POLS 285-1: Introduction to International Relations

Spring 2008

Tuesdays, Thursdays 12:30-1:45pm

DuSable 252


Instructor: Dr. Y.K. Wang

Office: Zulauf 416

Office Hours: T 5:00-6:00pm, TH 10:00am-12:00pm, and by appointment

Tel: (815)753-7058

E-mail: ykwang@niu.edu


Teaching Assistant: Joseph Scanlon

Email: jscanlon@niu.edu

Office Hours: M 12-1:30, F 11:30-1:00, and by appointment in DuSable 476.


Course Description:


This is a course about the world we live in. International relations (IR) is an important—yet fascinating—topic. Why do nations go to war? Why does peace break out? How do nations work together to solve the growing environmental problems? How do poor nations become rich? This course helps you understand these issues. We will cover the defining concept of anarchy (the absence of a central authority in international politics), its effects on state behavior, and ways to mitigate those effects. Throughout the semester, we will discuss the key theoretical paradigms, power politics, foreign policy, origins of war, terrorism, international organizations, international trade and investment, supranationalism and integration, environment and population, international development, and other important topics.


The central goal of this course is to help you “think theoretically” about the problems of international relations. Toward that end, this class aims to accomplish three objectives. First, the course will help you develop a general familiarity with various international issues. Second, this course aims to help you use theories and models to analyze and explain some of the most serious international problems facing the world. You are expected to develop a solid understanding of international affairs that goes beyond the newspaper. Third, the course strives to help you develop the ability to think and argue logically, evaluate competing claims, and form your own opinions.


Course Requirements:


1.      Students are required to attend every class and have completed all of the assigned readings before class.

2.      Students are required to follow current international affairs by reading the major newspapers such as The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com) or The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com).


Required Reading:


The following book is required for this course:


·         Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse, International Relations, 8th ed (New York: Pearson Longman, 2008).


Copies of the text are available for purchase at the NIU Bookstore.  Students are strongly encouraged to purchase the main text (but may share copies).


Other required articles can be accessed online by following the links on this syllabus or downloaded from the course website on Blackboard.




Class Participation                           15%

Quizzes                                             15%

Essay Assignment                            15%    

Midterm Exam                                 25%

Final Exam                                        30%


Class participation, including both attendance and classroom discussion, constitutes 15% of your final grade. Attendance is mandatory. Students who are found to have missed five class sessions or more will receive a zero for their participation grade. You will not do well if you regularly miss class—you will likely miss one or more of the unannounced reading quizzes too. In classroom discussion, I strongly encourage you to share your thoughts and reactions to the materials covered in class. I will usually add points to your participation grade if you actively contribute to discussion.


You must have completed all the readings before each class. To encourage this process, there will be five unannounced reading quizzes throughout the semester. However, only the best four will count toward the 15% of your final grade. These quizzes are short and straightforward, designed to test your understanding of the assigned readings. Materials previously covered in class may also appear on the quizzes. You should find them easy if you have done the readings and have attended the class. Make-up quizzes will not be allowed (NO EXCEPTION). If you miss one quiz, make sure you take the other four.


The essay assignment constitutes 15% of your final grade. The essay question will be handed out in class and posted on Blackboard. Your essay should be 4-5 pages in length, double-spaced, and use size-12 font. The assignment is due at the beginning of class on April 1. Ten percent of the essay grade will be deducted for each day the assignment is late. Assignments that are more than five days late will not be accepted.


The midterm exam will be held on February 28 and constitutes 20% of your final grade. The final exam will be held on May 8 and constitutes 30% of your final grade. The final will not be cumulative and will instead cover only the materials after the midterm. Prior to each exam, I will distribute a review sheet and discuss the exam format as well as my grading criteria.


Your final letter grades will be based on the following grading scale:


90% to 100% = A

80% to 89%    = B

70% to 79%    = C

60% to 69%    = D

0%   to 59%    = F


Course Policies:


1.      Make-up Exams: A make-up exam 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.

2.      Classroom Etiquette: Please be courteous and respectful of others while in class. For example, attend class on time; turn off cell phones, pagers, or anything that makes noises; do not leave class early; etc.

3.      Extra Credit: Extra credit assignments will not be given on an individual basis; maintaining equity for everyone is crucial.

4.      Academic Misconduct: Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. 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.” Moreover, do not submit a paper written for another course. “Double-dipping” is strictly prohibited and will result in a failed paper grade. If you have questions, consult with the instructor before submitting your paper.




Most of the communication for this course will be conducted through the university’s Blackboard Course Server. This course website can be accessed only by students enrolled in this course. The URL for Blackboard is http://webcourses.niu.edu. Login to Blackboard with your student Z-ID and password. For login questions go to http://www.helpdesk.niu.edu/ and click on “Blackboard” or contact ITS at 753-8100. The system uses your NIU student webmail account.  If you wish to receive course-related e-mails at another address, you need to forward mail from your NIU account to another account. Learn how to do this on the ITS helpdesk home page (http://www.its.niu.edu/its/helpdesk/webmail_students.shtml). 


Statement Concerning 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 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.


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 28th. 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.


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, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu.




(Any changes will be announced in class or on Blackboard)

Week 1

January 15     Course Overview


January 17     The Field of IR, Actors, and Levels of Analysis

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, chapter 1.


Part I. International Security

Week 2

January 22     Anarchy and Realism


January 24     Alliances and Balance of Power

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, pp. 62-77.


Week 3

January 29     Mitigating Anarchy: Liberalism

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, pp. 84-93.


January 31     Mitigating Anarchy: Constructivism and Others

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, pp. 93-118.


Week 4

February 5     Foreign Policy Making

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, chapter 4.


February 7     Causes of Major War

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, pp. 148-155.


Week 5

February 12   Ethnic and Religious Conflicts

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, pp. 155-174.


February 14   The Utility of Military Force

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, pp. 189-198, 201-216.
  • Robert J. Art, “To What Ends Military Power,” International Security, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Spring 1980), pp. 3-35; read pp. 4-14, skim the rest. (JSTOR)


Week 6

February 19   Terrorism


February 21   International Organization and the UN

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, pp. 231-252.


A midterm examination review sheet will be distributed today.


Week 7

February 26   Catch Up and Review


February 28   Midterm Exam


Week 8

March 4          International Law and Human Rights

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, pp. 252-272.
  • Steven R. Ratner, “International Law: The Trials of Global Norms,” Foreign Policy, No. 110 (Spring 1998), pp. 65-80.


Part II. International Political Economy


March 6          International Trade

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, pp. 277-303.


Week 9           Spring Break (No Class)


Week 10

March 18        Globalization


March 20        International Monetary System

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, chapter 9.


Week 11

March 25        Integration Theory and the European Union

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, pp. 351-368.


March 27        ISA Conference (No Class, work on your essay assignment!)


Week 12

April 1            The North-South Gap

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, pp. 423-437.


Essay Assignment Due


April 3            Explaining the North-South Gap

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, pp. 437-457.


Week 13

April 8            How Poor Nations Become Rich

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, pp. 463-483.


April 10          Foreign Investment and Aid

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, pp. 483-500.


Week 14

April 15          Global Environmental Problems


April 17          Growing Populations

  • Goldstein & Pevehouse, pp. 407-417.


Week 15

April 22          Engaging or Containing China


April 24           Debate: “Should the United States Contain China?”


            The final examination review sheet will be distributed today.


Week 16

April 29          Thinking about the Future

  • Robert Jervis, “Theories of War in an Era of Leading-Power Peace,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 96, No. 1 (March 2002), pp. 1-14, at http://www.apsanet.org/imgtest/2001AddrJERVIS.pdf
  • Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 72, No. 3 (Summer 1993), pp. 22-49.


May 1             Conclude and Review


Week 17

May 8             Final Exam (12:00-1:50pm)