cua logo  

Welcome to 2019 Summer Online – Politics 212: International Relations

You might have already seen the short introductory notes on Blackboard.   Notes about our schedule, grades, etc follow below

This is the course home page.

Welcome to Politics 212: International Relations

This will be our primary work space.  We’ll have some documents on Blackboard (Bb) but our usual meeting place will be here

Your readings and videos each week will be here online – there are no textbooks to purchase.  We will begin Tuesday, July 2.  If you have any questions, please email me at

July 1 – Introduction to Online Learning, and A Peek Ahead –
(click here for Week 1 materials)

July 8 – Introduction to International Relations: From States to Globalization (click here for Week 2 materials)

July 15 – Power and Money: Intro to Global Political Economy

Course Outline 

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at a variety of approaches to the study of international relations.  But we’ll begin with a look at online learning: what it is and isn’t; what you can expect from me and from each others, and what we’ll expect from you.

We’ll start the substance of our course with a proper introduction to the main theories – models, actually – of international relations.  There are four main ways to look at the world.  You might think of them as lenses through which to view what’s in front of you. Depending upon which lenses you are using, you can see very different versions of the same thing.  We’ll proceed through our mini-mester by looking at these IR models with an economics emphasis and by considering the importance of democracy (and the problems of democracy) in IR.  Finally, we’ll take a close look at one particular aspect of IR – refugees and migration.  Throughout, you and I will be in contact about your individual paper.

Weeks will typically have some combination of  academic readings, original [primary] source documents, and other online readings or videos, including a short video from me introducing the week.

There is no required textbook – I will provide all our videos and readings, mostly by links, but a few on Blackboard.  You do want to subscribe to Foreign Affairs at – you can get the student rate of about $3 per month (and you can cancel in a few weeks if you want – but you shouldn’t). You’ll definitely need digital access for the class – splurge on the print version too.  $26 for the year – pretty good, since it’s our only required purchase. (I might add HBO’s Too Big To Fail movie – $3 on YouTube, free if you have HBO; we’ll see.)  Other

Additional readings will come from material you will be able to access for free from or that I will provide for you. If you’re desperate for a textbook, get Nye’s Understanding Global Conflict and Cooperation – the 10th edition (2016) is $100 but you can get the 9th edition (2012) used for $10.

Your assignments will include (1) on this web site, weekly postings and responses to your classmates’ weekly postings, (2) in our facebook group, your reflections on refugee news items and (3) a final “paper” on the subject of your own choice.  We’ll talk more about this paper.

A ink to our facebook group is on  Blackboard > Announcements.  If you have a critical [legal; other] reason you cannot have a fb page, you and I should discuss this; we can make it work.  Please use the link in my intro email/on our Bb page to request to join.)

Outline of Assignments

Most weeks have a sequence:  I’ll offer you some readings and videos; you’ll reply to some prompts; and you’ll discuss your responses with each other.  For example, in a given week you might be asked to answer two prompts by Thursday night, and reply to the essays of two classmates by Saturday night. Each week I will also link to What Makes a Good Post – please read this carefully a couple of times.

In addition, throughout the semester and especially during the last week, you will focus on your own individual 2,000 word research analysis.  You will pose a question to which you don’t already know the answer, and you will try to answer it.  More on this below.

International Relations is a strange business – we’ll take our time with it.  We’ll get a good broad overview and explore a couple of elements more deeply.  We’ll approach the course with generosity and humility and the assumption that each of us is coming with honesty and vulnerability and  the best of intentions toward to material and toward each other.

When I first started teaching online, one of the most important things I learned was not technological – how to use Blackboard or any of the other software – it was philosophical.  That is, I was thinking of an online course as a ten  individual independent studies.  What I learned then and really have come to appreciate is the importance of trying to replicate the in-class peer-to-peer learning.  In this course we’ll read and watch videos, you’ll respond individually to them here on this web site, and you’ll reflect/reply on each other’s responses.  We won’t ever be online together – we are “asynchronous.”  But with a commitment to openness and respect we will go far.

It’s my anticipation – indeed, it is always true – that we will learn a lot from each other.  I don’t care if you’re a AOC Democrat or Eisenhower Republican or Chinese Communist or Bulgarian nationalist or a committed independent or genuinely unsure or still in love with Gary Johnson.  We’ll treat each other and our opinions and analyses with respect.  We’ll actually spend very little time on our opinions – we’ll approach things in a more historical, scientific, and analytical ways.  You might feel things personally – that’s entirely understandable and expected – but our work here is not what we feeeeel – it’s what we can know and learn.


Your weekly essays and replies to classmates will comprise two-thirds of your grade; your longer Week 6 paper will provide the other one-third.  I will comment on the class’s essays each week in general; I may comment on some individual essays each week but not each one.  Your grades will be based on administrative (is the work on time, grammatical, etc.) and substantive (does your essay demonstrate that you have thought carefully about the readings and videos; do your replies to classmates reflect learning on your part, advancing the conversation, and humility and generosity.  Essays that are hostile or otherwise inappropriate will not be posted or will be removed, and will need to be redone for credit.

Office hours 

I will check my CUA email each morning. If you like, we can schedule a phone call, Skype, etc., by appointment.  With short, quick questions you can also facebook message me – details on Bb.

Notes about the Online of our Online Course

Much of our work will be done at  We will also have a Blackboard (Bb) page, but that is not where we will do our work – we will do it on  Additionally – and this is optional – if you are not already a member of our closed fb group, please request to join from (link on Bb). The fb page will have former students/alumni as members; some check in with useful insights from time to time.  We won’t do formal work there, but I try to share useful, interesting items, and invite you to do the same.

If this is the first summer online course you are taking, there are a couple of ideas worth considering.  First, the course has two important adjustments, for the instructor and for the students:  the course is online, and the course is compressed into just a few weeks.  You should expect the same amount of work on your part in these few weeks as you would give to a full semester-length course.  The usual semester-length expectations are 135 hours – 45 classroom hours and 90 individual study hours.  Do the math: that’s a considerable dedication of time each day/week.  (Even if we don’t always meet these time commitments, that is the goal.)

Second, and related to that last idea, is the prioritization of your work.  During the fall and spring, you have several competing courses, along with activities, work, internships, etc.  During a summer online course, you need to think of your online course as your key responsibility.  If you are also working or interning, you need to recognize that this course may be at least a demanding part-time job of about 20 hours per week.

Most of this is not material or response that you can do a few minutes at a time waiting for the Metro or walking your dog.  Those might be great times to check the news, or to see if there are responses to your latest post.  But you also want to block out periods of time in which you will be undisturbed by work, personal, or other distractions.

Finally, combining the ideas above, no late work can be accepted in subsequent weeks.  Week 2 work has to be submitted during Week 2, etc.  A particular post might be minutes or hours late, with some adjustment to your grade, but may not leak into the following weeks.  It just puts you in too difficult position to catch up so please, stay on pace.

Similarly, your course paper is due on the due date, Tuesday, August 13,  11:59 PM Washington, D.C., time (EDT). I will post details of the paper assignment on Bb, fb, and, but in short: any topic you choose and I approve; approx 2000 words; due August 13.  *You should expect that late papers will not be accepted at all.

Ok, now what?

Advice from me: whether or not this is your first online summer course, one note: the semester is short and moves fast. It’s important to keep up.

Advice from you: I’ll be asking you for a couple of things during the semester. If you have a request, suggestion, etc., let me know anytime.

My goal is that this should be a fun, interesting, and academic endeavor for you and for me.  By choosing this course I expect you already have some real interest in American politics and American political parties – maybe you have some academic or field experience as well.  In any case, online summer classes are good only with real engagement by the students. I’ll try to make that easy and appealing for you, but only you can do it.

Ok, great, thanks – let’s get started!

Our schedule for the semester

Each Monday morning we’ll have the week’s material available, and we’ll have assignments due throughout the week.  There will be readings, videos, a few PowerPoints, etc.  We’ll do this all on this web site.  At times it might seem like a lot of material, but remember that we are trying to do the work of 15 weeks in just seven weeks.

July 1 – Introduction to Online Learning, and A Peek Ahead –
(click here for Week 1 materials)

We start with an introduction to how the Internet is changing how scholars impact politics (and how politics impacts scholars)

July 8 – Introduction to International Relations: From States to Globalization (click here for Week 2 materials)

At the heart of IR is the question of how to look at the world – “states in conflict,” or other ways?  Some ways are called realism, liberalism, marxism, and contructivism

International relations includes war – and much, much more. From


July 15 – Power and Money: Intro to Global Political Economy

In some ways, we have the same debates today as in the 1890s, 1930s, and 1980s, etc.  In other ways, the global economy today would be unrecognizable to earlier generations of scholars, and so we need new ideas on how to approach those debates. Here we don’t explore BitCoin or IoT; instead we begin with the foundations of “What are the proper roles of government in the national or global economy?”

Do you want land or oil – or data?

July 23 – Democracy, Democratization, and Democracy at Risk

One part of the story of IR is countries’ impacts on each other.  For a long time this included the global spread of democracy and liberalism.  Today we need to consider how and where these trends are moving in other directions

July 30 – Refugees and International Relations

IR isn’t just states – it’s people, ideas, economics, environmental questions, human rights, and more.  We’ll take a look at one piece of all this: the great global expansion of migrants and refugees in recent years.  I’ve worked with some of these communities in Mexico, Iraq, Bosnia, and Palestine, and the questions aren’t just about international law and foreign policies – they’re about people

Aug 7 – Your Individual Paper

You choose your own question – anything in IR, broadly defined. And then you try to answer that question

August 12 – Looking Back, Looking Forward: What’s Next?