War, Peace, Terrorism (Ith.Sem.)

Ithaca Seminar, ICSM 10500-59 (CRN: 23555 )
War, Peace and Terrorism

Fall 2012
Tu-Th 8-9:15am, Friends 205
W 12-12:50, Williams 313
Prof. Chip Gagnon
324 Muller Center
tel. 607-274-1103
Office hours: Tu & Th 9:30-10:30, and by appointment
e-mail:  vgagnon@ithaca.edu

Go to daily reading assignments
Updated 8/14/2012


War seems to be part of what it means to be human; wars occur in almost every society, and despite enormous efforts to prevent war, it still happens with regularity. In this seminar we’ll explore the topic of war from a range of perspectives and disciplines. Why do wars happen? How are they fought? Is technology changing the very nature of war? What do we mean by “peace”? What brings about peace? Is terrorism a form of war, or is it something else?

We start by looking at various theories of war and peace, and learn to understand how different assumptions or beliefs lead people to see questions of war and peace in different ways. We then look at the issue of terrorism from different perspectives, using this issue to think critically about the use of violence. In the next section of the course we examine different theories of war fighting and how those theories are realized in real life; as well as how competing theories lead to competing policies. Finally we look at different views on the link between culture and war, specifically in terms of religiously or ethnically defined conflicts.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course you should:

  • understand the major theories of war and peace, and the values implicit in each of these different ways of looking at the world, thus giving you the tools necessary to understand the day-to-day events reported in the media;
  • be aware of the intimate linkages between what are usually thought of as separate: “domestic” and “international” politics;
  • have a basic background in various areas of international conflict, to provide a foundation to understand and critically evaluate current international events and processes.
  • be able to read, understand, and analyze articles of varying complexity on international topics.

This course has the following objectives as part of the overall Politics Departmental goals:

  • Students will demonstrate a capacity for critical writing.
  • Students will demonstrate global awareness and understanding.
  • Students will demonstrate critical self-consciousness about their ethical positions vis-à-vis political and civic life.
  • Students will demonstrate sensitivity to and understanding of multiple perspectives, eg, class, race, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality.
  • Students will demonstrate a capacity to apply ideas to lived contexts

The course also has the following objectives as part of the Ithaca Seminar program:

  • Students will learn to analyze and critically evaluate ideas, arguments, and points of view.
  • Students will gain global awareness and understanding, both in terms of factual knowledge as well as in terms of theories.
  • Students will learn to apply course material to understanding events in the international arena

Course Materials

  • Required readings are in a course reader, a packet of photocopies. The course reader can be purchased (cash or check made out to Ithaca College) for $15 in the Dept. of Politics office at 309 Muller Center. I expect each of you to buy a reader and to bring it to class.
  • Students are also expected to follow international issues in non-US newspapers that have substantial coverage of international issues (go here for links). Examples from these sources will make up part of classroom discussion as well as some written assignments. When reading these newspapers, ask yourself what stories are not being reported, and what’s not being said in the stories that are being reported. Also think about how their coverage differs from the information you are seeing in the US media.
  • Some of the readings are also online. These can be accessed by clicking on the links in the relevant places on the web version of the syllabus.

Readings listed as “Required” are mandatory — you should have read and thought about them before class — and serve as background for the class discussion. Readings listed as “Suggested” are not required, but provide further background and information on the topic under discussion.

The readings are of varying complexities; some are quite difficult. If you have any questions on the readings, please ask in class, or stop by my office.

I would suggest taking notes on the readings as you do them to ease review for exams. The assigned essays require an indepth understanding of specific assigned readings, so it is in your interest to do all required readings carefully. The amount of reading is generally small enough that you should have time to carefully read and take notes on the readings before each class.


What does “doing the readings” mean?

It doesn’t mean just sitting down and mechanically going through the articles; that’s a sure way to make even an interesting article boring.

Reading is an active and interactive process between the reader and the text. If you’re really reading a text you are also reacting to it. I’ve included a wide range of texts in order to provoke a wide range of responses from readers.

Reading should also be a reflective process. To really understand an article deeply it is usually necessary to read it and think about it, and then read it again, and think about it, and discuss it with others, write about it and read it yet again. I’ve found that even after many readings, when I read a text in order to explain it to someone else I get new perspectives on the author’s arguments and assumptions, on the text’s strengths and weaknesses.

So when I say “do the readings,” I mean “engage yourself with the ideas of the text.” I understand that some of the texts are quite complex and that not all of them are entertaining. But struggle is part of the reading experience. If something’s not clear, if it’s confusing, talk about it with others outside of class, and/or bring it up in class.

If it’s a long or complex reading, don’t try to do it all in one sitting; take breaks, come back to it, read it in small doses. As I mentioned above, taking notes on a text while you read it or re-read it is also a very good way to engage the text and to make sure you understand it.

If you do not understand the readings after we discuss them in class, please see me immediately. Some of the readings are very challenging, and I expect you to speak with me if anything is not clear.

NOTE: If you come to class consistently unprepared, I reserve the right to unilaterally drop you from the course.


The final grade in the class will be determined by:

  • Class participation. (20% of final grade) This part of the final grade will be based on participation in class, which includes:
    • Attendance. I expect students to be present at every class. For every absence after the fourth one, your final grade will be reduced by a grade (that is, from an A to an A-, for example). It is wise to use your absences only for illnesses.
    • Being prepared. I expect you to have done the assigned readings for the day and to have thought about them before class. Being consistently unprepared will significantly affect your final grade.
    • Participation. Classroom discussion of readings is a key part of the learning process. By actively taking part you also improve your chances of doing well on the written assignments.
    • No electronic devices. During class I expect all electronic devices to be turned off. This includes laptops, cell phones, iphones, etc. Using a device during class will count as an absence for that day. If you cannot bear to be parted from your device, you should take another class.
  • Activities reports. (5% of final grade) As part of the Ithaca Seminar experience, you’ll be expected to attend at least three on-campus talks or lectures over the course of the semester, at least one each in the months of September, October and November.
    • For each activity that you attend, please write up an approximately one-page summary that tells me the major points you gathered from the event, as well as your own reaction to it. These will not be graded, but you must hand them in to pass the course. They will be due on October 2, November 1, and December 4 (the first day of class in each month).
  • Written assignments. Please note that essays are due in my office, 324 Muller Center, by 4pm on the due date (except for Essay #3, due during final exam week). The grade is reduced by a grade (eg, from A to A-) for each day an assignment is late. It is your choice whether to hand the assignment in by the due date or afterward, but please be aware of these consequences.
  • Essay #1. Due Tuesday 10/9 by 4pm. (25% of final grade) A take-home exam on major theories of war and peace.
  • Essay #2. Due Tuesday 11/13 by 4pm. (25%) A take-home essay on terrorism and war fighting issues.
  • Essay #3. Due Tuesday 12/18 by 4:30pm. (25%) A take-home essay on terrorism, grand strategies and culture.
  • Please note: You cannot pass the course unless you have handed in all written assignments.

    Meaning of grades:
    A = excellent: intense effort and remarkable achievement.
    B = good: good effort and pretty good understanding
    C = okay: barely adequate amount of effort or effort that is somewhat misfocused or mistargeted
    D = inadequate effort or mistargeted effort
    F = little or no effort or complete misunderstanding of expectations

    If you get below a C, you should immediately come to see me so we can discuss your paper or exam.

If you have any questions about the class, the readings, the discussions, or anything else, I will be more than happy to meet with you either during office hours or at some other time. To schedule another time please see me after class, or contact me by e-mail or phone (607-274-1103).

Daily Assignments

Go to reading assignments for: Introduction (8/30 – 10/9) | Terrorism (10/10 – 10/25) | War Fighting (10/30 – 11/8) | Grand Strategy (11/13 – 11/29) | War, Peace & Culture (12/4 – 12/13)

Updated 11/13/2012

I. Introduction: Thinking about war and peace

In this first section we pose the questions we hope to answer in the course. We look at the assumptions that underlie how people think about war and peace, examine a number of different approaches to answering the question of why war happens and how to bring about peace, as well as talk about the goals of a liberal education and the Ithaca Seminar in particular.

Th 8/30Tu 9/4 Introductions. The course and Ithaca Seminars.

W 9/5 Liberal education, critical thinking, rigor, Ithaca Seminar.

Th 9/6 Why war? Why peace? The case of Kosovo
Required reading:
– Madeleine Albright, “US and NATO policy towards the crisis in Kosovo”, pp. (or Link to video of entire hearing at which Albright spoke, including questions from Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Albright’s answers to them
– Kucinich, “What I learned from the War” (link only works on campus), pp.8-14
– Dimitrijevic, “The Collateral Damage is Democracy” , pp.15-16
To think about:
In class we’ll think about the different ways that the 1999 war in Kosovo, including US involvement, can be explained. According to Albright, why was the US involved in Kosovo? What specific reasons did she give? Are you convinced by them? Why are Kucinich and Dimitrijevic opposed to NATO bombings over Kosovo? How did they differ from Albright’s arguments? Can you pick out how their assumpions and / or beliefs differ from Albright’s? What’s the way to achieve peace in the region according to these authors?

Tu 9/11 Thinking about war and peace: What is a theory?
To think about:
What is a theory? Why are there competing theories in the social sciences? What is an assumption? How can we understand the complexity of the international arena? Also think about theories as stories: who are the characters, what are their motivations, what are the assumptions (for example, are aliens, friendly or hostile, mindless or rational); different assumptions lead to different stories.

W 9/12 Study Abroad session. Textor 102

Interview with Mearsheimer
on realism (58 mins)

Th 9/13
Theories: Realism. Plus, how to read academic texts
Required reading:
– Mearsheimer, “Anarchy and the Struggle for Power”, pp.17-30
– Mearsheimer and Walt, “Keeping Saddam Hussein in a Box”, p.31
To think about:
How do Realists see world politics? What do they consider as important, and what do they see as less important? What are the causes of war for Realists? Is peace possible? How is Mearsheimer and Walt’s argument in the second article against the Iraq war an illustration of a Realist world view?

Tu 9/18 Theories: Liberalism — multilateral and unilateral
Required reading:
– Russett & Oneal, “The Kantian Peace in the 21st Century”, pp.32-42
– Rhodes, “The Imperial Logic”, pp.43-48 (up to the top of the second column on page 48)
To think about:
What are the causes of war and peace from a Liberal perspective? How does the liberal view of domestic society influence their view of international relations? How is Albright’s argument for war based on a liberal perspective? What different assumptions do multilateral and unilateral liberals have that lead them to see the world so differently?
Links of interest:
Obama’s National Security Strategy of the US, May 2010
National Security Strategy of the US, March 2006
National Security Strategy of the US, Sept 2002
George Bush’s June 1, 2002 speech at West Point

W 9/19 Time management session Textor 102

Th 9/20 Theories: Global Humanism
Required reading:
– Gurtov, “World Politics in Global-Humanist Perspective”, pp.49-57
– Hobden and Jones, “The US, The United Fruit Company, and Guatemala”, p.58
To think about:
What does “peace” mean for Global Humanists? What are the causes of war? What is more important, and what is less important for them than for Realists and Liberals?

Tu 9/25 Theories: Critical gender theory
Required reading:
– “Critical Theory, Constructivism, and Post-modernism”, p.59
– Miedzian, “‘Real Men,’ ‘Wimps,’ and Our National Security,” pp.60-70
– “Threatened men more pro war, SUVs”, p.71
To think about:
– What does gender have to do with war and peace? Would a world run by women be more peaceful?

W 9/26 First year experience: The first month.

Th 9/27 War and human nature
Required reading:
– Grossman, excerpts from On Killing, pp.72-80
– Baum, “The Price of Valor” pp.81-89
Video of interest:
Lt. Col Dave Grossman interview On Killing (26:58)
To think about:
– If it’s so hard for people to kill others, why do wars happen?

Tu 10/2 War and morality: Just war theory
Required readings:
– BBC, “Just War” pp.90-101
– Zinn, “A Just Cause, Not a Just War” pp.102-105
To think about:
Can killing ever be morally justified? Can war? Does it matter how you fight a war if the war is fought for moral reasons?
Activity Report for September due

W 10/3 Checking out the South Hill Recreation Trail

Th 10/4Tu 10/9 Starship Troopers (130 mins)
In class: Film and discussion
To think about:
The meaning of citizenship; the ways in which the enemy is portrayed, in the film and in real life; motivations to fight wars.

Essay #1 Due Tu 10/9 by 4pm (30 percent of final grade)

II. Terrorism

W 10/10 Historical background: The Cold War and its aftermath
Required readings:

– Klare, “The Geopolitics of War”, pp.129-132
– Cooley, Unholy Wars, “Introduction”, pp.133-138
In class
– Red Dawn trailer
To think about:
– the relationship between how the US fought the Cold War, and the challenges it sees afterwards; the comparative power of its identified main adversaries during the Cold War and now; the continuity in the Cold War and post-Cold War eras.

Th 10/11 Terrorism: Strategic or Pure rage?
Required reading:
– Lemann, “What Terrorists Want: Is there a better way of defeating Al Qaeda?”, pp.139-144
– Bush, excerpts from Sept. 20, 2011 speech, pp.145-146
Suggested reading:
– Hoffman, “Defining Terrorism“, Chapter 1 of Inside Terrorism, for historical background on the term (online; if you can’t access this directly, google “hoffman” and “defining terrorism” and click on the link for “Inside Terrorism” at nytimes.com, it should work for you)
To think about:
What is the definition of terrorism? What are the causes of terrorism? What 2 views of terrorism’s causes and solutions does Lemann identify in the article?

Interview with Robert Pape
not same as reading. 28 mins)

(Link to video)Tu 10/16
Terrorist motives
Required reading:
“The Logic of Suicide Terrorism,” Interview with Robert Pape, pp.147-152
– Pape, “Portraits of Three Suicide Terrorists” pp.153-162
– Pape, “A new strategy for victory”
– Bergen & Lind, “A Matter of Pride”, pp.171-178
To think about:
What assumptions underlie the arguments in these readings? What are the logical policy implications, given those assumptions?

W 10/17 Using the library, Room 319 in the library

Th 10/18 Fall Break

Tu 10/23 Terrorism as threat?
Required reading:
– Campos, “Undressing the terror threat,” pp.179-181
– Bacevich, Why military spending remains untouchable” pp.182-186
– Mueller, “Is there still a terrorist threat?” pp.186a-186g
Video of interest:
Fake terror and the war for your mind (SOTT Report)
To think about:
The cost of treating terrorism as a major security threat.

W 10/24
Aesthetic Appreciation: Austin Ballard art preview. Location: Handwerker Gallery, 1st floor of library building

Th 10/25 Terrorism in historical and global perspective
Required reading:
– Bergesen & Lizardo, “International Terrorism and the World-System” pp.187-201
To think about:
If we look at terrorism from this perspective, what should or can be done about it? Also think about how this approach to understanding terrorism differs from the others we’ve read.

III. Future of War: War fighting

How wars are fought is based on the assumed threat. In this section we’ll look at different war-fighting strategies, the threats they assume, and the ways in which they define success or victory.

Tu 10/30 The future of war and RMA: The Revolution in Military Affairs
– Lemann, “Dreaming About War”, pp.202-204
– Williams, “The Great Transformation” pp.205-206
– Morley, “Hatred: What Drones Sow”
Suggested reading:
– Schachtman, “Taking Aim at Military Technology” (online)
Link of interest:
Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) resources from the Project on Defense Alternatives
Review of a book on RMA, The Iraq Wars and America’s Military Revolution by Keith Shimko (review by David Ucko)
To think about:
What are the underlying assumptions of the RMA proponents about the future of war? What are the threats they assume? How do these assumptions drive their support for RMA?

W 10/31
History of IC session, Textor 102

Interview with Lt.Col.John Nagl, one of authors of US Army Counterinsurgency Manual

(Link to video)
Th 11/1 The Future of War and Counterinsurgency (COIN)
Required reading:
– Lieven, “Soldiers before missiles: Meeting the challenge from the world’s streets” (pdf link), pp.211-217
– Record, “Why the Strong Lose,” pp.218-233
Link of interest:
– US military field manual, US Military Counterinsurgency Manual, Dec 2006 (pdf)
– Office of the Under Secretary of Defense For Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, “Defense Science Board Study on Transition To and From Hostilities
To think about:
What are Record’s underlying assumptions about warfare? How doe they differ from those of the RMA proponents? How do his assumptions drive his views on policy?

Activity Report for October due

Tu 11/6 – W 11/7 Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan
In class:
– Frontline Film: Obama’s war
To think about:
– COIN theory vs. what happens on the ground

Th 11/8 The Future of War: “Air-Sea Battle”
Required readings:
-Cobb, “Good-Bye Counter-Insurgency, Hello Air-Sea Battle” pp.234-236
– van Tol, “AirSea Battle: A Point-of-Departure Operational Concept” pp.237-246
– Lacey, “Air-Sea Battle” pp.247-249
-Glain, “By Choosing Arms Over Diplomacy, America Errs in Asia” pp.250-252
To think about:
The different premises and assumptions this strategy is based on; what are the main points of critique presented by Lacey and Glain? How do they differ?

III. Future of War: Grand strategy

Tu 11/13 – W 11/14 US Empire?
In class:
Team America [98 mins]
Required readings:
– Kagan, “The Benevolent Empire” pp.253-268
– Maynes, “The Perils of (and for) an Imperial America” pp.269-281

To think about:
Contrast the argument between Kagan and Maynes with the portrayal in Team America. Which theory is closest to the way Team America portrays US actions?

Essay #2 Due Tu 11/13 by 4pm (25 percent of final grade)

Interview with Thomas Barnett
(57 mins)

(Link to video)Th 11/15
War and empire
Required reading:
– Barnett, “The Pentagon’s New Map,” pp.282-288
– Yglesias, “The Space Race” pp.289-290
To think about:
What are the assumptions implicit in Barnett’s analysis? What are the main values, priorities, and motivations of key actors in his analysis? How does his argument fit (or not) into previous readings/ films? Which of his assumptions leads Yglesias to such a different conclusion than Barnett?
Link of interest:
Barnett’s blog

Tu 11/20 – Th 11/22 Thanksgiving Break no class

Tu 11/27 War, history, and empire
Required reading:
– Barkawi, “On the Pedagogy of ‘Small Wars'”, pp.291-309
To think about:
How does Barkawi’s approach differ from those we’ve read already? What are his assumptions regarding wars fought by the US and other great powers? How do his conclusions differ from the ones we’ve discussed to date?

W 11/28 Guest speaker: Lee Ann Fujii, author of Killing Neighbors: Webs of violence in Rwanda, will talk to us about doing research in post-conflict societies, including her own current project focusing on Rwanda, Bosnia and the eastern shore of Maryland.

Th 11/29 China and the international system: A new international order?
Required reading:
– Barnett, “The Chinese are our friends” pp.310-318
– Lieven, “Avoiding a US-China War” pp.319-320
– Jacques, “A new sun rises in the east” pp.321-325


IV. War, Peace and Culture

One of the striking aspects of the current international scene is that concurrent with globalization and removing borders, there are also growing numbers of violent conflicts at local and regional levels in which cultural themes (ethnic, religious, etc.) are prominent. Why this apparent contradiction? Is there a relation?

Tu 12/4 Civilizations and Cultures in Conflict?
Required reading:
– Huntington, “Clash of Civilizations?”, pp.326-338
To think about:
What are Huntington’s assumptions about culture and conflict?  Why does he think that the nature of international relations is shifting in such a fundamental way?  Does consuming western goods change a culture? Is that a good thing? What are the causes of violence? To get peace does everyone have to become like us?
Activity Report for November due

W 12/5 Clash of Civilizations: Another view
Required reading:
– Sen, “Civilizational Imprisonments”, pp.339-344
– Sen, “Universal Truths: Human Rights and the Westernizing Illusion”, pp.345-349
To think about:
What is a culture? What do you have in common with those who share a culture with you? Why do we so easily accept arguments ethnicity and cultural diversity cause violent conflict?

Th 12/6 Islam: Another view
Required reading:
– Esposito, excerpts from The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?, pp.350-360
– Mehio, “How Islam and Politics Mixed,” pp.361-362
– Friedman, “Turkey Wings It”, p.363
To think about:
How does the way Esposito, Mehio, and Friedman talk about Islam differ from Huntington’s use?

Tu 12/11 – W 12/12
Ethnic mobilization and violent conflict
In class showing of “We are all neighbors” and excerpt from “Beauty and the Beast”
Required reading:
– “Bystanders,” Maas, p.364
– “What Ivan Said,” Drakulic, pp.365-370
– Gagnon, “Serbia’s Road to War”, just read the introductory section (pp.371-372, up to section head “reformists vs. conservatives”)
– Bonner, “Rwandans in Death Squad Say Choice Was Kill or Die,” pp.379-380
Suggested reading:
– Bowen, “The Myth of Global Ethnic Conflict”
Suggested viewing:
“Bosnia: We are all neighbors
” (DVD)
To think about:
What are the motivations of the participants in this violence? Think about the power of fear. Also what is the implicit theory of war in the Beauty and the Beast clip?

Th 12/13 Conclusion

Essay #3 due Tuesday 12/18, 4:30pm (25 percent of final grade)

Return to War, Peace and Terrorism syllabus
Return to Chip’s page
Last revised 11/13/2012