International Relations: Theory and Practice - MSFS 510-02 (Intructor: James Raymond Vreeland, Professor 2.0)  

 Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University:  

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: THEORY AND PRACTICE (Course number MSFS 510-02)
WE ARE GLOBAL GEORGETOWN!


Classroom location: Intercultural Center (ICC) 234a
Class day & time: Tuesday, 3:15pm-5:05pm

Students visiting this page for the first time should read through the entire syllabus. This web-syllabus is designed to be used throughout the semester. Below you will find links to the readings for each of the 14 class sessions. Where possible, reading assignments have been linked to electronic versions available on the Internet. Otherwise, the assignment is available at the library and the bookstore. If you have any questions or comments about the web page or the course, please contact me.

Be sure to click on the links throughout the syllabus – some of them bring you to fun stuff!

  • Course Description
  • Requirements
  • Course books available for purchase at the Georgetown Bookstore and on reserve at the library
  • September 7: Introduction
  • September 14: The Democratic Peace
  • September 21: Civil War
  • September 28: Whence Democracy?
  • October 5: Special lecture on International Law
  • October 12: Special class: how to make sense of statistics for policy-making
  • October 19: Presentations
  • October 26: International Organizations
  • November 2: The Bretton Woods Institutions
  • November 9: Regional Organizations
  • November 16: Presentations
  • November 23: Trade Policy- factors & sectors
  • November 30: Contemporary International Monetary Arrangements & the Politics of Monetary and Exchange-Rate Policies
  • December 7: Presentations
  • Examinations: December 14-22


    Course Description:
    This section of International Relations (MSFS 510) assumes the students have a strong undergraduate background in International Relations and do not need to be introduced to the major themes of this field of study. Instead, this course reviews the major themes with special attention devoted to bridging what we learn in the classroom to the real world. In other words, we seek to connect academia to policy.

    In a recent piece published in the Washington Post political scientist and policy practitioner Joseph Nye laments the methodological rigor in contemporary political science as an impediment to its relevance. Some of us in the MSFS program have argued that this is ironic because it is precisely this rigor that has allowed modern political science to improve its forecasting power – something that is presumably vital to policymaking. We now have better statistical tools to predict, for example, the likelihood of state failure, civil conflict, democratic breakdown, and other changes in governments. Game-theoretic models can be used to analyze trade disputes and war, as well as the behavior of international organizations, terrorist movements, and nuclear states with greater precision and clarity than just a few decades before.

    Nye is certainly correct, however, that much of this analysis does not get translated into policymaking. There is surely something to be said for the failure of some scholars to disseminate their research more broadly, and he is also right that academia does not provide strong incentives to do so. (We will discuss the incentives of academics, policy-makers, and thinktanks throughout the course.)

    Part of the fault may also lie within the halls of certain government agencies. Nye points to a strong connection between economists and policy makers. No wonder. Staffers at the US Treasury, the Fed, the National Economic Council (to name a few places) are comfortable reading cutting-edge economic analyses because they have been trained to understand mathematical models and statistical results. If people at the State Department or the National Security Council have not been comparably trained, however, they will not understand contemporary political science or its capacity to inform policy. Academic political science can do a much better job of reaching out to policymakers. But governmental agencies need to focus some effort on recruiting individuals who have the background and skills needed to apply modern political science to their daily work. Both sides need to make an effort.

    The assignments in this course are designed to bridge what we learn in the classroom to the real world. There is certainly a connection, and my job as a professor in the MSFS program to help my students to see it.

    Substantively, this class will address questions regarding (1) the so-called "Democratic Peace," considering the causes and effects of democracy, war (both inter- and intra-state conflict), and peace; (2) international organizations; and (3) international trade, exchange rates, and monetary policy. Analytically, the course seeks to expand and reinforce the students "tool kits" with emphasis on analytical tools such as (1) time-inconsistent preference problems, commitment problems, and credibility problems; (2) collective action problems, free-rider problems, the tragedy of the commons, and the prisoner's dilemma; and (3) principal-agent problems. From an empirical point of view, we will be concerned with questions of "endogeneity" and "non-random selection" – in other words, we will be concerned with distinguishing the circumstances under which phenomena take place from their inherent effects.

    Nota bene: This is a seminar, not a lecture course. Your contribution to class discussions is essential. You are expected to come to class prepared to discuss, debate, and advance knowledge (see requirements below).


    Requirements:
    The course grade will be determined by class participation & brief homework assignments (10%), three 2-page policy memos (15% each), and three class presentations (15% each).


    Course books available for purchase at the Georgetown Bookstore and on reserve at the library:





    Course Outline

    September 7: Introduction


    September 14: The Democratic Peace


    September 21: Civil War


    September 28: Whence Democracy?


    October 5: Special lecture on International Law


    October 12: How to make sense of statistics for policy-making


    October 19: Student Presentations


    October 26: International Organizations


    November 2: The Bretton Woods Institutions


    November 9: Regional Organizations


    November 16: Student Presentations


    November 23: Trade Policy – factors & sectors


    November 30: Contemporary International Monetary Arrangements & the Politics of Monetary and Exchange-Rate Policies


    December 7: Student Presentations





    WE ARE GLOBAL GEORGETOWN!