The following courses are taught in the Spring 2018:


Monica Duffy Toft

This course examines core issues in international relations and security policy. It aims to give students a fundamental understanding of physical security and to address the broader dimensions of security and threats to human security in light of the contemporary challenges around the use of force and violence faced by states and citizens. We will investigate whether the nature of violence has changed such that states and citizens have had to reassess how to respond. For example, since the end of the Cold War, the locus of security threats has shifted. No longer is the only and greatest threat to security great powers tilting against one another but now the threat rests in dynamics within and across states by actors with global reach. Saying this, however, does not imply that dynamics between states no longer matter for global security. We live in an unprecedented era in which not only states but also individuals and groups of individuals can do great harm to global peace and security. Just consider the digital revolution and cyber security or transnational networks and jihadists. As we know from research on armed conflict, organized political violence has been declining, particularly interstate war, and trends indicate that people dying from war has also declined. Moreover, events of the past three decades have impressed upon scholars and policy-makers alike that the problem of fragile and failed states and internal war are no longer peripheral issues that can be ignored, as they are often at the center of major shifts in world affairs. Recent events in Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria, Libya, Iraq, and Ukraine demonstrate that fragile states and those states experiencing civil war pose serious threats to international stability through the overflow of violence, the mass migration of refugees, the disruption of trade, and the potential for terrorist network sanctuaries. Never before has the threat environment been so varied and the nature of violence so dispersed. Furthermore, we have come to understand that security is more than just physical and that issues of identity, justice, and societal well-being are core elements of security that also require consideration.


Monica Duffy Toft

Demography is a critical factor in explaining the stability of states, it is often missed by both policymakers and academics until it is too late. Why is it missed? Policy makers tend to be focused on immediate crises and events, while population change happens over the longer term, in slow motion. Academics tend to favor immediate and direct causal factors in explaining political instability, war and state death. How demography impacts societies and politics is too complex and too messy for contemporary analysis that tends to emphasize the search for causality through formal modeling and statistical methods. This course seeks to remedy these oversights by providing an introduction to key concepts and trends related to the study of populations and what it means to international and states’ national security. While demographers ask and answer questions such as ‘how many people, of what kind, and where?’ (facts of change); and ‘why did this come about?’ (determinants of change), international relations and national security experts need to understand why this matters (consequences of change). The goal is to build an understanding that enables scholars to better inform policy makers, and policy makers to be better prepared to grasp the opportunities and ameliorate the risks that demographic changes present.


Thomas Cavanna

This course examines US policy in South Asia from 1947 to 2018. Intersecting history, theory, and policy, it discusses the evolution of America’s strategic rationale over time, the local consequences of its policies, and the regional powers’ own counter-strategies. During the first third of the semester, we investigate how Washington integrated the subcontinent to its containment grand strategy against the Soviet Union, and the legacy of the Cold War. Then, we explore how the region’s status evolved in the post-Cold War era, following India and Pakistan’s acquisition of a nuclear-weapon status, the launching of the war on terror, and China’s rising influence. The course delves deeply into the US-India-Pakistan triangle but also covers America’s relations with other countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc.), its role in the Indian Ocean, its competition with other extra-regional powers, and the role of domestic politics.

The following courses were taught in the Fall 2017:

Civil Wars: Theory and Policy

Monica Duffy Toft

This course introduces students to the analytical and comparative study of large-scale, organized violence within states. Historical and contemporary civil wars will be analyzed from a variety of perspectives, and prominent cases such as former Yugoslavia and contemporary Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria will be discussed. The course will address the role of resources, grievances, religion, nationalism, interstate dimensions (including refugee flows and repatriation), external intervention, and conflict resolution. The course aims to provide students with solid theoretical and historical foundations, and to highlight the difficult policy dilemmas associated with civil wars. By the end of the course, students will be well prepared to think through policy options in the prevention and resolution of civil wars. Enrollment is open, and there are no prerequisites.


Afghanistan and the US ‘war of necessity’

Thomas Cavanna

Despite a seemingly brilliant victory in the early days of the post-9/11 era, America’s campaign in Afghanistan has become the longest war in US history, with currently no end in sight. Balancing history, theory, and policy this seminar investigates the mechanisms and critical junctures that led to this entanglement. We explore the collision between the US-led coalition’s shifting objectives, the lasting legacies of the Cold War, the specificities of Afghanistan’ society, and regional dynamics. All along, we examine critical junctures, successes, failures, and ambiguities in light of scholarly disputes and policy debates. Themes addressed include the war on terror, South Asia’s geopolitics, democratization, state-building, insurgencies, and strategy. CAVANNA Syllabus Afghanistan and US war of necessity FALL 2017