Intro to IR

For the full version of the online syllabus sign into Sakai and click on “Syllabus”.  For daily reading assignments click on “Daily Schedule”

POLT 12800 Introduction to International Relations, sections 2 & 3, Fall 2020

Prof. Chip Gagnon             vgagnon@ithaca.eduwoorld
Office hours: please email me for an appointment

MWF 9-9:50am (section 2)
MWF 10-10:50am (section 3)

To join each class, click on the Zoom link on the left menu in Sakai, then click on the relevant meeting link (9am or 10am).

Some IR blogs

Last revised 8/17/2020

Go to reading assignments for:
W 9/9 – W 9/30, Introduction and Theory | F 10/2 – M 10/5, Media and IR | W 10/7 – W 10/28, Security: Terrorism and the Future of War | F 10/30 – M 11/16, The Global EconomyW 11/18 – M 11/30, Future of the International OrderW 12/2 – M 12/14, Culture and International Conflict

Why are you here?

Bombings. Wars and insurgencies. Weapons of mass destruction. Pandemics. Trade wars. Nationalism. Ethnic and religious conflicts. The rise of China. Russian influence in Europe. The war in Syria. These are some of the topics you hear about in the news, and that we’ll be studying over the course of the semester.

UNHQ-lWhat we’ll be doing

One of the interesting things about international politics is that different people see it very differently.

We’ll be working to understand that diversity of views by looking at different conceptions of justice, conflicting views of human nature, competing visions of politics.

We’ll also explore some specific issues related to the international: the changing nature of warfare and terrorism; the international economy, processes of globalization of trade and investment that challenge the traditional understanding of the nation-state and have direct impacts on local communities in every part of the world, including the US; the concept of human security; the future of the international order; and the effect of culture and religion on international relations.

We’ll be doing this through in-class discussions of required readings and videos.

Shanghai /  上海

Course Materials

  • All required readings are available on Sakai as pdf files, and are accessible as links from this pdf syllabus; as links from the Syllabus link in Sakai; and as individual pdf files in Sakai (under Resources, Required Readings, the readings are in alphabetical order by author’s last name)
  • I suggest you print out the readingsStudies have shown that comprehension is much higher when a text is read on paper than on a screen.
  • 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 send me an email.

This course fulfills ICC requirements for the Social Science perspective, themes of “World of Systems” (how do people make sense of and navigate complexity?) and “Power and Justice” (how are these two concepts related and how can they be balanced?). For info on the objectives of the course and of the Politics Department, as well as other information, please go to the official online syllabus in Sakai.

What does “doing the readings” mean?


Istanbul / İstanbul

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.

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, and write about it. 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.  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.

Some of the readings are very challenging, and I expect you to speak with me as soon as possible if anything is not clear.


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). Much of the learning in this class happens in the classroom, in discussions. If you are missing class you are missing a crucial part of the course.
    • 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.   This includes keeping your video on and actively taking part in in-class discussions. I reserve the right to call on anyone, even if your hand is not raised. My goal is to include as many voices in possible in our in-class discussions.
    • Being engaged. Tempting though it might be to be multitasking during class time, I expect that you give your full attention to lectures and discussions. This is also in your own interest because exams will be based on discussions of readings.
  • Written assignments. Please note thfacebook_1576937943338at essays are due by 4pm on the due date (except for Essay #3, due during final exam week).  Please submit the paper on Sakai by the due date.
    Late policy: 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.·

    • Take home exam #1. Due F 10/2 by 4pm. (25% of final grade) A take-home exam on major IR theories.
    • Take home exam #2. Due F 11/6 by 4pm. (25%) A take-home essay on issues of terrorism and the future of war.
    • Take home exam #3. W 12/16 by 1pm. (30%) A take-home essay on the global economy and on culture in international relations.

Please note: You cannot pass the course unless you have handed in all written assignments.



Academic honesty

The Student Conduct Code of Ithaca College, Appendix II states that “Academic honesty is a cornerstone of the mission of the College. Unless it is otherwise stipulated, students may submit for evaluation only that work that is their own and that is submitted originally for a specific course.”

You must use quotation marks and citations for words that you have taken directly from a source. Likewise, you must use citations for closely paraphrased wordings of the original.

Copying or paraphrasing from other students’ papers is also a violation of this policy.

Students who plagiarize will receive a grade of F for the course and will be referred to Judicial Affairs for academic misconduct.

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 via Zoom. To schedule a time please see me after class, or contact me by e-mail at

Daily Assignments

I. Introduction: Thinking about the international

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 international politics, examine a number of approaches to understanding international relations and world politics, and relate them to issues of interest.

W 9/9 Introductions. Questions of War and Peace. Is peace a good thing? How do we come to see the world in particular ways?

F 9/11 Thinking about the international: The Crimea Crisis, 2014
Required reading:
Crimea Crisis map, (1 page)
– Obama, “Statement by President on Ukraine”, (3 pages)
– Putin, “Interview to German TV channel ARD” (excerpts) (Sakai), (4 pages)
– Mearsheimer, “Getting Ukraine Wrong”, (3 pages)
To think about:
What are the differences between Obama’s and Mearsheimer’s analyses of the Crimea situation? Why is Obama critical of this move by Russia?  Why does Mearsheimer disagree with that criticism? What are the implicit assumptions that each makes?

M 9/14 Poverty and Health as international issues?
Required reading:
– Kidder, “The Good Doctor”, (11 pages)
– Coughlin & Ives, “WikiLeaks Haiti: Let them live on $3 a day”, (4 pages)
Suggested reading:
– “Wikileaks Haiti: The Nation Partners With Haïti Liberté on Release of Secret Haiti Cables”
– Web site of Partners in Health
– Farmer, “Whither Equity in Health? The State of the Poor in Latin America” (online, pdf)
To think about:
As you read this article, think about how health issues such as AIDS or COVID or social issues such as poverty are international issues. Can AIDS or poverty be understood through by looking at relations between states? Is health care a human right? Why does Paul Farmer believe it is? What kind of framework could help us understand the international politics of AIDS? Does it even make sense to talk about the international politics of poverty? How does Paul Farmer understand these issues? Think about the moral and ethical aspects as well as security aspects of the issues. Does morality have a place in international relations? Do citizens of wealthy countries have moral responsibilities to poor people in other countries? How would one go about establishing those responsibilities?

II. Theories of International Relations

W 9/16 Thinking about World Politics: Perspectives and Approaches
Required reading:
Goldstein, “IR as a Field of Study”, (5 pages)
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? How do we define the international?

F 9/18 International Politics: Realism
Required reading:
Mearsheimer, “Anarchy and the Struggle for Power”, (14 pages)
Mearsheimer and Walt, “Keeping Saddam Hussein in a Box”, (3 pages)
To think about:
How do Realists see world politics? What do they consider as important, and what do they see as less important? How is Mearsheimer and Walt’s argument in the second article an illustration of a Realist world view?

M 9/21 Multilateral Liberalism
Required reading:
Russett & Oneal, “The Kantian Peace in the 21st Century”, (12 pages)
Albright, “The End of Intervention“, (2 pages)
To think about:
– How do Liberals see world politics? What makes a country Liberal? How does the Liberal view of domestic society influence their view of international relations?
– How do Liberals decide whether the use of military force is called for?  What makes Albright’s argument not a Realist argument?  What might a Realist response to that be?

W 9/23 Liberalism continued: Unilateral Liberalism
Required reading:
– Rhodes, “The Imperial Logic…”, first part, (stop at “A dissent” on p.141) (10 pages)
Links of Interest:
– George Bush’s June 1, 2002 speech at West Point
To think about:
– What different assumptions do multilateral and unilateral Liberals have that lead them to see the world so differently? Although the unilateral Liberal policies Rhodes is discussing rely heavily on US military power and hegemony, this is not a Realist argument.  What makes these policies Liberal, rather than Realist?
– What do you think a Multilateral Liberal critique of Unilateral Liberalism would be? Remember the last section of the Russett and Oneal article. Specifically think about how the assumptions that Russett and Oneal lay out in the first reading are the basis of the arguments in the Rhodes reading.
– Given the priority on US military hegemony, why is the unilateral liberal position laid out by Rhodes not a Realist one?

F 9/25 International Politics: Global Humanism
Required reading:
Gurtov, “World Politics in a Global-Humanist Perspective”, (10 pages)
O’Connell, “Pope in Bolivia Calls for ‘Structural Changes’ in World’s Economy”, (6 pages)
Hobden and Jones, “The US, The United Fruit Company, and Guatemala”, (1/2 page)
– Look over Kidder, “The Good Doctor” and Coughlin & Ives, “Wikileaks Haiti…”
Suggested Readings:
– Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation (in particular sections on “Some challenges of today’s world” and “The inclusion of the poor in society”)
“Vatican Document: All Economic Activity Has Moral Dimension”
Link of interest:
In the Human Interest, Gurtov’s blog
To think about:
How do Globalist Humanists see world politics? What is more important, and what is less important for them than for Realists and Liberals? How is the worldview of Paul Farmer, and of Pope Francis, reflective of a Global Humanist perspective? What are the presumed motivations of the US actions in Chomsky’s analysis?

M 9/28  International Politics: Critical theory
Required reading:
“Critical Theory, Constructivism, and Post-modernism”, (1 page)
Miedzian, “‘Real Men,’ ‘Wimps,’ and Our National Security” (9 pages)
Willer, “Men overcompensate…”, (2 pages)
To think about:
How does gender and other aspects of identity shape the way people use power and their perception of how the world works?

W 9/30 Conclusion of the Theory section
To think about:
The ways in which identity, beliefs, experiences affect the way we understand the world and how we interact with others.

III. The Media and International Relations

Most people get most information about international politics and US foreign policy from the mass media, especially television. What is the impact of media on international relations? What gets covered and why? What are the links between government and the media? What is the impact on how we think about the international? What kind of information is available online?

F 10/2 – M 10/5 Democracy, the media, and foreign policy
– In class: Film, The Panama Deception
Discussion of film: Democracy, media and foreign policy
Suggested readings:
– Mark Cook and Jeff Cohen, “The Media Goes to War: How TV Sold the Panama Invasion”

bl_diamTake home exam #1 due by F 10/2, 4 pm (25 percent of final grade)

IV. Security: Terrorism and the Future of War

This section of the course considers the term “security,” which is one of the focuses of traditional international relations. We consider several definitions of the term and ways in which it has been extended to cover non-military issues. We discuss in particular the issues of terrorism and the future of war

W 10/7 Historical background: The aftermath of the Cold War
Required Reading:
Klare, “The Geopolitics of War”, (10 pages)
Cooley, Unholy Wars, “Introduction”, (6 pages)
Williams, “Rise of ISIS Terror Army…”, (3 pages)
Suggested reading:
– Shavit, Al Qaeda’s Saudi Origins
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.

F 10/9 Terrorism: Strategic or Pure rage?
Required reading:
Lemann, “What Terrorists Want: Is there a better way of defeating Al Qaeda?”, (8 pages)
Bush, excerpts from Sept. 20, 2001 speech, (2 pages)
Campos, “Undressing the terror threat”, (4 pages)
Suggested reading:
– Pape, Rowley and Morell, “Why ISIL Beheads its Victims”
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? How does Bush’s speech illustrate the “pure rage” view? What do you think explains the puzzle that Campos raises?

M 10/12 Terrorist motives
Required readings:
Pape, “The Logic of Suicide Terrorism” (interview with Robert Pape), (7 pages)
Cole, “Sharpening Contradictions”, (3 pages)
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 is different than the others we’ve discussed.

W 10/14  The Future of War: RMA, Counterinsurgency (COIN) and Asymmetrical Conflicts
Required reading:
Lemann, “Dreaming about war” excerpts (On RMA), (3 pages)
Lieven, “Soldiers before missiles: Meeting the challenge from the world’s streets” (on COIN), (7 pages)
Record, “Why the Strong Lose” (on COIN), (14 pages)
To think about:
– What does success mean for the RMA? What about for COIN? How and why do they differ?
– What are Lieven and Record’s underlying assumptions about warfare?? How do they differ from those of RMA proponents?  How do their assumptions drive their views on policy?

F 10/16 Counterinsurgency continued
– Excerpts from “Obama’s War” (Frontline)
To think about:
From what you see in the documentary, what are the main challenges to the counterinsurgency strategy? Think about the arguments for it. Think also about the different views on the causes of terrorism.

M 10/19 Future of war: Netwar and Hybrid war
Required reading:
Arquilla, “The New Rules of War”, (12 pages)
Stowell, “What is hybrid war” and “To counter hybrid threats…”, (4 pages)
Zalan “‘Russian sources’ targeted EU elections…” (2 pages)
Link of interest:
– “The Advent of Netwar,” a 76 page report on the concept by Arquilla and a co-author.
To think about:
Does Arquilla’s concept of “Netwar” differ from what Lieven and Record are talking about? How does it relate to “Hybrid war”?  What is the assumed threat that these strategies are responding to? How are other states adapting their military strategies towards a netwar/hybrid war model?

W 10/21 War and peace
Required readings:
Barnett, “The Pentagon’s New Map” (10 pages)
– Critique: Yglesias, “The Space Race” (2 pages)
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 Lieven’s suggested war-fighting strategy fit with Barnett’s grand strategy? How do Yglesia’s assumptions lead him to such a different conclusion than Barnett?

F 10/23 TBA

M 10/26 War, history, and empire
Required reading:
Barkawi, “On the Pedagogy of ‘Small Wars'”, (19 pages)
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? What would be his take on the various military strategies we’ve discussed?

W 10/28 Human security
Required reading:
UN Trust Fund for Human Security, “About Human Security” (7 pages)
Deloffre, “Human security in the age of Ebola” (6 pages)
Monaco & Gupta, “The Next Pandemic Will Be Arriving Shortly” (3 pages)
Hartung, “Record global military spending undermines human security” (2 pages)
Link of interest:
Johns Hopkins University live interactive coronavirus-19 global map
To think about:
How does the concept of human security differ from the way security is usually thought of? Why is it underplayed when thinking about the concept of national security? Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic might lead to a fundamental shift in thinking about security?

V. The Global Economy

The globalization of the international economy is one of the main features of the international system since the end of WWII, and especially in the past few decades. It’s also become a major factor in domestic politics around the world. In this section we look at the development of the international economic system and discuss some issues linked with globalization of the economy.

F 10/30 The Global Economy: Background
Required reading:
Mingst, “International Political Economy” (30 pages)
Creskoff, “The Truth about the US and International Trade”, (2 pages)
To think about:
What are the arguments for trade? Who wins and who loses? How are winning and losing defined?

M 11/2  The Global Economy: Neoliberalism
Required reading:
Rosecrance, “The Virtual State”, (17 pages)
Friedman, “It’s a Flat World, After All” (13 pages)
To think about:

Rosecrance is writing in the mid-90s. What does he see as the future role of the state? How does he define security? What is his argument in favor of the liberal global economy? What are the assumptions implicit in Friedman’s analysis; do you see how his basic assumptions are the same as Rosecrance’s? What are the main values, priorities, and motivations of key actors in his analysis? How does his argument differ from and update Rosecrance’s? What changed over the previous 10-15 years?

W 11/4 The Global Economy: Other views
Required reading:
Chang, “The Lexus and the Olive Tree Revisited” (11 pages)
Vidal, “Wikileaks: US targets EU over GM crops” (2 pages)
To think about:
Contrast the claims about the benefits of globalization made by Rosecrance and Friedman with Chang’s argument, and with the issues raised in the last two readings. Are states justified in pressuring others to adhere to their notion of free trade? Is protectionism ever justified?  Should sovereignty ever be subordinated to trade issues?

F 11/6 – M 11/9 New Rulers of the World
Link of interest:
“Files reveal details of US support for Indonesian massacre”
To think about:
How and why does the analysis of the film differ from Rosecrance’s and Friedman’s analyses?
bl_diamTake home exam #2, due F 11/6 by 4pm (25 percent of final grade)

W 11/11 Global economy: what’s missing?
Required reading:
Gray, “The World is Round”, (9 pages)
To think about:
What is Gray saying is important that Friedman (and Rosecrance) is missing? Why does he disagree so strongly with Friedman’s analysis?

F 11/13 Critique of Neoliberalism
Required reading:
Rodrik, “Sense and Nonsense in the Globalization Debate”, (10 pages)
Rodrik, “Too late to compensate Free Trade’s Losers” (2 pages)
To think about:
The things that Rodrik is focusing on contrasted to what Rosecrance and Friedman’s focuses are. Remember the first article was written at about the same time as Rosecrance, while the second is from a couple of years ago. Think about how the first one resonates with criticisms of the global economy that we are hearing now, and compare it to Rodrik’s argument in his most recent article.

Note: Friday November 13 is the last day to withdraw from the course.

M 11/16 China as an economic superpower
Required reading:
Jacques, excerpts from When China Rules the World, (7 pages)
Barboza, “China’s Industrial Ambition Soars to High-Tech”, (3 pages)
Manuel, “China is quietly reshaping the world”, (5 pages)
Link of interest:
Photoessay on the New Silk Road (New Yorker)
To think about:
If the international economic order is determined by the most economically powerful actor, what might a Chinese-dominated global economy look like?  What shifts are currently occurring in the global order, according to Jacques and Manuel? Why are they happening? How are they happening? Think about the US military strategies we discussed earlier in the semester.

VI. Future of the International Order

W 11/18 The Liberal International Order: History and challenges
Kundnani, “What is the Liberal International Order”, (9 pages)
To think about:
Why did the US set up a Liberal global order? How does it benefit from that order? What are the challenges that Kundnani points to? What is the source of those challenges?

F 11/20 The rise of China and the international order
Required reading:
Ikenberry, “The Next Liberal Order”, (12 pages)
Yan, “The Age of Uneasy Peace”, (7 pages)
To think about:
The future of the liberal international order

M 11/23 China and the international system: New Order?
Jacques, “A new sun rises in the east”, (5 pages)
Kaczmarski, “Silk Globalization”, (27 pages)
To think about:
What are the factors that Jacques points to when he argues that China will alter the international order when it becomes more powerful.  What is Kaczmarski’s argument on this point? Think about the extent to which the international order is or is not a reflection of the historical values and identities of the most powerful actors.

Thanksgiving break W 11/25 – F 11/27

M 11/30 The Global order and the coronavirus pandemic
Required reading:
Campbell & Doshi, “The Coronavirus could reshape the global order” (5 pages)
Tocci, “How coronavirus will upturn the global order” (4 pages)
To think about:
How will the pandemic affect the international order?  What are the factors that contribute to a state being more influential in the global order?  To what extent are hard power vs soft power involved?

VII. Culture and Conflict

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? What is the relationship between culture and human rights?

W 12/2 Civilizations and Cultures in Conflict?
Required reading:
Huntington, “Clash of Civilizations?”, (28 pages)
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? What would Huntington say about Rosecrance’s argument?

F 12/4  Clash of Civilizations: Another view
Required reading:
Sen, “Civilizational Imprisonments”, (6 pages)
To think about:
What is a culture? What do you have in common with someone who shares a culture with you? What does Sen mean by culture?

M 12/7 Islam: Another view
Required reading:
Esposito, excerpts from The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?, (10 pages)
Mehio, “How Islam and Politics Mixed” (3 pages)
Friedman, “Turkey Wings It”, (2 pages)
Tharoor, “The long history of Muslims and Christians killing people together” (3 pages)
To think about:
How does the way Esposito, Mehio, Friedman and Tharoor talk about Islam differ from Huntington’s use?

W 12/9 Ethnic mobilization and conflict
In class showing of excerpt from “Beauty and the Beast”
Required reading:
Bowen, “The Myth of Global Ethnic Conflict”, (10 pages)
Maass, “Bystanders”, (1 page)
Drakulić, “What Ivan Said”, (6 pages)
Gagnon, “Serbia’s Road to War”, just read the introductory section (pp.498-499, up to section head “reformists vs. conservatives”) (2 pages)
Bonner, “Rwandans in Death Squad Say Choice Was Kill or Die,” (4 pages)
To think about:
What are the motivations of the participants in this violence? Think about the power of fear.

F 12/11 Culture and Human Rights 
Required readings:

Sen, “Universal Truths: Human Rights and the Westernizing Illusion” (4 pages)
Shaheed, “Cultures, Traditions and Violence Against Women: Human Rights Challenges” (7 pages)
– “We cannot accept cultural imperialism” (The Herald, Zimbabwe) (1 page)
Koyama, “The Uganda Controversy: Solidarity vs. Imperialism in LGBT Organizing” (1 page)
Grant, “Thinking more broadly about cultural imperialism: LGBT rights around the world”, (2 pages)
Kaoma, “Only Fools Believe? Pastor Rick Warren and Global Homophobia”, (3 pages)
Shepherd, “The Politics of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Legislation”, (2 pages)
To think about:
Shaheed’s definition of culture. Are human rights culturally specific, or universal? Is enforcing or claiming universal human rights a form of imperialism? What is an alternative way of thinking about universal human rights?

M 12/14 Conclusions

bl_diamTake home exam #3 due W 12/16, 1pm (30 percent of final grade).