Spring 2021 - POL 846 G100

International Security Studies (5)

Class Number: 7936

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 4:30 PM – 8:20 PM

  • Instructor:

    Elis Vllasi




International Security Studies is a seminar devoted to enduring and contemporary questions in international security, a field that at its core is about the threat and use of force by states (and, increasingly, non-state actors) to achieve their political and military objectives. This course emphasizes theoretical and empirical work on issues broadly characterized as international security.

The course has four major goals: (1) to understand the major theoretical perspectives or paradigms in security studies; (2) to survey some of the most important substantive areas and debates in the field with an emphasis on recent contributions; (3) to apply theories and arguments from the academic literature to contemporary policy problems; and (4) to help prepare doctoral students in political science to conduct research in the field of international security and pass the departmental comprehensive exam in IR.

The course is divided into two parts. The first part of the course focuses on the major theoretical traditions in IR and international security: realism, liberalism, and constructivism. We will read contemporary statements of each of these perspectives, but also spend one class session on the bargaining model of war that has gained prominence since the mid-1990s. In the second part of the course, the focus shifts to important substantive questions in security studies, such as security institutions; economics and globalization, reputation and the credibility of compellent and deterrent threats; military coercion and effectiveness; terrorism and insurgency; civil and ethnic conflict; third-party interventions and peacekeeping; nuclear proliferation; the role of leaders in international conflict; and disruptive technologies (e.g., social media, AI) on the future of war.

This course is by no means a comprehensive overview of the security studies literature. Many important topics and debates are not covered. The course attempts both to introduce students to the big theoretical traditions/paradigms that have long dominated the sub-field and cover a selection of recent contributions that have made an impact on the field and how we think about international security.

This is a graduate seminar and as such, classes are geared around discussion of the readings. It is important that you critically engage both the theoretical and empirical aspects of the readings. In addition, a graduate course implies that you have an interest in the field above that of undergrads – that being said, the work and the expectations are increased. Your preparedness for class, participation, and work should reflect more than just a basic consumption of the material.


  • Participation 25%
  • 2 Analytical Papers 40%
  • Literature Review or Research Paper 30%
  • Research Presentations 5%



Journal articles will be assigned.  They will be electronically available at the SFU library.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).