Issues in International Relations


Issues in International Relations

Dr. Or A. Honig


Course description

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the main concepts, theories and models in international relations, especially as far as they pertain to security studies, and to allow students to critically examine them. We will assess the usefulness of all the theories by using historical case studies. Students with no prior background in IR should not feel intimidated since we will cover everything (although we will cover the basic systemic theories rather fast). Since this is a core theoretical course in the program, we will not cover history for history's sake. The goal is here to make you both appreciate the usefulness of theory, but also to develop healthy skepticism. Finally, emphasis will be put on the students' ability to develop hypotheses of their own. 


1— Intro class

Arthur Stein, “Counselors, Kings, and International Relations: From Revelation to Reason, and Still No Policy-relevant Theory.” In Being Useful: Policy Relevance and International Relations Theory, pp. 50–74. Edited by Miroslav Nincic and Joseph Lepgold. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000.

Find the pdf here

Ashley K. Richard. (1986). "The Poverty of Neorealism". In Robert O. Keohane )ed.( Neorealism and Its Critics. Columbia University Press. pp. 255-300.

Gilpin, Robert. (1986). "The Richness of the Tradition of Political Realism". In Robert O. Keohane, ed., Neorealism and Its Critics. Columbia University Press. pp. 301-321.

Waltz, N. Kenneth. (1979). Theory of International Politics. Boston: Addison Wesley. pp. 60-128.

Waltz, N. Kenneth. (1986). "Reflections on Theory of International Politics: A Response to My Critics". In Robert O. Keohane. (ed.) Neorealism and Its Critics. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 322-345.


2 – Realism and its variants

Standard Realism (both defensive and offensive Realism)

*Mearsheimer, John. (2001). The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: Norton. pp. 1-54, 334-359.

*Jervis, Robert. (1978). “Cooperation under the Security Dilemma”. World Politics 30(2): 167-214.

A. F. K. Organski, “The Power Transition,” in World Politics (New York City, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1968), 338-376

Jack S. Levy, “Power Transition Theory and the Rise of China” in China’s Assent: Power, Security, and the Future of International Politics, ed. Robert S. Ross and Zhu Feng (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008), 11-33.


Neo-classical realism

*Rose, Gideon. (1998). “Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy”. World Politics 51(1): 144-172.

*Taliaferro, W. Jeffrey, Lobell, E. Steven and Ripsman, M. Norrin. (2009). “Introduction”.  In Steve E. Lobell, Norrin M. Ripsman and Jeffrey W. Taliaferro (eds.) Neoclassical Realism, the State, and Foreign Policy. pp. 280-299.

For further reading

Fordham, O. Benjamin. (2009). “The Limits of Neoclassical Realism: Additive and Interactive Approaches to Explaining Foreign Policy”.  In Steve E. Lobell, Norrin M. Ripsman and Jeffrey W. Taliaferro (eds.) Neoclassical Realism, the State, and Foreign Policy. pp. 251-279.

Glenn, John. (2009). “Realism versus Strategic Culture: Competition and Collaboration?”  International Studies Review 11(3): 523-51.

Ripsman, M. Norrin, Taloaferro, W. Jeffrey, and Lobell, E. Steven (2009). “Conclusions: The State of Neoclassical Realism”.  In Steve E. Lobell, Norrin M. Ripsman and Jeffrey W. Taliaferro (eds.) Neoclassical Realism, the State, and Foreign Policy. pp. 1-41.


3 – Liberalism, norms and Constructivism

Democratic peace theory


Are particular regime types more susceptible to conflict or cooperation?  What are the various arguments for and against the democratic peace?  Why might an emerging democracy be more likely to go to war and a military dictatorship more likely to be peaceful?


Jervis, Robert. (1983). “Security Regime”. In Stephen D. Krasner. (ed.) International Regimes. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press pp. 173-194.

*John M. Owen, “How Liberalism Produces Democratic Peace,” International Security 19:2 (1994): 87-125

*Sebastian Rosato, “The Flawed Logic of Democratic Peace Theory,” The American Political Science Review 97:4 (2003): 585-602.

*Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder, “Turbulent Transitions: Why Emerging Democracies Go To War,” in Leashing the Dogs of War: Conflict Management in a Divided World, ed. Chester A. Crocker et. al. (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2007),  161-176.

Stanislav Andreski, “On the Peaceful Disposition of Military Dictatorships,” Journal of Strategic Studies 3 (1980): 3-10.

Maoz, Zeev. (1997). “The Controversy over the Democratic Peace: Rearguard Action or Cracks in the Wall?” International Security 22(1): 162-198.


For further reading:

Duffield, S. John. (1994). “Explaining the Long Peace in Europe: The Contributions of Regional Security Regimes”. Review of International Studies. 20(4): 369-88

Krasner, Stephen. (1983). “Structural Causes and Regime Consequences: Regimes as Intervening Variables,” in Stephen Krasner, ed., International Regimes. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. pp. 1-22.

The economic peace theory – commercial liberalism (Economic Systems as Generators of Conflict or Cooperation)



Is economic interdependence a force for peace?  Is World War One evidence against such a thesis?  Is today’s globalized economy different?



  • Erik Gartzke, “The Capitalist Peace,” American Journal of Political Science, 51:1 (2007): 166-191.
  • David M. Rowe, “The Tragedy of Liberalism: How Globalization Caused the First World War,” Security Studies 14:3 (2005): 407-447.




Realism versus constructivism – the self-determination norm and American foreign policy

Brad Simpson.  “Bernath Lecture:  The United States and the Curious History of Self-Determination”.  Diplomatic History 36:4 (September 2011):  675-694.  DOI: 


Ideas, norms and learning in international relations

Finnemore, Martha. and Sikkink, Kathryn. (1998).”International Norms and Dynamics and Political Change”. International Organizations 52(4): 887-917.

Goldstein, Judith and Keohane, O. Robert. (eds.)  (1993). Ideas and Foreign Policy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. pp. 3-30.


For further reading:

Breslauer, George and Tetlock, Philip. (eds.) (1991). Learning in U.S. and Soviet Foreign Policy. Boudler: Westview.

Checkel, Jeffrey. (2001). "Why Comply? Social Learning and European Identity Change," International Organization 55(3): 553-588.

Goldstein, Judith and Keohane, O. Robert. (eds.) Ideas and Foreign Policy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. pp. 139-206.

Haas, M. Peter. (1992). “Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination”. International Organization 46(1): 1-36.

Risse-Kappen, Thomas. (1994). "Ideas Do Not Float Freely: Transnational Relations, Domestic Structures and the End of the Cold War". International Organization, 48(2): 185-214.

Yee, Albert. (1996). “The Causal Effect of Ideas on Policy”. International Organization 50(1): 69-108.


Constructivism – the main theory

*Wendt, Alexander (1992). “Anarchy is What States Make of It: The Social Construction of Power Politics,” International Organization 46(2): 391-425.

Ba, Alice. and Hoffmann, Mathew. (2003). “Making and Remaking the World for IR 101: A Resource for Teaching Social Constructivism in Introductory Classes”. International Studies Perspectives 4(1): 15-33.

Farrell, Theo. (2002). “Constructivist Security Studies: Portrait of a Research Program”. International Studies Review 4(1): 49-72.

Hurd, Ian. (2008). Constructivism. In Christian Reus-Smit and Duncan Snidal (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of International Relations. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 298-316.


Summary of the Debates

International institutions – from the perspective of all three systemic theories

Can international institutions keep the peace by restraining states?  If so, what are the mechanisms by which states are constrained?


  • John J. Mearsheimer, “The False Promise of International Institutions,” International Security 19:3 (1994): 5-49.
  • Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry, “The Nature and Sources of Liberal International Order,” Review of International Studies 25 (1999): 179-196.
  • Ian Hurd, “Legitimacy and Authority in International Politics,” International Organization 53:2 (1999), 379-408.


4 – Rational Choice


Part I – Rational Choice theories in general



How can war be thought of as a failure in bargaining?  Why are there bargaining failures?  What are the constraints of this perspective? What is signaling? What are the assumptions of Rational Choice


*James D. Fearon, “Rationalist Explanations for War,” International Organization 49 (1995): 379-414.

James Fearon, “Domestic Political Audiences and the Escalation of International Disputes,” American Political Science Review 88 (September 1994): 557–592;

*James Fearon, “Signaling Foreign Policy Interests: Tying Hands versus Sinking Costs,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 41 (February 1997): 68–90;

*Thomas C. Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960), preface, ch. 1, “The Retarded Science of International Strategy,” and ch. 5, “Strategic Moves.”



Part II – Other theories for why wars break out and how do they end?

Stephen van Evera, “Offense, Defense, and the Causes of War,” International Security 22:4 (1998): 5-43.

*Hein Goemans, War and Punishment: The Causes of War Termination and the First World War (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000), chapter 1, 2, and conclusion.


The role of civil-military relations: World War I as an Inadvertent War


How is World War I considered an inadvertent war?  How does Trachtenberg go about testing this argument?



*Jack Snyder, “Civil-Military Relations and the Cult of the Offensive, 1914 and 1984,” International Security, 9, 1 (Summer 1984), pp. 108-146

*Marc Trachtenberg, “The Meaning of Mobilization in 1914,” International Security 15 (1991): 120-150.


5 – Foreign policy analysis: perception, persuasion & other decision-making theories

*Or Arthur Honig, the Whisper in the Leader’s Ear, International Relations

Robert Jervis, “Do Leaders Matter and How Would We Know?” Security Studies 22:2 (2013): 153-179.

*Michael Roskin, “From Pearl Harbor to Vietnam: Shifting Generational Paradigms,” Political Science Quarterly 89:3 (1974): 563-588.

*Daniel Byman and Pollck – “Let us now praise great men” International Security

David R. Gibson's Talk at the Brink, Introduction


6 – The domestic sources of foreign policy: the institutionalist perspective

Domestic Instability

Questions: Why might domestic instability be a cause of peace and why might it be a cause of conflict?  Under what conditions might we expect states to launch a diversionary war?



M. Taylor Fravel, “The Limits of Diversion: Rethinking Internal and External Conflict,” Security Studies 19 (2010): 307-341.

Michael R. Gordon, “Domestic Conflict and the Origins of the First World War: The British and the German Cases,” The Journal of Modern History 46 (1974): 191-226.

*Steven R. David, ‘Explaining Third World Alignment’, World Politics, Vol.43, Jan.(1991), pp.234–5.


Revolution and War


How can a revolution lead to inter-state conflict?  Is there one theory that best explains why revolution leads to war?



*Stephen Walt, Revolution and War (Cornell University Press, 1996), 18-45, 238-243.


7 -- Terrorism and counter-terrorism

Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, Revised and Expanded Edition (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), pp. 13-44.

*Richard English, Terrorism: How to Respond (Oxford University Press, 2009), Pp. 1-26.

* David Rapoport, “the Four Waves of modern terrorism,” in David Rapoport (ed.), Terrorism:  

Also available online at:

Also available here:

*Max Abrahms, “What Terrorists Really Want: Terrorist Motives and Counterterrorism

Strategy,” International Security, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Spring 2008), pp. 78-105.

*Max Abrahms “Why Terrorism Does Not Work,” International Security, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Fall 2006), pp. 42-78.

*Andrew H. Kydd and Barbara Walter, “The Strategies of Terrorism” International Security, vol. 31, no. 1 (Summer 2006), pp. 49-80.

*Robert Pape, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (New York: Random House, 2005/6), pp. 28-101.

* Max Abrahms, “Why Democracies Make Superior Counterterrorists,” Security Studies, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Spring 2007), pp. 223-253.

*Mia Bloom, “Palestinian Suicide Bombing: Public Support, Market Share and Outbidding,” Political Science Quarterly, vol. 119 no. 1 (Spring 2004), pp. 61-88.

Yagil Henkin, “From Tactical Terrorism to Holy War: the Evolution of Chechen Terrorism,” Central Asian Survey, vol. 25 no. 1 (2006).

Patrick B. Johnston. “Does Decapitation Work? Assessing the Effectiveness of Leadership Targeting in Counterinsurgency Campaigns.” International Security 36:4 (Spring 2012): 47-79.

Bryan C. Price. “Targeting Top Terrorists: How Leadership Decapitation Contributes to Counterterrorism.” International Security 36:4 (Spring 2012): 9-46.

*Daniel Byman and Sarah Kreps, “Agents of Destruction? Applying Principal-Agent Analysis to State-Sponsored Terrorism,” International Studies Perspectives, vol. 11, no. 1 (February, 2010), pp. 1–18.


7 – Reputation-related issues: Signaling, Coercion, deterrence vs. conciliation and reassurance

Making Threats and Signaling Intent



How do states get others to believe their intentions and threats?  Do signals have to be costly to be believable?  How are costly signals created?  How can misperceptions lead to war, and how can they lead to peace?



*Thomas Schelling, Arms and Influence (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1966), 35-91.

James D. Fearon, “Domestic Political Audiences and the Escalation of International Disputes,” American Political Science Review 88:3 (1994): 577-592.





Do leaders/states work to acquire reputations in international politics?  Reputations for what?  What do reputations adhere to?  Are reputations or “current calculus” a better means of how leaders assess the intentions of other states?



*Anne Sartori, “The Might of the Pen: A Reputational Theory of Communication in International Disputes,” International Organization 56 (2002): 121-149.

*Daryl Press, “The Credibility of Power: Assessing Threats during the Appeasement Crises of the 1930s,” International Security 29 (2004): 136-169.


Paul Lauren, Gordon Craig and Alexander George, Force and Statecraft, Fourth Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 175-180, 198-203

* Robert Trager and Dessislava P. Zagorcheva, “Deterring Terrorism: It Can Be Done,” International Security, vol. 30, no. 3 (Winter 2005/06), pp. 87-123.


7 – Civil military relations

*Eliot Cohen, Supreme Command. 1-14, 225-248

*Samuel Huntington, The Solider and the State (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1957), pp. 80-97

*Risa A. Brooks, Shaping Strategy: the civil-military politics of strategic assessment (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2008), ch. 1,2, 9.

Barry Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine (Cornell University Press, 1984), ch.


8 – Intra-state/ethnic conflicts

*Barbara Walter, “The Critical Barrier to Civil War Settlement,” International Organization, vol. 51 (1997), pp. 335-364.

*Barry Posen. 1993. “The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict,” in Michael Brown (ed.) Ethnic Conflict and International Security (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press), pp. 103-124. Also available as a journal article: Barry Posen, “The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict,” Survival, vol. 35, no. 1, (Spring 1993), pp. 27-47. Freely available at:

* Wendy Pearlman, “Spoiling Inside and Out: Internal Political Contestation and the Middle East Peace Process,” International Security 33.3 (2008): 79-109

*Alexander Downes, Targeting Civilians in War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008), pp. 1-41, 156-257.


9 – States and nations – the shaping of boundaries

*Ron Hassner, “The Path to Intractability: Time and the Entrenchment of Territorial Disputes,” International Security, vol. 31, no. 3 (Winter 2006/7).

Freely available at:


*Chaim D. Kaufmann, “When All Else Fails: Ethnic Population Transfers and Partitions in the Twentieth Century,” International Security 23, no. 2 (Fall 1998): 120-156.

*Alexander B. Downes, “The Holy Land Divided: Defending Partition as a Solution to Ethnic Wars,” Security Studies, vol.10 (2001), pp. 58-116.

Radha Kumar, “The Troubled History of Partition,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 76, no. 1, (January/February 1997), pp. 22-34.





Why do states fight over territory?  Has this changed over time?



Paul Huth, Standing Your Ground: Territorial Disputes and International Conflict (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996), 19-32.


10 – Religion, ideology and international conflict




How has ideological differences between states affected the probability of conflict?  What does this bode for the future of international politics?


*Mark Haas, The Ideological Origins of Great Power Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005), 4-18, 40-52.

Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” The National Interest (Summer 1989).



Is there a “clash of civilizations,” and if so, can it provoke interstate war?  How and why?



*Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs 72:3 (1993): 22-49.

How can the religious beliefs of actors increase the probability of conflict?  Is it possible that religion could be a cause of peace as well?



Ron E. Hassner, “‘To Halve and to Hold’: Conflicts over Sacred Space and the Problem of Indivisibility,” Security Studies 12 (2003): 1-33.

*Ron Hassner, War on Sacred Grounds (Ithaca:  Cornell University Press, 2009), pp. 1-50, 153-179 .




How is honor as a cause of conflict different than those we have encountered?  Is this a factor that was once important in international politics, or does it still have relevance?



Richard Ned Lebow, “Fear, Interest and Honour: Outlines of a Theory of International Relations,” International Affairs 82 (2006): 431-448.

11—international interventions

*Elizabeth N. Saunders, “Transformative Choices: Leaders and the Origins of Intervention Strategy,” International Security 34:2 (2009): 119-161.

*Edward N. Luttwak, “Give war a chance,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 78, no. 4 (July/August 1999): 36-44

Edward Luttwak, “The Curse of Inconclusive Intervention,” in Chester A. Crocker (ed.) Turbulent Peace: The Challenges of Managing International Conflict (Washington DC: US Institute of Peace Press, 2001) pp. 265-273.


Humanitarian Intervention


Have changing norms led to the increase of humanitarian intervention?  What does this tell us about the future of war and the nature of the international system?



Martha Finnemore, The Purpose of Intervention: Changing Beliefs about the Use of Force (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003), 52-84

*Samantha Power, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (NY: Perennial, 2002), pp. 1-85


12 – Intelligence studies

*Or Honig, “Surprise Attacks—Are They Inevitable? Moving Beyond the Orthodox-Revisionist Dichotomy,” Security Studies, vol. 17, no. 1 (2008), pp. 72-106.

Can be found here:

*Yehoshafat Harkabi, “The Intelligence-Policymaker Tangle,” The Jerusalem Quarterly, No. 30 (Winter 1984), pp. 125-131.

*Joshua Rovner, Fixing the Facts: National Security and the Politics of Intelligence (Ithaca, NY: Cornell  University Press, 2011), chapter 3.


13 – The US in the Middle East (US-Israel relations)

John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt , The Israel lobby and US foreign policy middle east policy


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