Introduction to international relations

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Principles of international politics: understanding war, peace and world order

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This course provides an introduction to international relations and is aimed at students completely new to the field. The various topics analised provide a comprehensive review of the most important topics in international relations, such as rational choice and game theory, conflict and war, cooperation and trade, development and democratization. Why did the war in Ukraine start in February 2022? Are economic sanctions against Russia working? Why is it so hard to stop global warming, even though so many governments agree that it should be stopped? Are human rights a luxury good only for rich countries? Why are some countries more protectionist than others? Will globalization stop with the rise of China? Is French foreign aid helping corrupt Sahel leaders stay in power? Can the Israeli government negotiate with terrorists? Why didn't Afghanistan become a democracy after 20 years of American intervention?

The course is organized into four parts. The first part lays the scientific foundations, providing highly accessible coverage of key concepts, introducing students to different ways of thinking about the national interest, and showing them how to use the strategic perspective to better understand what is happening in all aspects of international politics. This first part also provides a basic, intuitive introduction to game theory and other logic- and evidence-based tools for the analysis of international relations. The second part of the course focuses on war and provides a more detailed assessment of how domestic political incentives and domestic government institutions shape leaders' decisions about the initiation, escalation, and termination of conflict. The third part focuses on peace and draws on the logic of collective action to help students understand why it is so difficult to get national governments to act together for a common goal even when they all agree on that goal. This section includes chapters dealing with the effectiveness of international organizations and international law, as well as a thorough assessment of climate change and environmental issues, respect for human rights, and the domestic political economy of international trade. Finally, the fourth part discusses world order and outlines efforts to promote democracy, alleviate poverty, and combat terrorism, examining which strategies work, which do not, and why.

Students are introduced to research through seminar questions on important current issues. They learn by researching these questions independently, reading peers' answers, critically reviewing those answers, posting their own answers, and receiving peer reviews. A point system measures learning progress and encourages students to participate.
FUNDAMENTALS: 1. Assessing arguments about international politics. Positive and normative statements: Hume's Guillotine. Scientific and pseudoscientific claims: Popper's falsifiability criterion. Empirical testing as quality assurance of scientific theories. Neorealism, liberalism, constructivism, and the scientific method. Course structure: war, co-operation, and world order. Why is international politics the most scientifically unstable area of political science? 2. The strategic perspective: when foreign policy collides with domestic policy. Foreign policy as domestic policy with a twist: the Taliban problem, the Israeli government problem. Who and what does international politics study? The strategic perspective. Selectorate theory: public and private goods, loyalty rule, leader survival. Office, policy or votes: why did Putin invade Ukraine? Why is international politics the most complicated field of political science? TOOLS: 3. Tools for the analysis of international affairs. Spatial models of voting: Hotelling's law of spatial competition. The median voter theorem: unidimensionality, unimodal preferences, majority rule. Expected utility: probability, costs and benefits. Multidimensionality: the impossibility theorem and the chaos theorem. How long will Eurozone inflation last? Why did Americans impose an extreme form of proportional representation constitution upon postwar Germany? 4. An introduction to game theory. Non-cooperative games. Nash Equilibrium: The Prisoner's Dilemma. Games with multiple equilibria: battle of the sexes. Mixed strategies: rock, paper, scissors. Sequential games, subgame perfection, and backwards induction: divide-the-dollar. WAR: 5. Why War: The big picture. Risk factors: indivisible goods, uncertainty, lack of credibility. Neorealism, bipolarity and stability: internal logical consistency and empirical evidence. Other neorealist assumptions: survival of essential and non-essential states, balance of power. Power transition: international rules and norms, discontent with the status quo, and war. Will the rise of China bring stability or war? 6. Internal theories of war. Audience costs: selecting crises in autocracies and democracies. Diversionary war: the resurrection hypothesis, the pacific dove hypothesis. Selectorate theory, reasons for war and the war effort. COOPERATION: 7. How international organizations work (or not). Rivalry and excludability. The logic of collective action. Solutions to collective action problems. Inclusiveness of organizations: the UN. Tanks and planes: don't NATO leaders want Ukraine to win the war? 8. Global warming: designing a solution. Global warming: a collective action problem: collective action and the free-rider problem. Seeking an agreement: allocating the costs of reducing emissions. Shallow vs. deep global agreements: compliance or failure. Monitoring and sanctioning non-compliance: the Kyoto Protocol, flexibility. bilateral agreements. 9. Human rights, international laws and norms. Are human rights a luxury good? Does international law improve human rights? 10. Free trade or fair: the domestic politics of tariffs and trade. Comparative advantage. Winners and losers from trade. Why did EU integration divide Ukraine? 11. Globalization: international winners and losers. The Heckscher-Ohlin model. The Stolper-Samuelson theorem. Mobility of factors of production. Will globalization come to an end with the rise of China? WORLD ORDER: 12. Foreign aid, poverty and revolution. The Marshall Plan. The experience of foreign aid outside Europe. The Sachs-Easterly debate. The strategic perspective. Who receives foreign aid? Aid, revolution and democratization. Has French foreign aid contributed to poverty eradication and democratization in Niger? 13. Can terrorism be rational? True believers, reluctant terrorists, satisfied opponents. Responsive and repressive governments. Terrorism, credible commitments, and strategic dilemmas. Why are democracies more likely to become terrorist targets? Can the Israeli government negotiate peace with Palestinian terrorists? 14. A democratic world order: peace without democratization. The democratic peace. Democracy: an obstacle to democratization. Democracies and nation building. Autocracies and nation-building. The United Nations and nation-building. What we expected and what evidence shows us. Germany and Japan: apparently hard cases. The usual suspects: Iran, Congo and other failed cases. Why hasn't Afghanistan become a democracy after 20 years of American intervention? Could the Sahel be democratized with Chinese-Russian help? And Ukraine under the auspices of NATO?
Indicative reading: 

Bueno de Mesquita, B. (2013). Principles of international politics, 5th ed. CQ Press.

Teaching modules: