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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Contemporary War: Understanding Change and Continuity (PGSP11288)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course provides students with the theoretical and conceptual foundation to understand change and continuity in contemporary conflict, and acts as a platform to think about the place and role of war in the modern security environment. Exploring the ongoing debates regarding the changing nature and character of war, the course balances analysis of these debates with comprehension of how these translate to the practical use of military force in the modern world. The course critically engages with contemporary debates and requires students to assess and explore this discourse in relation to traditional approaches to strategic and security studies. It begins by introducing students to the conceptual problems attached to the identification of war as a social phenomenon. Using this as a basis for debate, the course then explores the utility of the military instrument (particular its relationship to the state), the role of technology (the Revolution in Military Affairs debate), the ideas the new war thesis, the place of the 'great strategic thinkers', asymmetric warfare and terrorism, as well as examining debate surrounding the concept of victory and defeat in modern war.
Course description 1. What is War? Definitional Problems
The initial lecture introduces students to the micro-foundations of the subject by exploring the very idea of war itself. What is war? Can and How do we define war? Does the modern era require us to examine our definition of war? The lecture and seminar explores key approaches from strategic studies and international law - from Thucydides to the present.

2. The Military Instrument - From Napoleon to the Cold War
With particular reference to the role of the state in war, the lecture explores the use of war as an instrument of policy, providing students with the conceptual and historical foundation to understand state behaviour and war. It provides the analytical touchstone for students as they assess the impact of change over the following weeks.

3. Great War Thinkers: Thucydides, Sun Tzu, Jomini, and Clausewitz
Building on the preceding week, the lecture and seminar assess the influence of the Great strategic thinkers. What is their contribution to our understanding of conflict? Do these theorists share common ground? What is their role when analysing war today?

4. The Revolution in Military Affairs - 1990 - present
Although technological change has always influenced war, it has been claimed that technological innovation represented by the American RMA has (or is) transforming the nature and character of conflict. Introducing students to the concept of the RMA, the lecture and seminar explore the latest American RMA over the last twenty years: it examines the changing use of technology, from precision guided weapons, to the new robotics revolution. Critically examining the strengths and weaknesses of the RMA, the lecture and seminar will also highlight and assess the intentional aspect of the RMA - to stay ahead of would be peer competitors.

5. The Changing Nature of War: Old Wars, New Wars, or Risk Wars?
Explores the key debates regarding the changing character (and possibly nature) of war in the Post-Cold War era. By critically engaging with the new war discourse of the 1990s, it traces the emergence of the 'new war' idea and its ostensible continuation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bringing the debate up to date, it introduces students to a competing narrative - war in the risk society.

6. The Clausewitzian model today: A Theory for Modern War?
After exploring modern alternatives to traditional approaches, week 6 critically examines the continued validity of the Clausewitzian model. Positioned as obsolete by the new war and RMA debates, the lecture and seminar examine the Clausewitzian Trinity as a modern strategic tool. In particular it introduces students to the interactivity of the concept, providing an alternative model for strategic thought.

7. Asymmetric War (and Terrorism)
Set against the new war and RMA debates, week 7 introduces the concept of unconventional war. Students are expected to draw on the experience of the course and critically engage with the notion of change and continuity. The lecture places asymmetry in historical context, and uses case study analysis to further explore the topic.

8. Counterinsurgency
Week 8 examines the theory and practice in COIN. Again using case study analysis, the lecture and seminar will examine examples of success and failure in COIN (cases may include; Algeria, Malaya, Iraq - the surge, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Chechnya).

9. Victory and Defeat in Contemporary Conflict
The lecture and seminar will examine critical debates surrounding the idea of victory and defeat in modern war. Principal questions: How should victory and defeat be understood in contemporary conflict? Is victory an obsolete concept in an era of non-state war? The lecture explores the relationship between military victory, regime change, nation-building, and security? How do perceptions of success among publics affect domestic political considerations?

10. War, Security and Peace-building (Iraq/Afghanistan case study)
The final week examines the experience of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Following on from week 9, week 10 is designed to bring to life the complexity of war in the modern security environment. It explores the dynamic of change and continuity, assesses the increasing nexus between security and development, and evaluates the range of strategic and security challenges posed to international attempts to stabilise failed states.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
Students should gain:
1. Balanced and comprehensive appreciation of the complex character of modern strategic/security studies, with particular emphasis on the core strands of the changing character of war debate in the Post-Cold War era.
2. A theoretical foundation with which to understand change and continuity in war.
3. Detailed insight into the theoretical, historical, and contemporary meaning of war and strategy.
4. Appreciation of the sources of political/social/technological change and their impact on war.
Reading List
Course text: - John Balyis, James J Wirtz, Colin S Gray (ed.) Strategy in the Contemporary World; an introduction to Strategic Studies, 3rd Edition (Oxford, OUP, 2010)

Other text:
Heuser, Beatrice, Reading Clausewitz (London: Pimlico, 2002)
Jeremy Black, War in the New Century (London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2001)
Max Boot, War Made New. Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today (New York: Gotham Books, 2006)
Carl von Clausewitz, On War. Edited and Translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984)
Coker, Christopher, War in an Age of Risk (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009)
Martin Van Creveld, The Transformation of War (New York: The Free Press, 1991)
Antulio J Echevarria II, Clausewitz and Contemporary War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)
Colin S. Gray, Strategy For Chaos: Revolutions in Military Affairs and the Evidence of History (London: Frank Cass, 2002).
Colin S. Gray, Another Bloody Century. Future Warfare (London: Phoenix, 2006).
Dominic D. P. Johnson and Dominic Tierney, Failing to Win: Perceptions of Victory and Defeat in International Politics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006)
Mary Kaldor, New & Old Wars (London: Polity, 2006)
David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerrilla. Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One. (London: Hurst, 2009)
Herfried M√ľnkler, The New Wars (London; Polity Press, 2002)
Rasmussen, Mikkel, Vedby, The Risk Society at War: Terror, Technology and Strategy in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)
Martin Shaw, The New Western Way of War (London: Polity Press, 2005)
P. W. Singer, Wired For War. The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century (New York: The Penguin Press, 2009)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Colin Fleming
Tel: (0131 6)51 1364
Course secretaryMr John Riddell
Tel: (0131 6)50 9975
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