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Political Science 79 Seminar on War and Peace Amherst College Fall 2007

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Political Science 79

Seminar on War and Peace

Amherst College

Fall 2007

Ronald Tiersky
War in international relations is the ultima ratio, the last resort, the ultimate means that States can use to achieve their goals. War is foreign policy by military action rather than diplomacy and negotiation. In international law, the decision to go to war has been traditionally defined as a sole legitimate right of States. But in our time wars between states are extremely rare. Civil wars and other internal violence within states, up to and including genocide, make up the vast majority of military conflicts.

What is the significance of this in the evolution of war and the pursuit of peace?

Peace is harder to define than war. Peace is intrinsically related to war but the relationship between war and peace is not always clear. Peace can be defined as the total absence of war, or, perhaps more realistically, only the maximum achievable limitation of war and its damage. In any case, peace and war need to be understood both separately and together, and the conclusions are not nearly as simple as we might presuppose. Another relevant question is whether peace, however desirable in itself, represents the ultimate value in social and political life. For example, is peace more important than national independence? Is it more important than freedom?
This seminar begins and ends with a conceptual and moral point of view—war, peace and the liberal conscience. It is not a history of war, and it is not a policy study of how to deal with world crises today.
WORKLOAD: As a regular course, the workload is two papers, 8-10 pages each. As an advanced seminar for a political science major, the workload is a 5 page plan at midterm for a 25 page seminar paper due at the end of the term. Political science majors and seniors have preference in enrolment.
BOOKS TO PURCHASE (Jeffrey Amherst Bookstore): Kenneth Waltz, MAN, THE STATE AND WAR, Michael Walzer, JUST AND UNJUST WARS (new 4th ed.); Michael Ignatieff, THE LESSER EVIL, plus a MULTILITH available in the Political Science office. Readings are in the multilith unless marked (P).


I. Realities of War

a. The pity of war

A. Is there nobility in War?

C. War as a Means of Conflict Resolution

D. War as a Perpetual Scourge of Humanity
II. What is War? Conceptions of War

A. War as Fate, War as Destiny

B. War and The State of Nature

C. War and Human Nature

D. War as Necessity, War as a Mere Historical Invention

E. War as a Continuation of Policy by Other Means

F. War's Evolution Today: Technology and “Virtual War,”

Terrorist War and the War on Terrorism, Asymmetrical War

G. Weapons of Mass Destruction and War

H. Civil Wars vs. International Wars

I. Just War doctrine
III. What is Peace? Conceptions of Peace

A. Peace as Non-Violence

B. Peace as the Minimization of War

C. Peace as the Abolition of War

D. Peace and other Moral Values Such as Justice or Freedom

E. The Theory of the “Democratic Peace”

F. Peace and International Institutions: Peacekeeping, Peacemaking, the

"Right to Intervene," the "Duty to Protect," and National Sovereignty

IV. Practical Approaches, or How do you get peace?

  1. Peace and the Nature of Regimes

  2. Necessity and Morality: When should one fight? When not?

V. The Significance of the Modern Idea of “Prisoners of War”


1. Introduction
2. War in Ancient Times: The Trojan War
Film in class: Euripides, "The Trojan Women"

(those who need quick background can read "The Trojan War," Wikipedia)

3. Discussion of the Trojan War: The Pity of War

Euripides, "The Trojan Women"

Simone Weil, "The Illiad, A Poem of Force"
4. The Conqueror
Quintus Curtius Rufus, The History of Alexander, excerpt

John Keegan, THE MASK OF COMMAND, ch..1, "Alexander the Great"

5. The Experience of Soldiers
Film evening: “The Long Engagement”

6. The Experience of Soldiers

J. Glenn Gray, THE WARRIORS, chs. 2,4,6
7. The Causes of War (1)

Thucydides, THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR,"The Melian Conference,"

E.O. Wilson, ON HUMAN NATURE, pp. 99-120 (M)

Robert M. Sapolsky, “A Natural History of Peace”

Margaret Mead, "War is only an Invention…"
8. The Causes of War (2)
Kenneth Waltz, MAN, THE STATE AND WAR, chs. 1, 2, 4 (P)
9. The Causes of War (3)
Waltz, chs. 6, 8
10. The Military Art: Classic Texts on War-fighting
Karl von Clausewitz, ON WAR (Rapoport ed.), Book One


11. The Significance of Nuclear Weapons (1)
Charles de Gaulle, MEMOIRS OF HOPE, "The World"

Jean Lacouture, DE GAULLE, THE RULER, The Nuclear “I”

12. Nuclear Weapons and Strategic Alliances (2)
Josef Joffe, "NATO and Nuclear Weapons: No End of a Lesson"

Michael Walzer, JUST AND UNJUST WARS, 269-86


13. Film: "GANDHI"
14. Non-violence, war and peace (2)
Mahatma Gandhi, THE WRITINGS OF GANDHI, Part III, 65-99

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "War"

Michael Walzer, JUST AND UNJUST WARS, pp. 329-335
15. The Possibility of a Permanent Peace

Immanuel Kant, PERPETUAL PEACE, pp. 107-43Non-violence, war and peace (1)

16. “The Democratic Peace” Today

Woodrow Wilson, two speeches, (M)

George W. Bush, "State of the Union Address, 2002"

Michael E. Brown et al., DEBATING THE DEMOCRATIC PEACE, Part I: “The

Case for the Democratic Peace” (except the first Russett chapter), and Part III:

“Point and Counterpoint” (Buy New or Used, or read on Reserve)
17. “Just War” Principles (1)
Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Just War"

Michael Walzer, JUST AND UNJUST WARS, 4th ed., two Prefaces and chs. 1-6, 8-9 (P)

18. “Just War” Principles (2)
Walzer, chs. 14-17
19. The Holocaust: War crimes and Crimes against humanity
Documentaries: “Night and Fog” and “The Trial of Adolph Eichmann”

Read: “The Nazi Holocaust, 1938-45: 6,000,000 Deaths” and

“Trial of Adolph Eichmann”, excerpts
20. “The Banality of Evil”
Hannah Arendt, EICHMANN IN JERUSALEM, pp. 21-35, 50-55, 68-9, 74-77, 83-111, 135-50, 244-52
21. 21st Century Wars: Internal Wars, Genocide (1)
Documentary: "Genocide: The Horror Continues" (PBS, "Genocide: The Human Factor," part 4 of 4)
22. Wars Today (2)
Mickael Eriksson and Peter Wallensteen, “Armed Conflict, “1989-2003, “

Journal of Peace Research 2004, 41: 625-636 (M)

Articles: "Genocide," "War Crimes," "Crime Against Humanity," "Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court," "The Responsibility to Protect"

Samantha Power, A PROBLEM FROM HELL, Preface, chs. 8, 10, Conclusion

23. Weapons of the Strong
Michael Ignatieff, VIRTUAL WAR, pp. 161-218

James Adams, "Virtual Defense,"

Jack Hitt, "Battlefield Space"
24. Weapons of the Weak
Documentary: “Last Best Chance”

Int. Center for the Study of Terrorism, “What is Terrorism?”

Anthony Cordesman, TERRORISM, ASYMMETRIC WARFARE…pp. 1-10

Economist magazine, “A World Wide Web of Terror,” July 14, 2007

Ignatieff, ch. 4, "The Strength of the Weak"

Michael Walzer, "Terrorism: A Critique of Excuses," and "After 9/11: Five Questions about Terrorism "

Joseph Cirincione, BOMB SCARE, chs. 5, 7, 8, Glossary
25. Counter-terrorism and Torture
John Yoo, War By Other Means, chs. 2, 7

David Luban, “The Defense of Torture”

Anthony Lewis, “Making Torture Legal”

Mark Bowden, "The Dark Art of Interrogation"

Michael Ignatieff, THE LESSER EVIL, chs. 1, 2, 6 (P)
26. The Fundamental Significance of “Prisoner of War” Status
"1949 Geneva Convention III Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War,"

only pp. 215-221

George B. Davis, "The Prisoner of War" (1913)
27. Conclusions and Further Questions
"Laws of War," Wikipedia

Michael Howard, “Temperamenta Belli: Can War Be Controlled?”

Final papers and seminar essays due.

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