Introduction to International Relations

POLS 285-2/ Spring 2007/ 9:30-10:45 T & TH


Class Information


Class Time: Tuesday and Thursday, 9:30-10:45

Location: DU 461

Instructor: Andrea Mathie (I am listed departmentally as Andrea Messing-Mathie)

Office: Zulauf 114                             

: 630-915-8740 (Please use email whenever possible)                                                                 

Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:00-1:00 and by appointment (please visit-I get lonely!)       

  e-mail: (please utilize this address, as I rarely check my NIU address) (expect an e-mail response usually within 24-48 hours, except on weekends)


Why are you here?


Welcome! International relations are ever-changing, ever-evolving, and dramatic events change the landscape of the political world within which the United States and you as individual actors interact. In order to understand the effect of issues such as globalization, terrorism, weapons of mass destructions, global warming, and ethnic conflict on the global and therefore the domestic political agenda, it is vital to engage in intelligent study of the international political system. So, light of this, the course has 1 overarching objective and 3 primary secondary objectives.


First, the overarching objective is to get you excited about your connection to the world around you and why studying political science and specifically international relations is so important to understanding the kind of global community that we all live in.


Second, as an introductory course, I will strive to provide everyone with a basic understanding of the theories and models that are used to analyze and explain international relations. Because the field of international relations remains divided, students will be exposed to a range of competing theories. Remember, these are theories that have been created by leading political science scholars in order to explain events, especially those of WWII and beyond that defied any kind of general explanation. Theories are not reality-real life happens with or without theories-but it is our job as political scientists to attempt to explain real events in such a way that an explanation over what has happened in one part of the world has some applicability elsewhere. We will be looking at models for analyzing international relations, and will be learning the basic terms and concepts that are used in international relations.


Third, I want you to be able to use these theories, models, terms and concepts that are learned in the course in order to analyze some of the most pressing international problems that are now facing our global system. With each of the topics students will be asked to read a short case that presents a specific international decision that was made to deal with the issue. You will be asked to remake these decisions in class as part of a small group case discussion or case simulation. We will also be discussing world events in our in class and online discussions based on our reading of the Christian Science Monitor.


Finally, I want you to be able to develop your analytical skills and develop your abilities to think and argue logically both orally and in writing. In addition to the immense significance of the issues that we will discuss in class, the greatest benefit that the course will hopefully give will be to provide individual students opportunities to logically consider international issues and to present their opinions intelligently. Toward this end this course will use a variety of highly participatory teaching methods including: discussion of Christian Science Monitor articles, issues from lectures, and case studies.


What am I expecting of you?



1) The main text for the course is: Joseph S. Nye, Jr. Understanding International Conflicts, 6th edition, Longman Classics in Political Science, 2007. You are expected and encouraged to purchase the text, but you may share copies if you need to. We will be utilizing the text a great deal, so please make sure that you have ready access to the text right away. You can purchase the book from the University Bookstore, the Village Commons Bookstore, or online.


2) Readings posted on blackboard: You will find the readings outside of the book on our class blackboard site for the dates specified. We will be using our classroom Blackboard site often, so please take time to familiarize yourself with it. You can find the Blackboard site at


2) Case Studies: as part of your contract with me in this class, you are required to read all cases prior to the beginning of class on the day of case studies. The majority of the cases will be available from the bookstores, and while copyright laws prohibit me from combining all of these cases into a course package, you may make copies of these cases from the reserve desk in the library for your individual use. I will be posting questions to guide your reading in our class Blackboard site.


3) You will be required to subscribe to the Christian Science Monitor, either in paper version, or online. Despite its name, the CSM is not primarily a religious newspaper; rather, it is one of the most respected international papers and thought to have some of the most balanced reporting of any major paper. Moreover, the CSM has been shown to have the highest percentage of international news of any major American newspaper. The CSM offers students a special three-month introductory rate. Subscription forms will be available during the first 2 class sessions, and delivery is by mail. You may also read the electronic version at However, I must warn you that the CSM only keeps 5 days worth of issues, and you must pay to access anything beyond this. Your first assignment based on the Christian Science Monitor will be due during the 2nd week of class, so please get your subscription settled soon!



1) Journals: You will be required to hand in a typed one page, single spaced analysis of one world newspaper articles from the Christian Science Monitor each Thursday.  Your first journal entry will be due on Thursday, January 25th.  By the end of the semester, you should have handed in 12 journal articles. Your journal articles will be worth 10% of your grade, so please take these analyses very seriously! I will explain during the first week of class what I am looking for.


2) Each Thursday, we will be discussing the week’s news and events as described in the Christian Science Monitor. You are required to participate in class discussions, so be prepared. I will call on you! You may use the journal article that you prepared for class to discuss in class, but I will be asking about other events and articles as well. I have assigned a short book and will keep book readings shorter so that you have the time to read the newspaper thoroughly-please do! If you don’t it will affect your grade! (Not only that, but you’ll be much more informed).  These discussions count towards your participation grade. (Participation: 10%)


3) Study Questions: In order to keep our reading on track and to guide our class discussions, I am assigning study questions most weeks. Most of the questions come from the book, at the end of each chapter, but for those weeks where I have assigned alternative readings posted to the blackboard, you will find a few questions for that week. I will specify in the course calendar below which study questions are due on which dates. These typed, single spaced answers will be due on the specified Tuesdays at the beginning of class, so please make sure that you are prepared to hand these in. These questions are worth 10% of your grade.


4) Case Studies: As stated earlier, you are required to read the case studies prior to the start of the specified class. We may have a quiz on these days. These quizzes will count towards your participation grade. In order to do well on these quizzes, you must read the case studies. There are absolutely no make ups on the quizzes, as they are a privilege for those who attend class and do their readings. (Participation: 10%)

4) Paper (Brief): In this paper, I will be asking you to choose one of the cases that we conduct in class and to place it in an analytic context. In this paper you will be considering the following: questions of levels of analysis, decision making models, and overall theories of international relations. You will need to expand your study of the case in question beyond the case study that we will have discussed in class. The essay should be approximately 5 pages long. We will discuss this paper in class, and I hope to have a representative from the Library as well as the University Writing Center come to class to discuss appropriate citations, research methods, and give some tips on writing effective essays. You will receive an automatic 5 extra credit points on your paper if you take your paper to the University Writing Center for a final proofread. In order to access this service, you must make an appointment ahead of time. (815.753-6636 or You must bring a copy of the proofread paper along with documentation from the writing center and hand this in with your final paper. The paper will be due on Tuesday, May 1st. Any papers handed in late will be downgraded 1/3 letter grade for each day that they are late (an A becomes an A-, then a B+, etc.) Please have respect for your fellow classmates as well as for me and hand your papers in on time. You must submit a paper in order to pass this class.


Exam 1: (Midterm) March 8, 2006 25%

Exam 2 (Final): TBA (During week of May 7-11, 2006)  25%     (Somewhat cumulative)


Some Final Thoughts:



I understand that issues sometimes arise that cause students to miss class. However, keep in mind that your attendance in this class on a regular basis is a respect issue, respect for your peers who count on you and respect for your instructor. Students who miss more than 4 classes throughout the semester will have a deduction taken from their final grade. I do this not to be a stickler, but to be fair to those students who invest the time to come to class regularly.  Attendance is counted towards your participation grade.


Extra Credit: Extra Credit opportunities will be announced during the semester. Absolutely no extra credit will be awarded on an individual basis, but there will be opportunities for extra credit points to be earned.


Plagiarism: 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 as 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, BE CAREFUL! If you think that you might be plagiarizing, you probably are, and feel free to come to me at any time for advice or assistance. All ideas that are not your own must be cited (via footnotes). We will cover this in more detail during a class session.


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.


Classroom Etiquette: It is vital that you arrive at class on time. You should remain in the classroom for the entire session unless you are excused by me beforehand. You should use your best judgment on this. It is not acceptable for students to walk in and out of class to answer cell phones, take casual bathroom and smoking breaks, or attend to other personal matters. It is also not acceptable to read the newspaper during class or to listen to any listening device.  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.


Course Grading Breakdown:

Study Questions: 10%

Journals: 10%

Paper (Brief): 15%

Participation (in class, attendance, and quizzes): 15%

Exam 1: 25%   Final: 25%













Course Calendar and Tentative Course Schedule:


Week 1 (Jan. 17 and 19): Introduction to Theories of International Relations

Readings due: Begin reading chapter 1 in Nye book

Asst. due: none


Week 2 (Jan. 23 and 25): Realism and Liberalism

Readings due: Nye chapters 1 and 2

Asst. due Jan 23: Chapter 1, Question 3 (p. 29); Chapter 2, Questions 4, 5, 6 (p. 56)

Journal 1 due Jan 25


Week 3 (Jan. 30 and Feb.1): Realism and Liberalism, cont.

Readings due: Nye chapter 3

Case Study 1 due Feb 1: One Rock, Two Principles: The Gibraltar Problem (Case 281)

Asst. due Jan. 30: Chapter 3, Questions 2, 5, and 6 (p. 84)

Journal 2 due Feb. 1


Week 4 (Feb. 6 and Feb. 8): Constructivism, Behavioralism, and Post-Behavioralism/Neo-realism, Neo-liberalism

Readings due: Nye chapter 5; Review p. 43, 46-47 (in Nye book); Blackboard, TBA

Asst. due Feb. 6: Chapter 5, Question 1 (p. 154)

Journal 3 due Feb. 8


Week 5 (Feb. 13 and Feb. 15): Continuation of topics from last week/Critiques of IR Theory

Readings due: Blackboard, J. Ann Tickner: “A Critique of Morgenthau’s Principles of Realism”

Case Study 2 due Feb. 15: Values vs. Interests: The US Response to Tianammen Square (Pew 170)

Asst. due Feb 13: Blackboard, TBA

Journal 4 due Feb 15


Week 6 (Feb. 20 and Feb. 22): Levels of Analysis Problems and Models of IR

Readings due: Chapter 4; Review Chap. 5, pg. 128-130.

Asst. due Feb 20: See questions for this date on Blackboard

Journal 5 due Feb. 22


Week 7 (Feb. 27 and March 1): The Levels of Analysis Problem and Models of IR, cont.

Readings due: Blackboard, TBA

Case Study 3 due March 6: Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs (KSG c14-80-279)

Asst. due Feb 27: Blackboard, TBA

Journal 5 due March 1


Week 8 (March 6 and March 8): Levels and Models cont & Midterm Exam

No Reading

No Journal due

Midterm Exam: March 8


Week 9 (March 13 and March 15): SPRING BREAK


Week 10 (March 20 and March 22): Problems of IR: The UN and International Organizations

Reading due: Chapter 6 (Nye book) pgs. 175-198

Asst. due March 20: Chapter 6, questions 3 and 4 (p. 200)

Journal 6 due March 22


Week 11 (March 27 and March 29): Problems of IR: Ethnicity and Nationalism

Reading due: Chapter 6 (Nye book) pgs. 157-174

Case Study 4: Watershed in Rwanda: The Evolution of President Clinton's (Pew 374-96-N)

Asst. due March 27: Chapter 6, questions 1 and 2

Journal 7 due March 27


Week 12 (April 3 and April 5): Problems of IR: Globalization and Interdependence

Reading due: Chapter 7 (Nye book)

Case Study 5: American Diplomatic Response to the 1973-74 Energy Crisis (Pew 148-94-R)

Asst. due April 3: Chapter 7, question 1

Journal 8 due April 5


Week 13 (April 10 and April 12): Problems of IR: Democratization

Reading due: Blackboard, Schmitter & Karl: “What Democracy Is…and Is Not.”

Case Study 6: Democracy and Islam in Arab Politics (Pew 611-95-N)

Asst due April 10: Blackboard, TBA

Journal 9 due April 12


Week 14 (April 17 and April 19): Problems of IR: Terrorism and WMDs

Reading due: Chapter 9

Case Study 7: The UN and International Efforts to Deal with Terrorism (Pew 313-88-O)

Asst due April 17: Chapter 9, Questions 5 and 6

Journal 10 due April 19


Week 15 (April 24 and April 26): Practical Applications

Case 8: The Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles (Pew 465-95-N)

Case 9: The US Walks out of the IAEA (Pew 470-96-N)

Journal 11 due April 26


Week 16 ( May 1 and May 3): Sovereignty Issues (May 1st only)

Reading: Blackboard, TBA

Asst. due for extra credit: TBA

Paper (Brief) due May 1

Review and class wrap up, May 3.


Week 17 (May 7-11): FINALS WEEK

Thursday, May 10. 10:00-11:50 am

Alternate date to be announced.