Classes

MIT SSP courses are offered through the Department of Political Science at MIT (Course 17).
These courses include the following:

Course descriptions from the MIT Bulletin are reproduced below. For information on when each course will next be offered, or for the times and locations of the current semester's courses, please see the political science department course listings.

17.40 American Foreign Policy: Past, Present, and Future
Subject's mission is to explain and evaluate America's past and present foreign policies. What accounts for America's past wars and interventions? What were the consequences of American policies? Overall, were these consequences positive or negative for the US? For the world? Using today's 20/20 hindsight, can we now identify policies that would have produced better results? History covered includes World Wars I and II, the Korean and Indochina wars, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Recent and contemporary crises and issues also covered.
S. Van Evera
17.408 Chinese Foreign Policy
Explores the leading theoretical and methodological approaches to studying China's interaction with the international system since 1949. Readings include books and articles that integrate the study of China's foreign policy with the field of international relations. Requires basic understanding of Chinese politics or international relations theory.
M. Taylor Fravel
17.418 Field Seminar in International Relations Theory
Provides an overview of the field of international relations for graduate students. Each week a different approach to explaining international relations is examined. Survey major concepts and theories in the field and assist in the preparation for further study in the department's more specialized graduate offerings in international relations.
M. Taylor Fravel
17.42 Causes and Prevention of War
Examines the causes of war, with a focus on practical measures to prevent and control war. Topics covered include: causes and consequences of national misperception; military strategy and policy as cause of war; US foreign policy as a cause of war and peace; and the likelihood and possible nature of another world war. Historical cases are examined, including World War I, World War II, Korea, and Indochina.
S. Van Evera
17.428 American Foreign Policy: Theory and Method
Examines the causes and consequences of American foreign policy since 1898. Readings cover theories of American foreign policy, historiography of American foreign policy, central historical episodes including the two World Wars and the Cold War, case study methodology, and historical investigative methods.
S. Van Evera
17.432 Causes of War: Theory and Method
Examines the causes of war. Major theories of war are examined; case-study and large-n methods of testing theories of war are discussed; and the case-study method is applied to several historical cases. Cases covered include World Wars I and II.
S. Van Evera
 
17.433 International Relations of East Asia
Introduces and analyzes the international relations of East Asia. Examines the sources of conflict and cooperation during and after the Cold War, assessing competing explanations for key events in East Asia’s international relations. Readings drawn from international relations theory, political science and history. Students taking graduate version are expected to pursue the subject in greater depth through reading and individual research.
T. Fravel
17.436 Territorial Conflict
Examines why territorial conflicts arise in the first place, why some of these conflicts escalate to high levels of violence and why other territorial disputes reach settlement, thereby reducing a likely source of violence between states. Readings draw upon political geography and history as well as qualitative and quantitative approaches to political science.
T. Fravel
17.468 Foundations of Security Studies
Aims to develop a working knowledge of the theories and conceptual frameworks that form the intellectual basis of security studies as an academic discipline. Particular emphasis on balance of power theory, organization theory, civil-military relations, and the relationship between war and politics. The reading list includes Jervis, Schelling, Waltz, Blainey, von Clausewitz, and Huntington. Students write a seminar paper in which theoretical insights are systematically applied to a current security issue.
B. Posen
17.473 The Politics of WMD Proliferation
Provides an introduction to the politics and theories surrounding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Primarily focuses on nuclear weapons, with attention to chemical and biological weapons. First half of the subject explores the causes of WMD proliferation and non-proliferation, both theoretically and empirically. Second half focuses on the consequences of proliferation, both within particular regions and in the international system.
V. Narang

17.478 Great Power Military Intervention: Causes, Conduct and Consequences of Military Intervention in Internal Conflicts-Cases from the Post Cold War World

The purpose of this seminar is to examine systematically, and comparatively, great and middle power military interventions into civil wars during the 1990's. The interventions to be examined are the 1991 effort to protect the Kurds in N. Iraq; the 1993 effort to ameliorate famine in Somalia; the 1994 effort to restore the Aristide government in Haiti, the 1995 effort to end the conflict in Bosnia Herzegovina, and the 1999 NATO war to end Serbia's control of Kosovo. By way of comparison the weak efforts made to slow or stop the 1994 genocide in Rwanda will also be examined.
B. Posen
17.482 US Military Power
Examines the evolving roles and missions of US General Purpose Forces within the context of modern technological capabilities and Grand Strategy, which is a conceptual system of interconnected political and military means and ends. Topics include US Grand Strategies; the organization of the US Military; the defense budget; and the capabilities and limitations of naval, air, and ground forces. Also examines the utility of these forces for power projections and the problems of escalation. Analyzes military history and simple models of warfare to explore how variations in technology and battlefield conditions can drastically alter effectiveness of conventional forces.
B. Posen
17.484 Comparative Grand Strategy and Military Doctrine
A comparative study of the grand strategies and military doctrines of the great powers in Europe (Britain, France, Germany, and Russia) from the late nineteenth tot he mid-twentieth century. Examines strategic developments in the years preceding and during World Wars I and II. What factors have exerted the greatest influence on national strategies? How may the quality of a grand strategy be judged? Exploration of comparative case study methodology also plays a central role. What consequences seem to follow from grand strategies of different types?
B. Posen

17.486 Japan and East Asian Security
Explores Japan's role in world orders, past, present, and future. Focuses on Japanese conceptions of security; rearmament debates; the relationship of domestic politics to foreign policy; the impact of Japanese technological and economic transformation at home and abroad; alternative trade and security regimes; and relations with Asian neighbors, Russia, and the alliance with the United States. Seminar culminates in a two-day Japanese-centered crisis simulation, based upon scenarios developed by students.
R. J. Samuels
 

17.537 Politics and Policy in Contemporary Japan

Analyzes contemporary Japanese politics, focusing primarily upon the post-World War II period. Includes examination of the dominant approaches to Japanese politics and society, the structure of the party system, the role of political opposition, the policy process, foreign affairs, and interest groups. Attention to defense, foreign, industrial, social, energy, technology policy processes. Graduate students are expected to pursue the subject in greater depth through reading and class presentations. Assignments differ.
R.J. Samuels

17.581 Riots, Rebellions, Revolution

Examines different types of violent political conflict. Compares and contrasts several social science approaches (psychological, sociological, and political) and analyzes their ability to explain variation in outbreak, duration and outcome of conflict. Examines incidents such as riots in the US during the 1960's, riots in India, the Yugoslav wars, and the Russian Revolution, in addition to current international events.
R. Petersen

17.582 Civil War

Surveys the social science literature on civil war. Studies the origins of civil war, discusses variables affecting duration, and examines termination of conflict. Highly interdisciplinary and covers a wide variety of cases. Open to advanced undergraduates with permission of instructor.
R. Petersen, F. Christia

17.583 Conflict and the Graphic Novel

Presents the roots and consequences of violent conflict through the graphic novel. Proceeds thematically and addresses an array of violent dynamics and processes such as revolution, occupation, insurgency, ethnic conflict, terrorism and genocide through graphic novels. Covers some of the most important cases of violent unrest over the last seventy years such as the Holocaust, the war in Vietnam, the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and the recent Iraq war.
F. Christia

17.584 Civil-Military Relations

Subject consists of five sections. After a general survey of the field, students consider cases of stable civilian control, military rule, and transitions from military to civilian rule. Cases are selected from around the world.
R. Petersen
17.586 Warlords, Terrorists, and Militias: Theorizing on Violent Non-State Actors
Examines why non-state actors resort to violence, their means and tactics, and what can be done to counter that violence. Focuses on the production side of non-state violence, including the objectives and organization of insurgents, terrorists, militias and warlords, their mobilization strategies and support base, and how they coerce opponents. Also covers the response violence elicits from governments or other actors such as counterinsurgency or counterterrorism strategies.
F. Christia

17.950 Understanding Military Operations

This seminar will break apart current and possible future sea, air, space, and land battlefields into their constituent parts and look at the interaction in each of those warfare areas between existing military doctrine and current and projected technological trends in weapons, sensors, communications, and information processing. It will specifically seek to explore how technological development, innovation and/or stagnation are influenced in each warfare area by military doctrine.
O. Cote

17.956 Insurgency

This seminar offers a general overview of the political science literature on insurgency and counterinsurgency. It aims to address questions of definition, operationalization of variables, and general methodological issues relevant to conducting research on insurgency and counterinsurgency. In that regard, the course looks at issues pertaining to the role of ethnicity, violence, poverty, aid and technology at how insurgencies are started, get fought and are countered or prevail. The course introduces the basic variables as well as the theoretical and empirical findings in the literature and discusses cases of insurgency and counterinsurgency in a variety of regions.
F. Christia and R. Petersen

17.S950 Social Science and the Iraq War

This course will examine how social scientists have tried to understand political, economic and social variation during the Iraq conflict. The first classes discuss the evolution of the war and specify dependent variables of interest. The course then addresses how social scientists conceive of and study the following aspects of the conflict: 1) The relevant actors in the conflict  2) The nature of the strategic situation in which these actors have operated 3) The structural and institutional constraints on those actors 4) How the United States and coalition forces have tried to shape those constraints 5)  How actors have used various technologies in this struggle.
R. Petersen

17.S919 The International Politics of the Post-Soviet States

This class will focus on the foreign policies of and the relations among Russia and the other post-Soviet states.  The course will explore issues such as the geopolitics of energy, the impact of authoritarianism across the region, the rise of Islamism, and Putin’s proposal to create a Eurasian Union. As the 2008 Russian-Georgian war or the gas wars between Ukraine and Russia both demonstrate, what happens in what the Russians call the “post-Soviet space,” can have a major impact on the wider world.
C. Saivetz

17.S953 History, Strategy and Statecraft: Historical Methods for International Relations

What is history?  This course will examine the different ways scholarly history is practiced, with a focus on the history of foreign policy and international relations. We will also explore the question: can a familiarity with historical analysis and methods improve our understanding of world politics, strategy, and statecraft? 
F. Gavin