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  • The course introduces students to some of the theories and concepts that form the basic of security studies as a distinct subfield of international relations (IR).
  • The course examines some current security challenges for the United States and other states.

1. Textbooks

  1. Michael E. Brown, Owen R. Cotè, Jr., Sean M. Lynn Jones, and Steven E. Miller, eds., Offense, Defense, and War (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004) ISBN 0-262-52316-7

  2. Seyom Brown, Illusion of Control: Force and Foreign Policy in the 21st Century (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2003) ISBN 0-8157-0263-9

  3. Daniel L. Byman, Deadly Connections: States that Sponsor Terrorism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), ISBN 0-521-8373-4

  4. Robert A. Pape, Bombing to Win: Airpower and Coercion in War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996) ISBN 0-8014-8311-5

  5. Stephen Van Evera, Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997) ISBN 0-8014-8457-x

2. Required Readings

Session 1: Introduction

Session 2: Security Studies - the Relationship between Theory and Policy

Stephen M. Walt, "The Relationship between Theory and Policy in International Relations," Annual Review of Political Science, vol. 8 (2005): 23-47.

Session 3: Strategy, the Security Dilemma, and the Offense--Defense Balance
Stephen Van Evera, "Offense, Defense, and the Causes of War," in Michael E. Brown, et al., eds., Offense, Defense, and War, pp. 227-65 (skim).
Charles L. Glaser and Chaim D. Kaufmann, "What Is the Offense-Defense Balance, and How Do We Measure It?" in Offense, Defense, and War, pp. 266-304.
Van Evera, Guide to Methods, pp. 7-21.

Session 4: Measuring Variables and Causal Effects--Offense-Defense Theory
Kier A. Lieber, "Grasping the Technological Peace: The Offense-Defense Balance and International Security," Offense, Defense, and War, pp. 366-399.
James W. Davis, Jr., Bernard I. Finel, Stacie Goddard, Stephen Van Evera, Charles L. Glaser, and Chaim Kaufmann, "Correspondence: Taking Offense at Offense-Defense Theory." Ibid, pp. 305-333.
Van Evera, Guide to Methods, pp. 21-48.

Session 5: U.S. Grand Strategy in a Unipolar World
Brown, Illusion of Control, pp. 1-15 and pp. 49-77.
The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (Washington, D.C.: The White House, 22 March 2006). Available at

Session 6 : Debating Global Reactions to U.S. Preponderance
Robert A. Pape, "Soft Balancing against the United States," International Security, vol. 30, no. 1 (summer 2005): 7-45.
Stephen G. Brooks and William C. Wohlforth," International Relations Theory and the Case against Unilateralism," Perspectives on Politics, vol. 3, no. 3 (September 2005): 509-524.

Session 7: Dynamics of Coercion: Credibility, Capability, and 1930s Appeasement Crises
Daryl G. Press, "The Credibility of Power: Assessing Threats during the 'Appeasement' Crises of the 1930s," International Security, vol. 29, no. 3 (Winter 2004/05): 136-69.

Session 8: Doing Research in Security Studies--Some Tips
See Additional Resources document in Supplementary Material folder

Session 9: Debates about Airpower and Strategic Bombing
Pape, Bombing to Win, pp.1-86.
Screening of Victory through Air Power (Disney Studios, 1943), 70 minutes.

Session 10: Punishment and Strategic Interdiction: Allied Bombing of Germany
Pape, Bombing to Win, pp. 254-314.
Van Evera, Guide to Methods, pp. 49-67.

Session 11: Explaining Japan's Unconditional Surrender
Pape, Bombing to Win, pp. 87-136.
Van Evera, Guide to Methods, pp. 71-88.

Session 12: Paradoxes of U.S. Military Dominance
Brown, Illusion of Control, pp. 78-104.
Barry R. Posen, "Command of the Commons: The Military Foundations of U.S. Hegemony," International Security, vol. 28, no. 1 (Summer 2003): 5-46.

Session 13: Precision Airpower, SOF, and the "Afghan Model" of Warfare
Richard B. Andres, Craig Wills, and Thomas Griffith, Jr. "Winning with Allies: The Strategic Value of the Afghan Model," International Security, vol. 30, no. 2 (Winter 2005/06): 124-60.

Session 14: U.S. Nuclear Doctrine and Force Posture (1991-present)
Kier A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, "The End of MAD? The Nuclear Dimensions of U.S. Primacy," International Security, vol. 30, no. 4 (Spring 2006): 7-44.

Session 15: The Privatization of Military Forces and Functions
P.W. Singer, "Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry and its Ramifications for International Security," International Security, vol. 26, no. 3 (Winter 2001/02): 186-220.
Renè de Nevers, "Modernizing the Geneva Conventions," Washington Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 2 (Spring 2006): 99-113.

Session 16: The Rise of China and the Future of the Balance-of-power in Asia
Andrew Erikson and Lyle Goldstein, "Hoping for the Best, Preparing for the Worst: China's Response to U.S. Hegemony," Journal of Strategic Studies, vol. 29, no. 6 (December 2006): 955-86.
Van Evera, Guide to Methods, pp. 123-28.

Session 17: Nuclear Weapons Proliferation
Chaim Braun and Christopher F. Chyba, "Proliferation Rings: New Challenges to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime," International Security, vol. 29, no. 2 (Fall 2004), pp. 5-49.

Session 18: Nuclear Deterrence between Enduring Rivals--India and Pakistan
S. Paul Kapur, "India and Pakistan's Unstable Peace: Why Nuclear South Asia is Not like Cold War Europe," International Security, vol. 30, no. 2 (Fall 2005): 127-52.

Session 19: Dealing with a Nuclear-Armed Iran (a crisis simulation)
Note: Complete the reading assignments before the class meeting, since they provide important background information for the simulation.
Andrea Dew and Jeffrey W. Taliaferro "Then Iranian Nuclear Crisis Country Briefs," (Global Master of Arts Program, Fletcher School, 2007).
Robert S. Litwak, "Living with Ambiguity: Nuclear Deals with Iran and North Korea," Survival, vol. 50, no. 1 (February 2008): 91-118.
Barry R. Posen, "A Nuclear-Armed Iran: A Difficult But Not Impossible Policy Problem," A Century Foundation Report, 2006.
International Atomic Energy agency (IAEA) Report on Iran, 15 September 2008: accessible at
Country Guides

Session 20: Ethnic/Sectarian Civil Wars and Criteria for Military Intervention
Carter Johnson, "Partitioning for Peace: Sovereignty, Demography, and Ethnic Civil Wars, "International Security, vol. 32, no. 4 (Spring 2008): 140-170.

Session 21: Insurgencies and Counterinsurgencies: Iraq
Austin Long, "The Anbar Awakening," Survival, vol. 50, no. 2 (April 2008): 67-94.

Session 22: Insurgencies and Counterinsurgencies (cont.): Afghanistan
Thomas Johnson and M. Chris Mason, "No Sign until the Burst of Fire: Understanding the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier," International Security, vol. 34, no. 2 (Spring 2008): 41-77.

Session 23 : Explaining State Sponsorship of Terrorism
Byman, Deadly Connections, pp. 1-78.

Session 24: The State-Terrorist Nexus: Iran and Hizballah
Byman, Deadly Connections, pp. 79-117 and pp. 273-318.

Session 25: Conclusions

3. Requirements

3.1. Class Participation (15% ongoing assessment)

Please remember the guidelines for class participation.

  • A critical component of the course will be a simulation of the Iranian Nuclear Crisis developed by the Fletcher School's Global Master of Arts Program (GMAP). We will simulate an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council convened to consider how to respond to Iran's alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

3.2. Research Paper (60% total)

This course requires an original research paper of between fifteen and twenty double-spaced pages (approximately 3,000 to 3,500 words). The assignment consists of four parts:

  1. A one paragraph statement your research puzzle/policy question (5%)

  2. A two to four page summary introduction of the paper (10%)

  3. A five to six page theoretical section of the paper (10%)

  4. The finished research paper (35%)

You can find memos on how to prepare each part, as well as the grading guidelines for the research paper as a whole, in the Assignment folder.

  1. Initial Statement of Research Puzzle or Question (5%): This is a one paragraph statement of a possible research puzzle or policy question. I will work with you to help refine your research puzzle or question. There will not be required meetings with the writing fellows at this stage, however, I do plan to share copies of your draft research puzzles or questions with them. Please note that your research puzzle or question will likely evolve as you do more research.

  2. Summary Introduction to the Paper (10%): This section should state the research puzzle or policy question, briefly discuss why that puzzle or question arises, and identify candidate theories from which hypotheses might be derived. Please remember that you will refine your summary introduction as you research progresses.

  3. Theoretical Section (10%): This section should identify the key theoretical or policy debates pertinent to the paper's research puzzle or question. It should also briefly discuss the tentative hypotheses or policy prescriptions and the predictions (i.e., observable implications) derived from them.

  4. Completed Research Paper (35%): The completed research paper should build upon the work you have done on the summary introduction and the theoretical section, as well as incorporate the feedback you have received from the writing fellows and from me.

3.2.1. Research Paper Options

Students have two options for the research paper: a hypothesis-testing paper or a policy prescriptive paper.

  • Hypothesis-testing paper:
    This type of research paper should be a case study that tests two competing hypotheses, possibly drawn from one of the IR theories we examine in depth. You are welcome to use empirical theories other than those we study in this class. The objective of a hypothesis testing paper is to draw causal inferences about a particular event, political outcome, or process. In other words, the goal is discern which hypothesis provides the better explain for why things happened in the manner that they did. It is not sufficient to summarize or provide a chronology of what happened. Appropriate historical or contemporary cases include an international crisis, a diplomatic initiative, the evolution of national security strategy in a narrowly defined area or period, the outbreak, conduct, or termination of a particular war, the domestic determinants of foreign policy, etc.

  • Policy-prescriptive paper:
    This type of research paper should examine one current policy issue involving the security of particular state or a particular region and offer policy recommendations to appropriate decision makers. The purpose is to persuade decision makers that the course of action you recommend entails lower costs and might yield higher benefits than the available alternatives. Remember all policy alternatives entail trade-offs. Recommendations should draw upon the causal relationships posited by specific IR theories. Several of the articles we read, particularly from International Security, Journal of Strategic Studies, and Survival, are examples of policy-prescriptive papers.

    Format for the Research Paper Components: All portions of the research paper should be double-spaced. Your name, the date, the class number and title, and the paper's title should appear on a separate cover page. Fonts in the text must be 12-point, although you may use smaller fonts in footnotes or endnotes.

  • The completed research paper (inclusive of the cover page, the text, and footnotes or endnotes) may not exceed 20 pages. Papers that exceed the page limit will incur a grade penalty. All components of the research paper should adhere to the grammatical and syntax rules of standard written English. You must use footnotes or endnotes to document all quotations, paraphrases, statements of fact, and the work of other authors. You should adhere to the footnote or endnote format set forth in the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003). When in doubt, simply follow the footnote or endnote format in any of the required books or articles for the course.

3.3. Take-home Final Exam (25%)

There will be a take-home final exam.

The final exam will consist of a single essay question that requires you to draw upon the readings, lectures, and class discussions. It will deal with a current issue in national or international security. Your answer should take the form a brief memo by the assistant to the president for national security affairs (the "national security advisor"). It should briefly analyze the issue and offer recommendations to the president. Final exam essays may not exceed ten (10) double-spaced, typed pages.

I strongly encourage students to refer to their notes, the assigned readings, and perhaps material gathered from their research papers in preparing your exam essay. However, I expect students to work independently in actually composing the final exam essay. Collaboration on the final exam constitutes academic dishonesty.