International Relations: Conflict and Cooperation in Global Politics

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Kenneth Waltz famously wrote, “Wars occur because there is nothing to prevent them.” Is this true? If so, what is to blame? Is it human nature or the anarchical structure of the international system that leads to conflict, and how are today’s conflicts different from those of the past? Is world peace possible? We will investigate these questions, analyzing contemporary international politics through various theoretical lenses. In an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, international peace and security are not only military concerns but also economic, human rights, and environmental protection issues. Is the United States, with its superior military, the world’s most powerful state? Or is it China, due to its growing economy? On what basis and through what mechanisms do nongovernmental organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Greenpeace, and transnational social movements for women’s and indigenous people’s rights challenge states’ sovereignty and influence their actions? Beginning with an examination of the historical development of the modern international system, we will explore different theories and approaches to the study of international relations and discuss sources and uses of power in the global arena. Applying the various theoretical perspectives, we will investigate the evolving nature of violence, including terrorism, that spills across borders; the growing gap between the world’s rich and poor; the role of international law in global politics; and the ethics of humanitarian intervention.