Course Description

" War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” Is this necessarily true? Wars are brutal and horrific events, but all they all necessarily the result of miscalculation, accident or fanaticism? Can war serve a rational purpose? Are wars governed by rules and do states care about these rules? Are some periods in history, particular parts of the world or certain types of states, more war prone than others? What are tribal, ethnic, religious or national groups actually fighting over? Can their conflicts be prevented, moderated or halted? Are democracies more peaceful than dictatorships? Are Protestants more peaceful than Catholics? Are women more peaceful than men? Is terrorism on the rise and why has it developed a unique relationship with religious fundamentalism? Have nuclear weapons changed the face of modern war? How do nuclear weapons work anyway?

This course seeks to answer these and other questions surrounding the phenomenon of war. We begin with a three-week survey of the history of war in the Western Hemisphere to examine the relationship between societies, the manner in which they fought and the weapons they used. We will then seek answers to riddle of war from a variety of disciplines: What can soldiers, philosophers, economists, geographers, psychologists and sociologists teach us about war?

The core of the course seeks to introduce students to theories of war from within International Relations theory. We will utilize in-class exercises, movies and discussion sections to get at some of the most challenging questions surrounding war. Finally, we will examine several pressing issues relating to modern warfare: the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, genocide, civil war, humanitarian intervention and peacekeeping.

This course does not require prior knowledge, although previous enrollment in PS120A will facilitate grappling with some of the more theoretical debates covered in this course. Students interested in enrolling should be prepared for a demanding class that will require proactive involvement, mandatory attendance at weekly sections, three exams and several written assignments. The class is also reading intensive: two books, totaling 600 pages, are assigned for the first week of classes alone.

  • Alsion Bond:
  • Christian Ford: 
  • Joseph Gardner: 
  • Sarah ( Nina) Kelsey: Tuesdays 11:30am-12:30 pm Law School Cafe Wednesdays 1:45pm-2:45pm 715 Barrows
  • Rengyee Lee: Wednesdays 1:00pm-2:00pm Cafe Milano 2522 Bancroft Way
  • George Willcoxon: