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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jonathan L. Mercer
POL S 407
Seattle Campus

International Conflict

Examines different theoretical explanations for the causes of war, including the role of international, state, organizational, and individual factors; additional topics vary with instructor. May include the development of warfare, deterring weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, intelligence, and the ethics of warfare.

Class description

What are the causes of war, how do we deter war, and what are some of the ways of war? We will address each issue. After briefly discussing deterrence theory, we will use individual, state, and international levels of analysis to understand some of the causes of war. Our substantive focus will range from World War I to Syria, and will include ethnic conflict and counter-insurgency. We will then focus on how nuclear weapons affect war, diplomacy, and the theory and practice of deterrence. Other topics include the spread of nuclear weapons, national security and terrorism, chemical and biological weapons, and the psychology of obedience. The course concludes with a focus on the problems and issues in intelligence assessments, economic sanctions, and non-lethal weapons. The course objective is to familiarize students with deterrence theory, with different theoretical approaches to the causes of war, and to provide background in a few substantive areas of international security.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Texts: There will be a course packet of required articles and book chapters, and one required book: Kenneth Waltz, Man, the State, and War.

Class assignments and grading

Assignments: There will be two exams and one short (10-12 page) paper that applies the theories and concepts discussed in the course to a contemporary security issue.

Grading: Exams: 60 % (30% each) Paper: 30 % (final paper) Class/quiz participation: 10 % (TA sections) TOTAL: 100 %


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Jonathan L. Mercer
Date: 09/19/2013