POLIS 2109 - The Ethics of War and Peace

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2015

This course is concerned with the ethics of war and peace in international politics. The approach taken is both theoretical and practical. Students will be introduced to the major theoretical approaches to ethical questions in international relations (i.e. realism, pacifism, just war theory and cosmopolitanism) and will be expected to evaluate their main strengths and weaknesses as well as to apply their logic to specific cases and situations. The central questions the course will explore include: Can the use of force ever be justified on ethical grounds? Is there really such a thing as a just war? Is it possible to provide an ethical justification for pre-emptive and preventive war? Are the tenets of the just war tradition applicable to conflict in the 21st century? Is humanitarian intervention an ethical practice or should the principles of sovereignty and non-intervention be upheld? Can the practice of torture be justified under specific circumstances? Should we pay less attention to the ethics of war and more to the ethics of peace? Lest we forget versus let's forget: (what) should we remember?

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code POLIS 2109
    Course The Ethics of War and Peace
    Coordinating Unit Politics and International Relations
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 3 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites At least 12 units of level 1 Arts courses
    Incompatible POLI 2022, POLI 2109, POLI 3022
    Assessment Tutorial Activities (20%), Multiple-Choice Test (20%), Minor Essay (25%) 1100-1200 words, Major Essay (35%) 1500-1600 words
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Associate Professor Benito Cao

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

    1. understand the ethical dimension of international relations;
    2. understand and apply the major theories of international ethics;
    3. identify and discuss past, present and future ethical challenges;
    4. think critically about the ethical dimension of global politics;
    5. conduct independent research utilising a variety of sources;
    6. critically engage with relevant ethical political developments;
    7. produce coherent and well substantiated ethical arguments;
    8. express ideas confidently, thoughtfully and respectfully; and
    9. work with others in the exploration of relevant political content.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Knowledge and understanding of the content and techniques of a chosen discipline at advanced levels that are internationally recognised. 1, 2, 3, 4
    The ability to locate, analyse, evaluate and synthesise information from a wide variety of sources in a planned and timely manner. 5, 6, 7, 8
    An ability to apply effective, creative and innovative solutions, both independently and cooperatively, to current and future problems. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9
    Skills of a high order in interpersonal understanding, teamwork and communication. 6, 7, 8, 9
    A proficiency in the appropriate use of contemporary technologies. 5
    A commitment to continuous learning and the capacity to maintain intellectual curiosity throughout life. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
    A commitment to the highest standards of professional endeavour and the ability to take a leadership role in the community. 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
    An awareness of ethical, social and cultural issues within a global context and their importance in the exercise of professional skills and responsibilities. 3, 4, 6, 8, 9
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    Textbook, Course Reader and continual access to MyUni.

    : Iain Atack, The Ethics of Peace and War (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005).

    Course Reader (the readings are available on MyUni as well as compiled in a reader that can be purchased from the Image & Copy Centre).
    Recommended Resources
    Recommended resources such as additional readings, essay writing guides and referencing guidelines will be uploaded throughout the semester onto the Course Webpage located on MyUni.
    Online Learning
    MyUni will be utilised to upload additional resources, including scholarly articles, news items and video clips. Students will be encouraged to contribute to the Course Blog. Lectures will be recorded and available on MyUni.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    This course is comprised primarily of lectures and tutorials. The lectures will introduce the key concepts, theories and themes, using a combination of multi-media sources (e.g. slides, videos, web-links, etc.).

    The tutorials will consist of small-group activities and semi-structured debates on the weekly topics.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    Lecture attendance:  24 hours (2 per week)
    Tutorial attendance:  12 hours (1 per week)
    Tutorial preparation: 36 hours (3 per week)

    Assignments: 84 hours
              Class Test:   12 hours
              Minor essay: 30 hours
              Major essay: 42 hours

    Total: 156 hours (12 hours per week)
    Learning Activities Summary
    Part I - Approaches to War and Peace

    Week 1: Introduction to International Ethics
    Week 2: Political Approaches to War and Peace
    Week 3: Ethical Approaches to War and Peace
    Week 4: Jus ad Bellum [Resort to War]
    Week 5: Jus in Bello [Conduct of War]
    Week 6: Jus post Bellum [Post-War Conduct]

    Part II - Issues for the 21st Century

    Week 7: Postmodern Wars: New Wars?
    Week 8: Terrorism and Torture
    Week 9: Humanitarian Intervention
    Week 10: Peacebuilding and Development
    Week 11: Historical Memory: History Wars
    Week 12: Course Review and Class Test
    Specific Course Requirements
    Small Group Discovery Experience
    Tutorials will include small-group activities and semi-structured discussions designed to provide students with a fulfilling 'small group discovery experience'. Students will also be encouraged to work in small groups outside the classroom, including in the research and production of some of their assignments.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Tutorial Work - 20% [weekly]
    Minor Essay - 25% [due date: tba]
    Multiple Choice Test - 20% [date: tba]
    Major Essay - 35% [due date: tba]
    Assessment Related Requirements
    Attendance at tutorials is compulsory. Failure to attend three or more tutorials without permission from the tutor or the course coordinator can result in the student being precluded from passing the course.

    Essays must be submitted both in hard copy, through the Politics Essay Box, Napier Level 4, and electronically, to Turnitin. In exceptional circumstances (e.g. work commitments, students from rural areas), upon notification to and approval by the course coordinator, the Turnitin copy will be sufficient.
    Assessment Detail
    Tutorial Work: Tutorials are forums for free exchange and discussion of informed opinions, that is, ideas and thoughts based on reading and reflection, as well as places for raising questions and for the exchange of relevant information. All students are expected to have read the required readings in preparation for the tutorials. Tutorials will be assessed on the basis of the depth of knowledge on the weekly topic, the quality of engagement with the weekly readings and other materials, and the attitude displayed towards the arguments and contributions of others. Tutorial work will include small-group activities and the submission of multiple choice questions. Additional guidelines will be provided during the first tutorials, in Week 1.

    Minor Essay: The minor essay is designed to assess how well you have understood the fundamental principles of the just war tradition as well as your ability to apply those principles. There are two parts to the assignment, and you must address both parts: 

              a) explain the main principles of the modern just war tradition, and
              b) apply those principles to one of the following recent conflicts:
                        Lebanon War (2006), Georgia War (2008), Gaza War (2014)

    Note: consider only the jus ad bellum and jus in bello principles for this particular exercise.
    Note: if it helps you, the essay question would be: Was the [conflict of choice] a Just War?

    Class Test: A class test will be held in the final teaching week. It will assess your knowledge of some of the most fundamental aspects of the course, as well as your ability to apply the ethical frameworks discussed in the course to specific cases. The test will be based on material discussed in the lectures and/or contained in the required readings (i.e. textbook and reader).
    Major Essay: The research essay will assess your knowledge of ethical approaches to war and peace in international politics. It will require you to develop logical arguments about ethical dilemmas that are backed up with evidence. The assessment will test your ability to conduct independent research, formulate well substantiated arguments, apply ethical principles to specific scenarios, and approach ethical questions in a logical fashion. The task draws together the knowledge of key approaches and issues in international ethics, and the application of ethical theories and concepts to the conduct of international politics. Students will be able to select an essay question from a list that will be posted on MyUni, or come up with their own question. Those who choose to write their own question must get approval from their tutor no less than two weeks prior to the due date.

    Important Note: essential information to complete these assignments successfully will be provided in due course in tutorials and on MyUni in the form of responses to frequently asked questions [FAQs].
    • You must complete and attach a coversheet to all work that is submitted in hard-copy. Makers have the right to refuse to accept assignments which do not have a signed coversheet.
    • Coversheets are available on MyUni. Please be sure to read the declaration relating to plagiarism before signing. Please ensure you use the 'date stamper' to stamp your coversheet before placing your essay in the essay box. The office will not provide coversheets.
    • Essays must be submitted both in hard copy, through the Politics Essay Box, Napier Level 4, and electronically, to Turnitin (linke available on the Course Website, through MyUni). In exceptional circumstances (e.g. work commitments, students from rural areas), upon notification to and approval by the course coordinator, the Turnitin copy will be sufficient.
    •  Students must apply for extensions through the official procedure unless:
             1. The student is only requesting a short extension of two days or less
             2. The assessment is worth 20% or less.
             3. The student is registered with the Disability Office and has a Disability Access Plan.
    • Late essays without an extension will be penalised at the rate of 2% per day.
    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

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    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy (http://www.adelaide.edu.au/policies/101/) course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

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