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The Technology of War and National Security 

How does technology change the ways in which we fight wars? Can innovations such as computerized systems, drones, or even social media make wars less deadly? Or do these technologies increase instead the probability that states will fight? To tackle these questions, this class will adopt a chronological structure and we will study some of the major military innovations in the past seventy years. Topics include important moments such as the aerial power revolution, nuclear weapons and the MAD strategy, the “CNN Revolution” in the 1990s, the spread of social media as a tool of public diplomacy for insurgents , the drones’ “war of precision,” and also the recent debate over cybersecurity. Throughout the class, we will parse out two types of technology advancements: those that change the most fundamental aspects of war (such as leaders’  objectives in the conflict and their cost/benefit calculations on whether to become involved or not), and those that merely alter the way the war is fought. 

 The International Politics of Climate Change 

Can countries come together to address the challenges of climate change? And if so, which negotiations techniques are more likely to be successful, and why? Does one solution fit all, or would it be better to rely on different formats for pairs of states? This class employs a diverse set of learning techniques to address these timely questions in international politics. First, we will build on cutting-edge Academic research to investigate the mechanisms through which climate change puts each country’s economy and political stability under duress. Then, we will utilize role-playing analysis techniques to have each student embrace the perspective of one key international actor (such as the US, the United Nations, China, Ghana, Kenya, the World Bank, etc.) and devise a strategy for that actor to decrease the challenges that climate change poses to their economic and political stability. Finally, we will use simulations techniques to reproduce international negotiations to reduce CO2 emissions, where each student representing a key international actor will try to mitigate the impact of climate change on the recurrence of violence and war, while still advancing its own, national interest. The aim of the class is to wrestle with the fundamental contradiction between the global scale that international efforts to tackle the climate change require and the region-specific challenges that climate change imposes on each country’s economy and political stability.

Wars and Refugees

Can one country intervene militarily against another to prevent it from abusing its own citizens? And should countries always offer asylum to those that are persecuted in their own country? The recent migration flow to Europe from war-torn Syria has emphasized the timely nature of these complex questions that constitute the impetus for this class. The class is divided in two parts. In the first part, the class would explore the way in which the concept of "human rights”  has often provided a rationale for international intervention in civil conflict, at times constituting a theatre of prime super power competition (during the Cold War, but also most recently between China and the US, with  the recent Obama visit to Africa, with his statements about the need to improve the conditions of women and of the LGTB community, as opposed to the quite different Chinese approach to FDIs in Africa). The class will then look at what happens after the end of those conflicts, to investigate at the ever vexing problem of refugees and migration, made all the more pressing since the recent events this year in the Mediterranean sea, and the challenge such phenomena pose to international cooperation (even within the well structured international cooperation place that is the EU).

The International Politics of Nuclear Security 

Nuclear weapons were used only once in conflict, on the part of the US against Japan during World War II. Then, why do countries such as North Korea and Iran decide to spend countless time and resources to acquire nuclear weapons, even at the cost of multiple sanctions and international isolation? And why do countries such as the United States with vastly superior conventional military capabilities vow to stop them with all the means at their disposal? This class will address these fundamental questions surrounding the role of nuclear weapons in international politics. The class will use multiple learning techniques to explore the three core components of this international question. First, the class will delve into the motivations of the states that pursue nuclear weapons and the challenges they face, investigating their standing in the international system, their domestic politics, as well as their history and their aspirations. The class will then explore the reasons why some members of the international community mobilize to stop other countries from acquiring these weapons. Finally, the class will inspect the international negotiations (those that took place during the Cold War and the more recent ones) to halt the spread of nuclear weapons in the international arena: when they fail, when they succeed, and why.  The aim of the class is to wrestle with the fundamental contradiction between the efforts of nuclear weapons countries to stop others from acquiring nuclear weapons, and those very same nuclear weapons countries’ refusal to completely give up their own nuclear weapons.

Nuclear America 

Nuclear activity is riddled with contradictions: nuclear power is perceived as one of the most environmental friendly sources of energy, yet nuclear waste presents considerable health dangers.  Moreover, while nuclear energy is badly needed by many states for their economic development, it can lay the foundations for the acquisition of the most powerful weapons in the world. Few countries embody the contradictions of nuclear power to the degree to which the United States does. The first country to detonate a nuclear device (and the only one to have used it in conflict), the United States quickly became the champion of anti-proliferation efforts; similarly, while relying on nuclear power, the US also has displayed throughout its history a burgeoning  "nuclear fear," permeating, as Weart explains, various aspects of public life. This class explores the evolution of the US foreign policy strategy on issues of nuclear proliferation (both horizontal and vertical), connecting it to the domestic debate on uses of nuclear power and nuclear research. The aim of the class is to explore the link between the domestic and the international dimension of the US position on nuclear weapons: how did the Three Mile Island incident affect the US posture on nuclear weapons reduction, if at all? How did the Cold War culture of containment affect the domestic debate on nuclear weapons? Under what conditions did the boundaries between domestic and international stances on nuclear power become porous, and when did they become instead fixed? The structure of the class will be diachronic: we will be following and reading about the posture of the United States on nuclear weapons issues in the international arena through the decades, as well as on domestic developments concerning nuclear weapons. The class will therefore use the relation between America and nuclear weapons to understand a variety of theories of International Relations, including Realist, Liberalist, Social Constructivist, and Critical Security Studies approaches.

Climate Change and Civil War 

This class will address the relationship between two of the most compelling challenges in world politics in the aftermath of the Cold War: civil war and climate change. Civil wars have long surpassed international conflict as the primary sources of battle-related deaths, while anthropogenic climate change has long been debated by scientists and policy-makers as one of the major issues of global governance. Does climate change increase the likelihood of civil conflict, by reducing the amount of available resources? And if so, what can be done to mitigate these effects? The class will be divided in two main parts.   First, we will investigate the question of how climate change affects (or does not affect) the likelihood for civil insecurity, including riots, protests, and even civil conflict. Second, we will ask what has been done on the part of the international community to mitigate the effects of climate change on the likelihood of domestic conflict. The aim of the class is to shed a light on one of the key contradictions at the heart of the connection between climate change and civil unrest: while the challenges posed by climate change need to be addressed in a concerted manner by the most powerful actors in the international system, the immediate consequences tend to be felt more strongly by a handful of countries. Readings from the class will draw on contemporary research on the correlation between climate change and civil unrest; primary sources on statistical evidence of the impact of climate change on agricultural production (from organizations such as FAO, World Bank, and IMF); and classic work on collective action, public goods, and international cooperation.


Global Governance 

There is not such a thing as a world state. In other words, there is no international entity that has a degree of power and authority that is comparable to the power and authority held by states on their citizens. Then, how do countries get together at the international level to get things done---to intervene together to stop a conflict, or to regulate nuclear proliferation? In this class, we address precisely this question, by studying ways in which countries cooperate to manage global affairs and respond to global challenges.


Introduction to International Relations 

This is an introductory class on International Relations. It explores research, both theoretical and empirical, on some of the major events of international politics: for instance, what causes war? When do countries decide instead to sign a trade agreements? What are the consequences of nuclear proliferation? What does pollution mean for the way resources are redistributed between states? And so on.

American Foreign Policy

Why did the United States decide to intervene in Iraq? How was the war justified? Who authorizes the use of force abroad? This class aims at investigating American foreign policy, and in particular current and most recent events. In particular, it will be focused on comparing and contrasting different theoretical explanations to illuminate key issues and important historical moments. Those theoretical statements are derived from the three fundamental paradigms of International Relations: Realism, Liberalism, and Constructivism.

Techniques of Political Analysis 

An intro class on the uses of statistical techniques in Political Science, from the uses of descriptive statistics to the  regression analysis via R.