International Security

This course tackles questions of war, peace and security from a historical and theoretical perspective. What are the causes and consequences of war? What can we learn from past experiences? What explains the use of violence for the resolution of inter and intra-state disputes? Why do states turn to military force and for what purposes? What renders the threat of force credible? Can intervention in civil wars ever curb violence and bring about peace? Whose security is protected through militarized inter- or intra-state conflict? We address these questions through a combination of theoretical readings, concrete historical case studies, and contemporary policy debates. We also introduce students to basic tools developed in different social sciences disciplines and that can be applied to analysis of strategic decisions and interactions (for example, expected utility, equilibrium strategies, and bargaining range).


The first half of the course reviews the major theoretical frameworks that have been used to explain the causes of war on the world stage, as well as its character and duration in the international and domestic arenas. We use these theoretical frameworks as a lens through which to examine problems of war and peace, and threats to individual, national and international security – broadly conceived – in the contemporary era.

Week 1: What is Security Studies?
Week 2: Theories and Levels of Analysis in International Politics
Week 3: Structural Explanations of International Politics
Does unipolarity tend toward stability or instability?
Week 4: Domestic Politics and the Democratic Peace
Does a country’s domestic politics help us understand its behavior in the international system (and why)?
Week 5: Individual Decision-Making
What roles do individuals play in international security?
Week 7: Strategic Interaction and Bargaining Theory
Why are actors often unable to reach a mutually preferable bargain that allows them to avoid the costs of war?
Week 8: International Institutions
Are international institutions epiphenomenal to power or do they fundamentally alter the structure of the international system?
Week 9: Nuclear Diplomacy and Deterrence
Do nuclear weapons make wars more likely?
Week 10: The Power of Norms in International Security
How do norms shape behavior of players in int’l relations?
Week 11: The Global Arms Trade
What explains arms export policies of countries?


The second half of the course turns to questions of security more generally. We examine political violence, state terror, insurgency, humanitarian emergencies, climate change, and other threats to individual and collective security.
We ask whose interests are protected in national security discourse, and what policy implications can be drawn from academic research.

Week 1: The Strategic Implications of China’s Rise
What does China’s rise mean for the balance of power?
Week 2: Securitization
How do specific threats become questions of international peace and security?
Week 3: States and Security
Are states sources of security or of insecurity?
Week 4: Gender and Security
How (if at all) do the experiences of women in conflict and peacetime differ from those of men?
Week 5: Civil War Onset and Duration
What factors best explain the onset of civil war?
Week 7: Civilian Victimization and Wartime Political Orders
What explains individuals and group participation in political violence?
Week 8: International Intervention and the Responsibility to Protect
What explains international intervention in domestic conflicts?
Week 9: Humanitarian Emergencies and Civilian Protection
What role do aid and development agencies play in mitigating insecurity?
Week 10: Ending Complex Wars: Post-Conflict Peace and Security
How are complex civil wars resolved peacefully?
Week 11: Climate Change, Conflict and Environmental Security
How (if at all) does climate change shape conflict?

All readings are journal articles that can be found in the LSE library, or pdfs, which can be accessed via the course website. Please make sure you take good notes while you are reading. Each week, your notes should address five questions, and you should come to class ready to talk eloquently in response to these:
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