POLS 456 H: War, Empire and Ethics

Northern Illinois University

Department of Political Science

Spring 2009



  • Dr. Andrea Radasanu


  • Zulauf 408

Phone Number

  • 753-7052

Email Address

  • aradasanu@niu.edu

Office Hours

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays 1pm – 2:30pm, or by appointment


  • CL 110

Class Time

  • Monday and Wednesday, 12pm-1:15pm



Course Description:


“War, Empire and Ethics” is a course in which we ask the question: What makes a war just? Given that the United States finds itself in a controversial war, the justice of which is hotly debated, there is no more timely a question. On what basis do you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with the current Gulf War? On what basis do we judge any war to be just? In this class, we probe the western tradition as we attempt to put this question in historical and philosophical context. We will consume philosophical tracts, explore theological positions, watch a movie on the French occupation of Algeria, and read a play about the moral dilemmas of scientists who invented the atomic bomb, all with a view to developing our knowledge and our ability to form meaningful judgments about morality and war.




The following are REQUIRED texts. They can be purchased at either of the campus bookstores.


v     Course packet

v     Michael Frayn, Copenhagen, Anchor Books, 1998

v     Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan. Hackett.

v     Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace and Other Essays. Hackett.

v     Robert D. Kaplan, Warrior Politics, Vintage Books, 2002

v     Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars. Basic Books.


Course Requirements:


1. Attendance and Participation:


Your attendance and class participation are important components of the course and will make up 10% of your course grade. You are expected to participate in a lively manner, by answering questions about the texts, asking questions about the texts, and, generally, by offering insightful comments that will enrich your experience as well as that of your fellow students.


Since particular passages of the text will be referred to and read in class, please bring the appropriate texts to class.


2. Reading:


All reading assignments must be completed BEFORE the beginning of the relevant class. Please keep in mind that your ability to participate effectively will depend on your diligence in completing the readings as assigned. All readings as well as all lecture material are fair game for tests and examinations. You must study your readings and take good notes in class in order to do well on the tests and examinations.


3. Tests and Assignments:


i) Test & quiz. These will ask short and long questions about the themes covered up to the point of the exam. The focus will be on analysis and discussion rather than identification (although in the case of the quiz, some identification will occur). Precise details will be made available for both assignments.


ii) Presentation of Essay Topics & Essay Workshop: Two classes will be devoted to student presentations of essay projects. Students will critique each other’s work, and present their main thesis and argument to the class. Students will also hand in an outline of their paper, with main thesis and main prongs of argument in advance of the essay workshop at appointed time in syllabus.


iii) Final Exam. The final exam will take place in the University mandated exam time. It will deal with the themes covered throughout the course.


iv) Final Paper. This paper will represent the main scholarly effort of students during the term. Essay topics will be handed out in the first couple of weeks of the course. The parameters of the papers will be spelled out at that time. All papers must be submitted through Safe Assign and a hard copy of results of Safe Assign as well as papers must be provided to instructor on due date.


Grading Scheme:


Attendance and Participation: 10%

Test: 15%

Review Quiz: 10%

Paper Outline and Participation in Paper Workshop: 15%

Essay: 25%

Final Exam: 25%


Grading Scale:


93%-100% =


90%-92.9% =


87.5%-89.9% =


83%-87.4% =


80%-82.9% =


77.5%-79.9% =


60%-69.9% =


Less than 60% =





Lateness Policy:


In principle, NO lateness is permitted in this course. Presentations cannot be rescheduled. Exams will not be made up and the paper will not be accepted late unless extraordinary circumstances intervene.


IF there are extraordinary circumstances that make it impossible for the student to complete work or come to class, the professor must be notified as soon as possible. Let it be clear that only EXTRAORDINARY and unexpected circumstances will be considered. For example, a heavy workload within or without the university does not count as extraordinary –and neither does a common cold. If there is a serious medical problem that has impeded the student’s ability to do his or her work, then please let the professor know and bring supporting documentation. NO consideration will be given to those students who do not alert the professor of a problem prior to the due date of an assignment or the date of an assignment, presentation or exam.


Class Decorum:


You are expected to be courteous and collegial in this class. Here are some of the decorum guidelines:

v     Be on time for class.

v     Do not leave during class. Use the restroom, get a drink of water, etc. before class begins or after it ends. If you must leave early or come in late, please provide a reasonable explanation and be as undisruptive as possible when you are coming or going.

v     Respect your classmates. Do not interrupt your colleagues, and make sure that your comments are civil. Discussion is wonderful and encouraged, but it is only possible when we listen to one another and make comments that are courteous.

v     Do not disrupt lectures. No cell phones, no private conversations, no snoring. If you wish to interrupt to ask a question, please put your hand up. Questions are encouraged!


Unannounced Quizzes:


The professor reserves the right to give unannounced quizzes if it becomes clear that students are not doing the assigned reading, and the quality of class participation and discussion is unsatisfactory.


Extra Credit:


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


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 fourth 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 Policy:


According to the NIU Undergraduate Catalogue “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 quotations 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. Failure to adhere to the University’s plagiarism policy will result in punishments ranging from a failed course grade to suspension and even expulsion, depending on the egregiousness of the infraction.


Political Science Web Site:


Students 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 this site, go to http://polsci.niu.edu


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 28.  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 spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.


Religious Observance:


If classes or assignments coincide and conflict with your religious observance, please let the professor know as soon as possible so that you can be accommodated in the best possible way.


Course Outline and Due Dates:      



January 12



§         Purpose and aims of course.

January 14


Realism: Are ethics a relevant dimension of international relations?

§         Walzer, Preface and Chapter 1

§         Kaplan, Chapter 1


January 19


Martin Luther King Jr. Day – University Closed

January 21


ThucydidesFather of Realism

§         Thucydides, Pericles’s Funeral Oration: In defense of empire (Packet)


January 26 & 28

Thucydides, con’d

§         Thucydides, Melian Dialogue (Packet)

§         Kaplan, Chapter 4


February 2

Christian Just War Theory

§         Augustine, City of God (Packet)

February 4

§         “A Christian Declaration on Peace, War, and Military Service,” The Position of the General Conference Mennonite Church on love and nonresistance as adopted at Portland, Oregon, August 22, 1953 (Packet)


February 9


§         Catholic Bishop’s Letter, Chapter 1(Challenge of Peace) (Packet)


February 11

Machiavellian Response to Christianity

§         Kaplan, Chapter 5


February 16

Hobbes and Modern Realism

§         Hobbes, Leviathan, Chapters 10-15

February 18

Test (in St. Louis with Model UN Club)


February 23


§         Hobbes, Leviathan, Chapters 17-20, 29-30


February 25

Kant and Modern Idealism

§         Kant, Metaphysics of Morals (packet)


March 2


§         Kant, Perpetual Peace

§         Kaplan, Chapter 8

March 4


§         Finish Kant et al.


March 9 & 11


March Break


March 16

Walzer’s Just War Theory

§         Walzer, Chapters 2 and 3


March 18

Crime of Aggression

§         Walzer, Chapter 4 and 5

Review Quiz


March 23


§         Movie: “Battle of Algiers”

March 25

§         Movie: con’d

§         Walzer, Chapter 12


March 30

Non-Combatant Immunity & the Nuclear Conundrum

§         Walzer, Chapter 8 & 9

April 1

§         Copenhagen, Frayn


April 6


§         Copenhagen, con’d

April 8

§         Walzer, Chapter 17

§         Catholic Bishops Letter, Chapter 2 (53-84) (Packet)


April 13

Aggression and Responsibility

§         Walzer, Chapter 16

April 15

§         Walzer, Chapters 18 and 19

Paper outlines due


April 20 & 22

Term Paper Workshop

§         Presentations of theses and peer reviews. More info to come in class.


April 27

Future of War, Empire and Ethics

§         Kaplan, Chapter 10 and 11

Essay Due

April 29



Final Exam: Monday, May 4, Noon-1:50pm