POL 102

International Relations

POL 102 - Fall 2020

General Information

Mondays and Thursdays, 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.

Rowley Hall, Room G127

Professor Chad Rector (make an appointment)

This course is an overview of how political scientists think about international relations. The course is divided into three parts, each with a central question:

  1. Why do wars happen?
  2. When do countries cooperate?
  3. What are the causes and consequences of American foreign policy choices?

As we address these topics, we will consider various issues including wars, civil wars, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change, hunger, human rights, trade, migration, and other topics chosen by the class.

The course is taught as a combination of large class sessions and small team meetings. For each of the three parts of the class I will divide the class into teams - these teams then meet with me and complete some short projects together. I will reassign teams for each of the three parts of the course.

I will post a full syllabus in August.

Course evaluations from previous semesters.


Each assignment is worth a fixed number of points, listed below; these add up to 100. Each assignment will be returned with a numerical score. Course grades will be based on the total number of points out of the 100 possible, with 90 and above is an A, 80-89 is a B, 70-79 is a C, 60-69 is a D, and 59 and below an F.

There are 10 assignments for the course:

  • Introduction. 1 point. Each student will complete a short series of prompts and an individual meeting with me.
  • Three short papers. 9 points each (27 points total). Each paper is no more than three pages long. Assignments will be posted with each part of the course. These papers will be completed by students individually.
  • Three team projects. 9 points each (27 points total). At the start of each part of the course I will assign teams, and will meet with each team several times. Each team will complete a short research project and present their findings to the class as a whole. Assignments will be posted with each part of the course.
  • Three exams. 15 points each (45 points total). At the end of each part of the course. Each exam has two sections:
    • 5 short-answer identification questions worth 2 points each (choose 5 out of 8).
    • 1 essay question worth 5 points in which students compare the topics of two different team presentations other than their own.

There are substantial opportunities for extra credit:

  • Study group meeting. Each member of a group of at least three students that meets with me outside of class time will get 1 point of extra credit. Study group members will show me outlines of answers to at least 4 potential ID terms for the exam. This assignment may be repeated up to three times, once for each exam. Details of that assignment are here.
  • Class participation. I will give up to 3 points to students who regularly attend class prepared to discuss the readings and apply them to contemporary issues, and make sustained contributions to the class.
  • Extra credit games. We will play several games in class over the semester. Students who are in class will receive extra credit points, depending on how they do in the game. Games will not be announced ahead of time, cannot be made up, and will not be held on recognized religious holidays.
  • DC event. 5 points for a first event and 3 points for a second. Attend an event in the DC area on any subject related to world politics, broadly defined, and write a paragraph summarizing your experience. Specific instructions about attending and reporting on events are here. You will receive 5 extra credit points for one event and post, and 3 points for a second. All events must be completed and posted by the Saturday after the final exam. If you intend to do an event or two for extra credit I strongly advise you to plan ahead, early in the semester.



  • Monday, October 7
  • Thursday, October 31
  • Thursday, December 12, 9:00 am to 11:30 am

Other policies:

  • Students who miss exams will have one chance to take a makeup and will be marked down unless they have a valid medical or university business excuse.
  • Students turning in papers containing plagiarism will fail the course and be formally charged through the University’s Academic Integrity process.
  • Papers will be marked down one point for each day (or fraction of a day) late for the first five days after the deadline; any paper late more than five days may be turned in for up to half credit at any time before the final exam.

For reference, here are all of the exams from prior semesters. Starting in fall 2020 the format for the second part of the exam is different. However, the first part the exam is the same as in these previous years.

Course Schedule and Readings

The textbook for the course is World Politics: Interests, Interactions, Institutions, 4th edition, by Frieden, Lake, and Schultz. It is available electronically from the publisher, although used paperback copies are sometimes cheaper.

Reading assignments should be completed before the class session under which they are listed. Most readings are assigned from the textbook. Other readings are linked.


Monday, August 24

Introduction and overview (slides)

Introduction assignment (due by September 4)

Part 1: Conflict

Thursday, August 27

Violence and Political Objectives (slides) (video)

Reading: Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Chapters 1-2 (link)

Monday, August 31 - No class meeting today

Reading: Chapters 1 and 2

First team meeting scheduled between

Monday, August 31 - Wednesday, September 2

Thursday, September 3

Private information and incentives to lie (slides) (video)

Thursday, September 10

Pre-emptive and preventive war (slides) (video)

Reading: Chapter 3

Monday, September 14

Nuclear weapons (slides) (video)

Reading: George Kennan, The Sources of Soviet Conduct (link)

Thursday, September 17 - no class today

Reading: Chapter 4

Second team meeting scheduled between

Tuesday, Sept 15 - Friday, Sept 18

Monday, September 21

Terrorism (slides)

Reading: FLS, Chapter 6

Thursday, September 24

Team presentations

Monday, September 28


Thursday, October 1

Exam #1

Part 2: Cooperation

Monday, October 5

Climate (slides) (video)

Reading: Chapter 13

Thursday, October 8

Trade (slides)

Reading: Chapter 7

New teams formed

Third team meeting scheduled between

Friday, October 9 - Wednesday, October 14

Monday, October 12 (Tuesday, October 13)

No class meeting today

Thursday, October 15

The World Trade Organization (slides)

Monday, October 19

The Pandemic

Reading: TBA

Fourth team meeting scheduled between

Tuesday, October 20 - Friday, October 23

Thursday, October 22 - No class meeting today

Monday, October 26

International organization (slides)

Reading: FLS, Chapter 11

Thursday, October 29

Human rights (slides)

Reading: FLS, Chapter 12

Monday, November 2

Team presentations

Thursday, November 5


Monday, November 9

Exam #2

Part 3: The United States

Thursday, November 12

Balancing behavior (slides) (video)

Monday, November 16

Hegemony and Interdependence

Reading: Exit from Hegemony update (TBA)

New teams formed

Fifth team meeting scheduled between

Tuesday, November 17 - Friday, November 20

Thursday, November 19 - No class meeting today

Monday, November 23

American foreign policy (slides)

Sixth team meeting scheduled between

Monday, November 23 - Monday, November 30

Monday, November 30

Team presentations

Thursday, December 3

Review and discussion

Day of the final exam

Third Exam