Are there any general and accurate stories we can tell about why countries go to war with one another? This course is designed to get you thinking about the politics of international conflict as it occurs between states (nations). While you may not come up with definitive answers (that’s ok!), and you may change your mind about your answers over the course this semester or your life (that’s ok too!), it is important that we be able to think critically about this question.

Our approach to the topic of international conflict is three-fold. At the beginning of each new topic, we’ll attempt to generate insights into these complex social phenomena by modeling them as simply as possible. The goal of these models will be to generate theories that can explain why conflict occurs in a given place and around a given issue.

Next, we’ll check some of our assumptions and models looking at the data and using a series of in-class simulations. These will require you to put yourself in the shoes of various actors in international politics. The goal of these simulations is to get you to experience the mix of incentives that influences the actions of various actors.

Finally, we’ll attempt to apply all of these insights to specific case studies. The cases provide a common story to discuss, and we’ll use a mixture of readings, videos and other media to build the story. The case sessions will be entirely discussion-based, as we attempt to peel back the layers of each case, discussing its particulars and asking ourselves about the quality of our earlier modeling.