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Civil Wars (376-0-20)


William S Reno
601 University Pl #106

Meeting Info

University Hall 102: Tues, Thurs 9:30AM - 10:50AM

Overview of class

This course is about violent domestic political conflicts. By the 1970s wars within states, referred to in this class as civil wars, had become the world's dominant form of warfare. These conflicts are notable for their intensities and their durations. Elements of civil wars also appeared in inter-state wars, such as after the American-led attack on Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq in 2003 and against the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. These wars have involved armed struggles between state forces and rebels over the control of territory and the right to form the central government. But armed actors in civil wars reflect many agendas and include ethnic militias, vigilante groups, foreign mercenaries, and criminal gangs. A key observation in this course, however, is that these multiple agendas and complex dynamics┬┐"wars within wars"┬┐play more important roles in recent and ongoing civil wars. This development stands in contrast to civil wars through the mid-20th century. Though these wars also included complex arrays of armed groups and agenda, they tended to feature more clear-cut distinctions between state and rebel combatants. The causes and significance of this change will constitute one of the themes of this course.
The first segment of this course will consider several academic theories about the causes of civil wars. These theories range from the economist's analysis that an abundance of natural resources and other economic opportunities provide incentives for rebellion to enterprising individuals, to the idea derived from international relations that "security dilemmas" (mutual fears that one's neighbors are preparing to strike) cause civil wars, and to the investigation of how changes in the global structure of economies and politics are at the roots of many civil wars. The second segment of this course will focus on the processes of war fighting in civil wars. Students will find that the explanations of causes of civil wars, while of varying applicability from one case to the next, prove to be quite valuable in terms of generating questions and in turning attention to particular kinds of relationships. This section will focus on processes such as the rise of leaders, the formulation of ideologies and political programs (or their absence), and recruitment of fighters and supporters. In a third section we will consider the special role of violence in influencing the courses of these other processes and relationships.

Learning Objectives

1. Know how to write an essay that synthesizes empirical findings and a theoretical framework.
2. Have a deeper grasp of mainsprings of internal conflict.
3. Be able to use information and arguments from this class to arrive at more informed judgments about relevant current events.
4. Prepare interested students for applications for undergraduate research grants and inform them about related career options.

Teaching Method

Lecture, discussion, on-line activities

Evaluation Method

Participation 10%
A midterm exam 25%
A final exam 30%
A paper about 10 pages 35%

Class Materials (Required)

Mary Kaldor (2012) New & Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era [3rd edition], Stanford: Stanford University Press, ISBN 978-0804756464 [paperback]. Additional books may be required, contact the Professor for more information.
Web based materials (no cost) will include United Nations reports, documents from the US Department of Defense, and reports and first-hand accounts from various recent and contemporary conflicts.

Class Attributes

Social & Behavioral Sciences Distro Area

Associated Classes

DIS - Lunt Hall 104: Thurs 4:00PM - 4:50PM

DIS - Parkes Hall 215: Fri 11:00AM - 11:50AM