information at: http://polisci.niu.edu/polisci/audience/plagiarism.shtml. 

Classroom Decorum:  Students are encouraged to arrive at class on time.  Students who arrive after their names are called for attendance must see the professor after that particular class to be marked present.  Students are to remain for the entire session unless excused by the professor beforehand or confronted with a serious personal emergency.  For instance, it is not acceptable to students to walk in and out of class to answer cell phones, take casual bathroom and smoking breaks, or attend to other personal matters.   Cell phones, pagers, or any electronic devices that make noise must be turned off during class unless the instructor has been notified beforehand of a special circumstance (e.g., sick family member, pregnant wife, special childcare situation, etc.).  No one should talk while someone else is talking; this includes comments meant for a classmate rather than the entire group.  Overall, classroom dialogue and behavior should always be courteous, respectful of others, and consistent with the expectations set forth by the university.

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.  You should also be consulting the Honors web pages for News and events: http://www.honors.niu.edu/honors/.




Aug 25

I. Introduction & Distribution of Syllabus

Aug 27

A. The Melian Dialogue (Distributed in Class)

Sep 01

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

Sep 03

1. Liberal Idealism 

Read: Kegley, Chpt. 6 & 16

Sep 08

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

Sep 10

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

 (Available from the Reserve Desk or the Bookstore)

Sep 15

3. Behavioralism & Post-Behavioralism

Sep 17

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

Sep 22

First Journal Submission is Due! (Include case study proposal)

Sep 22

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

Sep 24

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

Sep 29

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

Oct 01

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

Oct 06

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

3. Social & National Level Models

Oct 08

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

Oct 13

 4. Systems Level Models

Kegley, Chpts. 12 & 18

Oct 15

Midterm Examination


IV. Problems in International Relations

Oct 20

Oct 22

Oct 27

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

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

Oct 29
Nov 03

Nov 05

Nov 10

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 19

Second Journal Submission is Due!

Nov 12

Nov 17

Nov 19

Nov 24


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 01

Case Study is Due!

Dec 01

Dec 03

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

Dec 08

Scheduled Final Examination, 2-3:50 pm & CL 110

Dec 10

Alternate Final Examination, 10:00 am -11:50 am Du 246

* All cases must be read prior to their discussion and appear in red type and italics in the outline.  Case days may be moved later, but not earlier.

** Some adjusting of the schedule will no doubt be necessary.  However, dates for the examinations and journal submissions will not be changed.


LINKS to Relevant Sites:

News Sources:
BBC World News
Chicago Tribune
Christian Science Monitor
CNN Breaking News
The Drudge Report

Guardian (UK)

The Independent (UK)
International Herald Tribune

Itar-Tass News Service (Russia)

The Jerusalem Post
Kyodo News (Japan)
The Times  (London)
New York Times
Reuters World News

Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
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