POLIS 3114 - The Ethics of War and Peace

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2022

This course is concerned with the ethics of war and peace in international politics. The approach taken is theoretical and practical. Students will be introduced to the major theoretical approaches to ethical questions in international relations (i.e. realism, pacifism, and just war theory) and will be expected to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses as well as apply their logic and insights to specific cases and scenarios.The central questions the course will explore include: Can the use of force ever be justified? Is there such a thing as a just war? Can pre-emptive and preventive strikes be justified on ethical grounds? Are the tenets of the just war tradition applicable to 21st Century conflicts? Is humanitarian intervention an ethical practice or a useful instrument for powerful nations? Can terrorism be justified on ethical grounds? Should terrorists be entitled to prisoner of war status? Can torture be justified to combat terrorism? Should we pay less attention to the ethics of war and more to the ethics of peace? What should be prioritised in post-war contexts: justice or peace? (How) Should we remember the past: let's forget vs lest we forget? These and other questions will be explored through the examination of a wide range of events, both past and present, including: WWI and WWII, the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the 2003 Iraq War, the use of torture in Abu Ghraib, the killing of Osama bin Laden, the use of child soldiers in African conflicts, the 2007 cyberwar in Estonia, the 2011 military intervention in Libya, the tactics of Islamic State, the conflict in Syria, the reconstruction of Afghanistan, the tensions in the South China Sea, and the nuclear standoff with North Korea. The course will also examine the ethics of emerging military and security technologies, such as drones, robots, cyborgs, and cyberweapons.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code POLIS 3114
    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
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites At least 6 units of Level II undergraduate study
    Incompatible POLIS 2109
    Assessment Tutorial Work, Class Tests, Research Essay
    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)

    Attribute 1: Deep discipline knowledge and intellectual breadth

    Graduates have comprehensive knowledge and understanding of their subject area, the ability to engage with different traditions of thought, and the ability to apply their knowledge in practice including in multi-disciplinary or multi-professional contexts.

    1, 2, 3, 4

    Attribute 2: Creative and critical thinking, and problem solving

    Graduates are effective problems-solvers, able to apply critical, creative and evidence-based thinking to conceive innovative responses to future challenges.

    4, 5, 6, 9

    Attribute 3: Teamwork and communication skills

    Graduates convey ideas and information effectively to a range of audiences for a variety of purposes and contribute in a positive and collaborative manner to achieving common goals.

    5, 7, 8, 9

    Attribute 4: Professionalism and leadership readiness

    Graduates engage in professional behaviour and have the potential to be entrepreneurial and take leadership roles in their chosen occupations or careers and communities.

    3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

    Attribute 5: Intercultural and ethical competency

    Graduates are responsible and effective global citizens whose personal values and practices are consistent with their roles as responsible members of society.

    2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9

    Attribute 6: Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural competency

    Graduates have an understanding of, and respect for, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander values, culture and knowledge.

    3, 4

    Attribute 7: Digital capabilities

    Graduates are well prepared for living, learning and working in a digital society.


    Attribute 8: Self-awareness and emotional intelligence

    Graduates are self-aware and reflective; they are flexible and resilient and have the capacity to accept and give constructive feedback; they act with integrity and take responsibility for their actions.

    3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    Course Reader and continual access to MyUni.
    Recommended Resources
    Recommended resources such as additional readings, essay writing information, referencing guidelines, and a wide range of information regarding student support services will be available in the course webpage located on MyUni.
    Online Learning
    MyUni will be utilised to upload additional resources, including scholarly articles, news items and video clips. 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.

    1 x 2-hour lectures (or equivalent) per week 24 hours per semester
    1 x 1-hour tutorials (or equivalent) per week 12 hours per semester
    3 hours tutorial preparation per week 36 hours per semester
    2 hours research per week 24 hours per semester
    2 hours assignment preparation per week 24 hours per semester
    156 hours per semester
    Learning Activities Summary
    Part I - Approaches to War and Peace

    Week 1: Introduction
    Week 2: Theoretical Approaches
    Week 3: Film Analysis: Eye in the Sky
    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: Historical Memory & History Wars
    Week 8: Cyberwarfare, Drones and Cyborgs
    Week 9: Terrorism, Torture & Human Rights
    Week 10: Humanitarian Intervention [R2P]
    Week 11: Peacebuilding and Development
    Week 12: Course Review (with a twist)
    Specific Course Requirements
  • 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
    Assessment Task Task Type Weighting Learning Outcome
    Tutorial Work Formative and Summative 20% 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
    Multiple Choice Test (Part 1) Summative 15% 1,2, 3
    Multiple Choice Test (Part 2) Summative 15% 1, 2, 3
    Research Essay Formative and Summative 50% 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
    Assessment Related Requirements
    Tutorial attendance 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.
    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.

    Multiple Choice Test: The multiple-choice test will be held in two parts, the first in Week 6 and the second in Week 11. The test will assess the student's knowledge of key concepts, theories and themes explored throughout the course, as well as the student's ability to apply the ethical frameworks discussed in the course to specific cases or scenarios. The test will be based on material discussed in the lectures and/or contained in the required readings (i.e. the course reader).

    Research Essay: The research essay will assess the student's knowledge of ethical approaches to war and peace in international politics. It will require the student to develop logical arguments about ethical dilemmas that are backed up with evidence. The assessment will test the student's abilityto 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. The research essay will be 2000-2200 words.

    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].
    Essays must be submitted electronically, through Turnitin. The link will be available on MyUni.

    The official procedure and form to apply for extensions is: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/policies/3303

    Late assignments without an approved extension will be penalised at the rate of 2% (2 marks) per day.

    There is a cut-off period of 7 days (including weekends and public holidays), after which late submissions without a formal extension will not be accepted/marked. In the case of late submissions with a formal extension approved, the cut-off date is 7 days (including weekends and public holidays) from the revised due date, at 11:59pm.
    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.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    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.

  • Student Support
  • Policies & Guidelines
  • Fraud Awareness

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