GOVT 386 Syllabus - Spring 2008 MWF 10:10 - 11:00 219...

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Spring 2008 MWF 10:10 - 11:00 219 Phillips Hall G OVERNMENT 386: T HE C AUSES OF W AR Professor Christopher Way Teaching Assistants: Office : 306 White Hall Maria Sperandei Office Hours: Wednesday 1:30 - 3:30 Geoff Wallace Email : crw12@cornell.edu Office Phone: 255-8920 Course Description: Government 386 examines problems of war and peace in theoretical and historical perspective. More specifically, we will examine the causes of interstate war – that is, large scale organized violence between the armed forces of states. We will seek to discover what kinds of conditions make war between states more or less likely. Topics covered include: 1) historical patterns in warfare; 2) theoretical explanations for war; 3) evaluation of the evidence for the various explanations; 4) the impact of nuclear weapons on international politics; 5) the uses and limitations of air power; 6) ethics and warfare; and, 7) international terrorism and asymmetric warfare. Causes of war may be found at several “levels of analysis.” Our survey will focus on theories of war at three levels of analysis: the individual and small groups, the nation- state, and the international system. At each level different theories aim to identify causes of war and discover variables that make war more or less likely. At the individual level, for example, various psychological theories of decision making and small group dynamics offer explanations for war. At the state level, the central claim is that something about the nature of particular types of states causes them to be more aggressive or war-prone than other types of states (for example, democracies vs. authoritarian states, trading vs. autarchic states, unstable vs. secure governments). Finally, explanations at the international system level focus on balance of power politics, cycles of hegemonic rise and decline, arms races, deterrence failure, and alliance patterns as possible causes of war. After surveying explanations for war at these three levels, we will end the course by discussing a number of special topics: 1) the role of nuclear weapons; 2) the uses of air power in the contemporary era; 3) ethics and warfare; and, 4) international terrorism and asymmetric warfare. Throughout the class, we will pay special attention to evaluating the empirical evidence for different theories of war: what kind of evidence counts for or against a perspective? How well does the historical record support a theory’s key hypotheses? Does statistical evidence, which looks at the conditions surrounding the outbreak of dozens or hundreds of wars, support or impugn hypotheses? Is this evidence consistent with the careful casework of historians who look at particular wars in great detail? Upon completing the course, students will not only be acquainted with the main types of explanations offered
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2 for war, but they will also be able to evaluate the evidence supporting the various explanations of the causes of war. In turn, this knowledge should help students evaluate
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GOVT 386 Syllabus - Spring 2008 MWF 10:10 - 11:00 219...

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