Warfare has changed dramatically over the past few decades. While our grandparents dealt with the challenges of inter-state conflicts, such as the Second World War, those coming of age today are confronted with a different kind of political violence, in the form of terrorist attacks in Paris, Istanbul, San Bernardino, and Orlando, and civil war, such as ISIS in Syria and Boko Haram in Nigeria. In this course, we will examine the drivers of these new security challenges and how the international community can- and should- respond to them.
The course serves as an introduction to political violence and the challenges faced by policymakers today. We will begin by examining different types of political violence and their dynamics, including civil war, terrorism, and genocide. Looking at cases from Nigeria, Rwanda, Libya, and Syria, we will consider the drivers of different types of political violence as well as their consequences for state-building, human rights, and democracy. Next, we will study armed groups more closely, not only for their violent behavior, but for their governing capabilities as well. We will ask questions such as: how and why has Boko Haram altered its strategies over time, and how has this shaped the trajectory of the conflict in northeastern Nigeria? How has social media shaped the recruitment capabilities of groups such as ISIS? In what ways is ISIS similar (and different) from the violent state-builders (or kings) of early modern Europe? We will then explore the response of the international community to current conflicts and their consequences. In doing so, we will confront questions such as: when is military intervention in a sovereign state justified? How will refugees be protected and provided for? Finally, after examining the causes of different forms of political violence, we will conclude by asking what, if anything, can be done to prevent these conflicts in the future.
By the end of the course, students will have accomplished three goals. First, students will possess a sophisticated understanding of the causes and consequences of different forms of political violence as well as the logistical challenges and ethical dilemmas faced by policymakers. Second, students will have improved their ability to successfully produce college-level papers with a compelling and defensible thesis. Third, students will have an enhanced ability to critique social science research and policy proposals, and use this ability to guide their own analysis of world affairs.
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for the course, although students with an interest in politics and international relations may find the course particularly interesting.