POLS 285: Problems of International Relations

Spring 2005


Department of Political Science


Instructor: Faon C. Carpenter

Class Time: MWF 10-10:50 am

Classroom: DU 459

Office: DU 476            Office Hours: Wed. 1-2:50 pm  (or by appointment)

Phone: (815)212-4033

E-mail: z034160@niu.edu




Examination of contemporary world problems with respect to the concepts of conflict and resolution, the study of current trends in the international system relating to the roles of international law, organization, theory, and integration in international relations.




This introductory course in international relations has three basic objectives.  First, the basic theories and concepts generally used to study international relations will be introduced.  Several competing theories (realism, liberalism, behavioralism, etc.) as well as models (on individual, group, social, and national levels) shape the way in which this field is studied, and these concepts become the basic tools that students of international relations can use to understand the problems and outcomes present in the world’s political system.


This idea brings us to the second objective of this course: to examine problems and decisions that face the international system today.  This objective will be addressed in two ways beyond the traditional lecture format.  First, weekly discussions and journal submissions of prominent news stories will allow students to relate the theories and concepts addressed in the class to current events.  Second, throughout the semester students will read several case studies presenting specific international issues and resulting decisions.  The case studies are discussed in greater detail below.


The third objective is to utilize the theories and models learned in during the early weeks of the semester to analyze some of the world’s most serious problems.  These problems include ethnic conflict, terrorism, the global environment, and the divide between the Global North and the Global South.  This portion of the course will also help students understand how international problems impact their own lives.


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






1. Main Text.

The main text for this course is Charles W. Kegley, Jr. and Eugene R. Wittkopf, World Politics: Trend & Transformation, 9th Edition.  Readings from the main text are vital to understanding course concepts and are testable on the exams.



2. Case Study readings and discussions.

Students are required to read each of eleven case studies prior to the day that the case is scheduled to be discussed.  In general, cases will be discussed on the Friday of the week that they are assigned, but I will update students with any changes that may occur as the semester progresses. The instructor reserves the right to administer a short quiz prior to case study discussions in order to ensure students have prepared for case discussions prior to class.  Quiz grades will be factored into students’ participation grades.  Cases will be available on reserve in the library.



3. Journal Responses.

Each Monday students will be expected to turn in one journal response.  These submissions will contain analysis of a news story (on international events) from the Christian Science Monitor (CSM).  (Despite its name, the CSM is not primarily a religious newspaper, and it is recommended for this class because it has been shown to have the highest percentage of international news of any American newspaper).  Online access is free and students will be able to print or read news stories with ease.  Alternatively, student subscriptions of the hard copy CSM are relatively inexpensive.  See the instructor for further details. Students should be prepared to share the news story they have chosen in class discuss the story’s relevancy to our course.



4. Assignments.

Students are required to complete one of the following two assignment options.


Option 1: Critical Essay written in the form of a case study due May 2

            This option gives students the opportunity to further develop their analytical writing skills.              Students should choose a relevant issue in international relations that was brought up             during class news discussions.  The essay should mirror the format of the cases used in          class, identifying a particular 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.  The closing paragraph should indicate which             alternative the student would recommend the decision maker choose, and why.  The essay    should be 4-6 full pages in length and follow the paper guidelines


Option 2: In-class presentation of one case study during the week of May 2

            This option allows students to develop their oral presentation and critical thinking skills.              Students will choose an international relations case study that has not been discussed in             class, but the case must be approved by the instructor by April 4.  The instructor will gladly             help students find a case that suits individual interests.  Presentations will take place             the week of May 2nd in class and will likely be 7-10 minutes each, although the instructor             reserves the right to further limit presentation length if this is a popular assignment choice.             In the presentation, the student should explain what options were open to the decision             maker and why that individual chose their specific course of action.  Next, the student             should evaluate this choice by explaining how it is related to a specific theory or model             discussed in class (for example, one might explain why “The Melian Dialogue” is             generally regarded as a realist critique of international relations).  The student should also      note which option he/she would have chosen.



5. Participation.

The instructor recognizes that not all students are as naturally prone to participation in class discussion as others.  However, it is asked that students balance their listening and speaking skills with those of other class members.  Comments that are not relevant to the ongoing discussion, are disruptive or insensitive to others, or attempt to dominate the discussion will be dealt with in an appropriate manner.  Because participation is 10% of the final grade of the course, it is imperative that students take part in discussions and class activities.  I prefer students to participate on a voluntary basis, but reserve the right to call on individuals who do not show a strong inclination to participate on their own accord.  The participation grade will be a combination of attendance, quantity, and quality of discussion.  5 total classes can be missed before deductions are made, only two of which can be on case discussion days.  (In other words, students can only miss two case study discussions before points are deducted from the participation grade.)



6. Examinations.

There will be three examinations, on February 21, April 4, and May 9.  On the exam, students will be responsible for readings, case and news discussions, and lecture.  Each exam will be worth 20% of the final grade, and will consist of:

•10 multiple choice questions, each worth 1 point

•10 identification questions, each worth 2 points

•1 essay question, worth 20 points





Grading Summary:

            20% first examination

            20% second examination

            20% final examination

            15% journal submissions

            15% final assignment (paper or presentation)

            10% participation




  1. Makeup Exams: Makeup exams will only be given in extraordinary circumstances.  If such circumstances indeed exist, the instructor must be notified as soon as possible and prior to the scheduled exam.  Supporting documentation is required, and a missed examination without prior notification and a documented excuse will result in a grade of “F”.


  1. Late Assignments: An assignment submitted after 10 am on the due date will be penalized as follows:

      • 5 point deduction for assignments submitted on due date but after 10 am (this policy is            designed to discourage tardiness on days assignments are due)

      • 10 point (one letter grade) deduction per day


  1. Submitting Written Work: Assignments must be handed to me personally.  Because of attendance problems experienced in earlier semesters, e-mailed assignments will not generally be accepted.  Exceptions to this policy must be approved prior to the assignment’s due date.


  1. Academic Dishonesty: 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." This policy will be STRICTLY enforced.


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


  1. Classroom Decorum:  From the Political Science Undergraduate Committee: “…the failure of students to turn off their cell phones and the increasing practice of leaving class to go to
    the bathroom, answer phone calls, or attend to other personal matters” has resulted in a significant decline in proper classroom behavior in recent years.  Thus, chronic tardiness, repeatedly leaving the classroom during class, sleeping in class, or failing to silence cell phones before class begins will result in a considerable reduction of the student’s grade.  Especially because each class session is only 50 minutes long, students should not have to attend to matters during class time that could have been addressed before or after class.  Exceptions will be made only with prior consent and in extraordinary circumstances.


  1. Students with Disabilities: NIU abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which mandates reasonable accommodations be provided for qualified students with disabilities. If you have a disability and 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. The CAAR office is located on the 4th floor of the University Health Services building (815-753-1303). I look forward to talking with you soon to learn how I may be helpful in enhancing your academic success in this course.


  1. Student Concerns:  Please address any concerns you have regarding assignments, readings, materials, lectures, etc. in a timely manner.  The instructor will happily work through these concerns with students, but it is asked that students approach the instructor before a problem reaches crisis proportions.  Avoiding procrastination will ensure that difficulties arising throughout the semester will be resolved in adequate time to complete assignments and prepare for exams according to the class schedule.


  1. Paper Guidelines:

            • double-spaced

            • 1 inch margins

            • Times New Roman 12 pt. font or equivalent

            • standard citation method (MLA, Chicago, APA, APSR)

            • include page numbers

            • an analytical, third person voice (avoid the use of me, my, I, we, out, you, etc.)

            • carefully proofed & edited- points will be deducted for misuse of spelling, grammar, etc

      • papers that are not stapled will not be accepted


  1. Department Web Page: 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.


Note: Readings are to be completed before the class period for which they are assigned.



Week 1: January 19 & 21

            Introduction, Discussion of Syllabus and Assignments

            Basic concepts of International Relations

            Read Case: “The Melian Dialogue”


Week 2: January 24, 26, 28

            Theories of International Relations

            Liberal Idealism

            Read: Kegley and Wittkopf (KW) Ch 1, 2, 15


Week 3: January 31, February 2 & 6


            Read: KW 4 & 14

            Read Case: Values Vs Interests: The US Response to Tiananmen Square


Week 4: February 7, 9, 11

Behavioralism and Post-Behavioralism

Neo-Realism, Neoliberalism, and other critiques

            Read: KW pp.404-408, Review Chapter 2


Week 5: February 14, 16, 18

            Neo-Realism and other critiques con’t

            Read Case: The US-Japanese FSX Fighter Agreement  Part A


Week 6: February 21, 23, 25

            Exam: Monday, February 21

            Levels of analysis

            Individual level models

            Read: KW 3


Week 7: February 28, March 2 & 4

            Group level models

            Read Case: Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs


Week 8: March 7-11   Spring Break!

Week 9: March 14, 16, 18

            Social/National level models

            Systems level models


Week 10: March 21, 23, 25

            Problems of International Relations

            Nationalism & Ethnicity

            Read: KW pp 163-173, 424-443

            Read Case: Watershed in Rwanda


Week 11: March 28 & 30, April 1


            Read: KW 11, 12, 13

            Read Case: Seeking the Extradition of Mohammed Rashid

            Read Case: US Retaliation for Terrorism


Week 12: April 4, 6

            Exam: Monday, April 4

            Weapons of Mass Destruction and Nuclear Proliferation

            Review KW 14 & 15

            Note: There will be no class on Friday, April 8.


Week 13: April 11, 13, 15

            Weapons of Mass Destruction and Nuclear Proliferation con’t.

            Read Case: Atomic Diplomacy in the Korean War

            Read Case: High Seas Satellite Launches


Week 14: April 18, 20, 22

            The Global Economy and the Global South

            Read: KW 6, 8, 9

            Read Case: Debt for Nature Swaps


Week 15: April 25, 27, 29

            The Global Environment

Read: KW 10

Read Case: To be announced


Week 16: May 2, 4, 6

            Assignments due: May 2




Final Exam: Monday May 9, 10-11:50 am