Political Science | Why Nations Go to War
Y210 | 30328 | Spechler

Y210 Why Nations Go To War
Prof. Dina Spechler

Why did the United States get involved in Vietnam, and why did it stay
in the war long after U.S. leaders knew we could not win?  Why did the
Soviets invade Afghanistan when they well knew that others’ attempts
to conquer that country had repeatedly failed?  Why did Hitler attack
the Soviet Union despite the fact that no outside power since the 15th
century had succeeded in subduing Russia?

History—and contemporary international relations—are replete with
examples of the risks, costs and difficulties of attacking and
invading other states and intervening militarily in the politics and
conflicts of others.  This course will explore the question why
nations go to war when survival is not at stake.  There will be many
case studies, but the focus will be on theories that help us
understand this puzzling behavior on the part of states and those who
determine or influence national policy.  A role-playing exercise at
the end of the semester will give students an opportunity to simulate
national decision-makers confronting the question of whether or not to
use force.

The course requirements will be two exams (short answer and essay
questions), two short papers and participation in class.