POL S 203, Spring 2010
Introduction to International Relations


Course description

This course introduces students to the major theoretical approaches to international relations—Realism, Liberalism, and Marxism—and uses these approaches to address a variety of issues. For example, we will discuss the rise of the modern state system, the origins of World War I, the Cold War, the Gulf and Iraq Wars, genocide in Rwanda and Darfur, free trade, globalization, North-South relations, the environment, and human rights. The principle aims of the course are to demonstrate how theory influences our explanations; to familiarize students with some important issues in international politics; and most important, to help students evaluate contemporary issues in international politics.

Teaching Assistants

Brandon Bosch (boschb@uw.edu) AF/AI
Andrew Cockrell (andrewsc@uw.edu) AH/AJ
Stephan Hamberg (shamberg@uw.edu) AA/AD
Yuting Li (liyuting@uw.edu) AB/AC
Young Jin Yang (yjyang@uw.edu) AE/AG

Required texts and grading

Required Texts:

A course reader is available at Professional Copy for $26 (634-2689, 4200 University Way). All readings are also available on electronic reserves: https://eres.lib.washington.edu/eres/default.aspx.

Daily reading of the New York Times. Subscription (M-F, $27.50) available through the HUB Ticket Office (543-2277) or South Campus Center Newsstand (543-2885).  Also acceptable to read: Economist, Financial Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal. Suggest reading Saturday and Sunday NYT at nyt.com.


Grades will be based on three in class exams (25%, 25%, and 30%) and on participation and performance in section (20%).  There will be no make-up exams unless: 1) the student receives the instructor's permission before the date of the exam, or 2) the student provides a written excuse from a physician for having missed an exam—this requirement is waived in the case of a flu epidemic. For additional information on courses, grading, academic conduct, and on university policies, see http://www.polisci.washington.edu/Dept_and_Univ_Policies.pdf

Course Outline

I. Explaining International Politics
  A. Rise of the modern state system
  B. Realism and international politics
  C. Liberalism and international politics
  D. Marxism and international politics
  E. Origins of WWI
Midterm (25%)

II. The Cold War and the Rise of U.S. Hegemony
  A. End of the European era: Versailles to Munich
  B. The Cold War and its causes
  C. Explaining the long peace and the Soviet collapse

III. A New World Order?
  A. Gulf War
  B. Yugoslavia, Somalia, Rwanda, Darfur
  C. Iraq War
Midterm (25%)

IV. Economic and Transnational Issues
  A. Free trade and globalization
  B. North-South relations
  C. Environment
  D. Identities: conflict and cooperation
  E. Justice and human rights
Final (30%)

lectures and readings


M 3/29 Introduction

W,F 3/31, 4/2 Rise of the Modern State System
David  Ziegler, "War in the Past," War, Peace and International Politics (Harper Collins, 1993),  pp. 17-30.

Felix Gilbert and David Large, "The quest for hegemony and world power," The End of the European Era: 1890 to the present (Norton, 1991), pp. 101-121.

Rudyard Kipling, "White Man's Burden," [1899] from Rudyard Kipling, The Works of Rudyard Kipling, vol. 21 (New York: Scribners, 1903), pp. 78-80.

M,W 4/5-7 Realism and International Politics

Thucydides, "The Melian Dialogue," in A History of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC), trans. Rex Warner. Penguin, 1954/1972, pp. 400-408.

Robert Gilpin, "The Theory of Hegemonic War," J. of Interdisciplinary History xvii (Spring 1988), pp. 591-613.

Stephen M. Walt, "How not to contain Iran" in Foreign Policy (March 5, 2010). See his blog, "A realist in an ideological age," http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/03/05/how_not_to_contain_iran

F,M 4/9-12 Liberalism and International Politics
Michael Doyle, "Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs," Philosophy and Public Affairs (Summer 1983), pp. 205-232 (skip part V, pp. 232-35).

Michael Doyle, "After the freedom agenda," Dissent (Summer 2009)

 "Neocon 101" and see the interview with Max Boot, in the Christian Science Monitor. http://www.csmonitor.com/specials/neocon/neocon101.html

W,F 4/14-16 Marxism and International Politics

John Cassidy, "The Return of Karl Marx," The New Yorker (20 October 1997)

Leo Panich, "Thoroughly Modern Marx," Foreign Policy (May/June 2009)

K. Zilliacus, "Economic and Social Causes of War," Mirror of the Past: A History of Secret Diplomacy (NY: A.A. Wyn, 1946), pp. 136-149.

Dennis the Peasant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOOTKA0aGI0

M, 4/19 Origins of WWI

Review Gilbert and Large, "The quest for hegemony."

Michael Gordon, "Domestic Conflict and the Origins of the First World War: The British and the German Cases," Journal of Modern History 46/2 (June 1974), pp. 191-226.

W, 4/21  Midterm (Bring exam books)


F, 4/23 End of the European Era: Versailles to Munich

Ziegler, "Results of WWI" and "WWII,"  pp. 39-51.

M, 4/26 Origins of the Cold War: the Bomb and Containment

X [George Kennan], "The Sources of Soviet Conduct," (1947), Foreign Affairs 65 (Spring 1987).

W 4/28- Korean War and the Causes of the Cold War 

Ziegler, "The Cold War and the Korean War," pp. 53-73.

John Lewis Gaddis, "The Long Peace," International Security 10/4 (1986) pp 1-44.

F, 4/30 Explaining the Long Peace and the Soviet Collapse
Gaddis, "The Long Peace."


M 5/3 Gulf War
Eric Miller and Steve Yetiv, "The New World Order in Theory and Practice: The [G.H.W.] Bush Administration's Worldview in Transition," Presidential Studies Quarterly (March 2001).

W 5/5 Yugoslavia and Somalia
John Stoessinger, "From Sarajevo to Kosovo," Why Nations Go To War (St. Martin's, 2001), pp. 217-250.

F,M 5/7-10 Rwanda and Darfur
Video, "Triumph of Evil," Frontline,
transcript: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/evil/etc/script.html

Samantha Power, "Bystanders to genocide: why the United States let the Rwandan tragedy happen," The Atlantic (September 2001)

Samantha Power, "Dying in Darfur," The New Yorker (August 30, 2004).

John Prendergast and Omer Ismail, "Genocide in Darfur: How Sudan covers it up," Christian Science Monitor (3/1/2010)

W 5/12  Iraq War 

Paul Kennedy, "The Perils of Empire," Washington Post (April 20, 2003).

Max Boot, "Neither New nor Nefarious: The Liberal Empire Strikes Back," Current History (Nov 2003).

F 5/14 Second Midterm (Bring exam books) 


M,W  5/17-19 Free Trade, WTO, and Globalization

Robert Gilpin, "The Nature of Political Economy," excerpts from U.S. Power and the Multinational Corporation (1975).

John Cassidy, "Winners and Losers: The truth about free trade," New Yorker (August 2, 2004), 26-30.

James Fallows, "China's Way Forward," The Atlantic (April 2009)

F,M 5-21-24 North-South Relations
See the one page interview by Deborah Solomon, "Questions for Dambisa Moyo: The Anti-Bono," New York Times Magazine (February 19, 2009). And Jagdish Bhagwati, "Banned aid: why international assistance does not alleviate poverty," Foreign Affairs (Jan-Feb 2010).

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, "The Women's Crusade," New York Times Magazine (August 23, 2009).

Adam Hochschild, "Blood and treasure: Why one of the world's richest countries is also one of its poorest," Mother Jones (March-April 2010)
W,F 5/26-28 Environment 

Marvin S. Soroos, "The Tragedy of the Commons in Global Perspective," in The Global Agenda: Issues and Perspectives fourth edition (McGraw-Hill, 1995), pp. 422-435.

Barry Schwartz, "Tyranny for the Commons Man," The National Interest (July/August 2009).
M 5/31 Holiday: Memorial Day

W 6/2 Identities: Conflict and Cooperation
Samuel P. Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations?" Foreign Affairs 72/3 (Summer 1993).

Interview with Huntington, "A head-on collision of alien cultures?" NYT (10/20/2001).

F 6/4 Justice and Human Rights
Suzanne Katzenstein and Jack Snyder, "Expediency of the angels," The National Interest (March/April 2009).

W 6/9 FINAL EXAM  8:30-10:20, SMI 120 

Bring exam books.

Send mail to: mercer@u.washington.edu
Last modified: 3/24/2010 3:50 PM