Sample Syllabi

PS 239: “International Interventions: Political and Legal Responses to Crises, Crimes, and Atrocities”
(Political Science Department, UCLA, Summer 2018 & Summer 2017)

When faced with reports of crises, crimes or atrocities occurring within a given state, what can other states – acting individually or as part of the international community – do? How and when can states intervene when a given government has proven to be unable or unwilling to protect or provide for their own citizens? In this course, we will examine three ways that states can respond to such cases.  We begin by discussing the concept of humanitarian intervention – the use of military force to prevent or curtail human rights abuses. We will then discuss the law and politics of the international refugee/asylum regime. Finally we will discuss the practice of prosecuting individuals suspected of committing international crimes or grave human rights abuses. In discussing each of these topics, we will first examine the relevant international legal and political frameworks and then discuss controversies related to the effectiveness, strategic value, or morality of each form of international intervention.

This course has three goals. The first is for students to receive a basic introduction to the political and legal frameworks governing these three responses to crises and atrocities. The second is for students to get a sense of the costs and benefits of each of these policy options, as well as the points of controversy around each. And finally, to give students an opportunity to grapple with these issues and controversies individually and as a group.

This course is an upper-division lecture/seminar designed for juniors and seniors that is designed to be interdisciplinary. This course will include discussions of international law doctrine, the form and function of international organizations and the strategic constraints of international politics. The assigned readings will invite students to engage these three topics from a number of different perspectives including those of international lawyers, scholars of international relations, international policy advocates and political theorists.

[Note: This syllabus is an expansion on the syllabus used for my summer seminar on “International Interventions.” That course is designed to fit in UCLA’s 6-week summer term, whereas this version is designed to be taught in either a 10-week quarter or 16-week semester.]

The Laws of Nature and Nations: War, conquest, and power in early modern political and legal theory

This course examines the development and evolution of the political theories which attempted to define and control the international sphere from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries.  This analysis will begin with the debates in Europe the over the justification of the conquest of America and early efforts to regulate conflicts between states.  As such, the course concentrate on early modern authors who addressed the struggle to create international agreements on how to control and, if possible, end warfare, define and establish peace.  The course will examine how these authors' efforts turn on their accounts of the ‘natural law’ and of the ‘law of nations’ – constructs that would undergo many permutations before being replaced by the contemporary notion of ‘international law’.  The course will end with a look at the ways in which works and concepts penned by these authors were adopted and coopted by diplomats and lawyers in the 19th and early 20th century.