POLS 395-2: International Conflict

Spring 2008

Tuesdays, Thursdays 3:30-4:45pm

DuSable 459


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 course is about life and death. Many international conflicts are deadly, yet they still occur. Why do countries fight each other? What are the causes of war? How do we have peace? Guided by international relations theory, this course helps you better understand these issues. We will use theories and models to examine international conflicts. The first part of the course gives you a basic introduction to the theories of war and peace. The next three parts use the framework of levels of analysis—systemic, domestic, and individual—to examine the various theories in detail. We will discuss hegemonic war, balance of power, domestic politics, regime type, nationalism, personalities of leader, misperception, as well as other important theories. The last part of the course is a series of case study.


The central goal of this course is to help you “think theoretically” about international conflict. Toward that end, this class aims to accomplish three objectives. First, the course will help you develop a general familiarity with important international conflicts through case studies. Second, this course aims to help you use theories and models to analyze and explain some of the most serious international conflicts facing the world. 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:

This is a fairly challenging 300-level course designed primarily for POLS  majors and minors with a strong interest in international politics. Students should hold a junior or senior class standing. This is a prerequisite. I strongly recommend you to take POLS 285 before taking this class. Non-majors and POLS majors who have not completed this coursework are welcome, but should consider themselves warned about these recommendations.

Students are required to attend every class and have completed all of the assigned readings before class. You are also required to keep up with recent developments involving international conflict in the news.


Required Books:


Two books are required for this course:


·         Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Understanding International Conflict: An Introduction to Theory and History, 6th ed. (New York: Pearson Longman, 2007)

·         John G. Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War, 10th ed. (Belmont, CA.: Thomson Wadsworth, 2008).


Copies of the texts are available for purchase at the NIU Bookstore.  Students are strongly encouraged to purchase them (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%

Research Paper Assignment          20%    

Midterm Exam                                 20%

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 paper assignment constitutes 20% of your final grade. Assignment questions will be handed out in class and posted on Blackboard. Your essay should be 5-7 pages in length, double-spaced, and use size-12 font. The assignment is due at the beginning of class on April 8. 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     Is There an Enduring Logic of Conflict?

·         Nye, Understanding International Conflicts, chapter 1.


Week 2

January 22     Levels of Analysis

·         Nye, Understanding International Conflicts, chapter 2.


January 24     Theories of War and Peace

·         Jack S. Levy, "The Causes of War and the Conditions of Peace," Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 1 (1998), pp. 139-165.



Week 3

January 29     Hegemonic War

·         Robert Gilpin, “The Theory of Hegemonic War,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Spring 1988), pp.591-613. (JSTOR)


January 31     Structure and War

·         Kenneth Waltz, “The Origins of War in Neorealist Theory,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Spring 1988), pp. 615-628. (JSTOR)


Week 4

February 5     Balance of Power and War

·         Nye, Understanding International Conflicts, chapter 3.




February 7     Domestic Politics and War

·         Jack S. Levy, “Domestic Politics and War,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Spring 1988), pp. 653-673. (JSTOR)


Week 5

February 12   Nationalism and War

·         Stephen Van Evera, “Hypotheses on Nationalism and War,” International Security, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Spring 1994), pp. 5-39. (JSTOR)


February 14   Democracy and War

·         John M. Owen, “How Liberalism Produces Democratic Peace,” International Security, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Fall 1994), pp. 87-125. (JSTOR)


Week 6

February 19   Democratization and War

·         Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder, “Democratization and the Danger of War,” International Security, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Summer 1995), pp. 5-38. (JSTOR)




February 21   Individual and War

·         Daniel L. Byman and Kenneth M. Pollack, "Let Us Now Praise Great Men: Bringing the Statesman Back In," International Security, Vol. 25, No. 4 (Spring 2001), pp. 107-146. (JSTOR)


            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          Case Study: Hitler and Barbarossa

·         Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War, chapters 2, 10.


March 6          Misperception and World War I

·         Robert Jervis, “War and Misperception,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Spring 1988), pp. 675-700. (JSTOR)

·         Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War, chapter 1.


Week 9           Spring Break (No Class)




Week 10

March 18        Collective Security and World War II

·         Nye, Understanding International Conflicts, chapter 4.


March 20        Deterrence and Containment: The Cold War

·         Nye, Understanding International Conflicts, chapter 5.


Week 11

March 25        Intervention, Institutions, and Ethnic Conflict

·         Nye, Understanding International Conflicts, chapter 6.


March 27        ISA Conference (No Class)


Week 12

April 1            Case Study: The Korean War

·         Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War, chapter 3.


April 3            Case Study: The Vietnam War

·         Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War, chapter 4.


Week 13

April 8            Case Study: Bosnia and Kosovo

·         Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War, chapter 5.


Research Paper Assignment Due


April 10          Case Study: Arab-Israeli Conflicts

·         Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War, chapter 7.


Week 14

April 15          Case Study: India and Pakistan

·         Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War, chapter 6.


April 17          Case Study: The Gulf War

·         Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War, chapter 8.


Week 15

April 22          Case Study: The Iraq War

·         Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War, chapter 9.


April 24          Globalization and Interdependence

·         Nye, Understanding International Conflicts, chapter 7.


            The final examination review sheet will be distributed today.


Week 16

April 29          Thinking about the Future

·         Nye, Understanding International Conflicts, chapter 9.


May 1             Conclude and Review


Week 17

May 8             Final Exam (4:00-5:50pm)