About this course

This course explores the politics behind violence and the violence behind politics. It examines the building blocks of statecraft – the behind-the-scenes institutions and bureaucrats who collectively wield more power than we often like to recognize in a democratic society. These are the offices and officers who work the international political machinery: the soldiers, the diplomats, and the spies. Their work, which is often not meant to be observed, reshapes our world every day. In this course, we will unearth some of these institutions and functionaries, shedding light on what they do and why in order to gain a better understanding of how the international political arena actually works. Among the special topics we will explore is the globally widespread use of private military contractors, Special Forces, and non-state actors, such as militias and warlords. Students will read works by classical thinkers, such as Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz, as well as modern practitioners of soldiering, diplomacy, and spying.

The course will involve a simulation exercise, real-world case studies, an independent research project, and a fieldwork-based analysis of the Bath Blitz (1942). Students will also learn how to write a policy brief and an opinion editorial.

An overnight visit to London takes the class to the Imperial War Museum London
and the National Army Museum.

Professor: Yelena Biberman-Ocakli, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Skidmore College, NY Email: ybiberma@skidmore.edu


Check with your home institution for specific information on fulfillment of major / course requirements.