rwaSyllabusFall 2013

University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW)


PLS 218: Ethics in International Affairs


 Photo: Drone strike from


Day and Time: Tuesday/Thursday, 12:30-1:45pm

Location: Leutze Hall 110



Professor Paige Johnson Tan, Ph.D.

Phone:  (o) 910-962-3221



Office Hours:  Tuesday/Thursday, 9:00am-10:00am

Office Location: Leutze Hall 257



Politics will, in the end of history, be an arena where conscience and power meet, where the ethical and coercive factors of human life will interpenetrate and work out their tentative and uneasy compromises. 


                                                                                                                                                      –Reinhold Niebuhr



Catalogue Description: PLS 218 - Ethics in International Affairs

Credits: 3

Role of morality in international affairs to explore how states and citizens act responsibly in international public life. Drawing on the traditions of realism, liberalism, and utilitarianism along with the just war tradition, the course examines the ethical implications of issues such as war, terrorism, globalization, and genocide.





Proponents of realism, or realpolitik, in international affairs often make the claim that there is no room for morality in state decision making.  States do what they must because they are locked in a battle for survival against other states.  In this way of thinking, ethics are a luxury for which leaders and states have no time.  Further, thinking about doing “what is right” could be dangerous, distracting leaders from doing what is necessary. 


On the other side, some liberal thinkers argue that all our acts have moral implications, nowhere more stark than in the international realms of war and peace, humanitarian intervention, human rights, globalization, and development.  As humans, we cannot separate ourselves from the ethical repercussions of our actions.


This course will examine several international relations traditions and find that thinking about what one should do is an important part of our ability to analyze the way in which states and other actors interact.  Understanding ethics also informs our ability to decide what our own nation should do; it is vital to our responsibilities as citizens. 


Ethical choices involve a reasoning process. This course will guide students in developing their ethical reasoning skills without pushing them in the direction of particular ethical choices.  Most of the course will be conducted through in-class discussion; this is a class about thinking, reasoning, arguing, and doing—not about lectures.  We should expect disagreements, some profound, in every single class session.  However, these should be handled maturely and in an atmosphere of respect for the views of others.

My Lai Massacre 1968, Vietnam War (Wikipedia)


Student Learning Outcomes (University Studies: Living in a Global Society)


1)      Students will critically analyze the ethics of global issues.

2)      Students will examine ethical issues from a variety of perspectives in order to develop policy prescriptions for real-world decision-makers.

3)      Students will appreciate cultural differences and their ethical implications.


Course Requirements


Students will be evaluated on the basis of class participation, a map quiz, a series of papers, and a final examination.  The purpose of these assignments is to improve students’ skills in knowledge of politics, critical reasoning, public speaking, writing, and geographical awareness.  The distribution of the final course grade from the various assignments is:


Class participation: 15%

Op-ed piece: 10%

Map quiz: 5%

Term Paper: 20%

Tests: 2@ 15% =30%

Final Exam: 20%


Class participation.  In the old days, students were seen to be an empty vessel into which the professor poured his or her knowledge (more than likely, it was “his”—since it was the old days!).  However, this old-model of education has come under severe challenge in recent years.  Rote memorization is now seen to offer little to students.  How often have you “crammed” for a test and then forgotten everything you learned within a few weeks?


The philosophy behind this course is that students learn better when that learning is active.  Students are expected to attend class (with a maximum of two absences for the semester).  They are also expected to participate in class discussions, considering, manipulating, testing, and questioning the topics presented in class in order to develop their knowledge of the field of Ethics and International Affairs and their familiarity with the tools and concepts of Political Science more broadly.  Readings should be done in advance of class to enable thoughtful and informed participation.  Active participation by all students has the advantage of helping to foster tolerance for divergent viewpoints and developing students’ abilities to formulate arguments in a well-reasoned manner. 


As part of their class participation, students must follow the news for various contemporary international ethical issues. We will hope to incorporate these contemporary issues into our class discussions.  Class participation counts for 15% of the final course grade.


Op-ed piece.  In order to develop their skills in constructing concise arguments about international topics, students are asked to write an imaginary “op-ed piece” for a major media outlet on a topic of contemporary ETHICAL and INTERNATIONAL significance.  Op-eds should be 800-1,000 words (three-to-four double-spaced pages).  The op-ed assignment is worth 10% of the final course grade.  Please refer to the Writing Well Handout as you produce all written work for this course. The handout can be found at:


Map quiz.  Americans in the 18-to-24 age group came next to last in a nine-nation survey of geographic literacy conducted by the National Geographic Society in 2002.  In the 2006 survey, six in ten could not find Iraq on a map (a sad state of affairs given the US service members dying there at the time). This course aims to tackle this problem by encouraging students’ awareness of and familiarity with major world countries, territories, and regions.  The map quiz is worth 5% of the final grade.


Term Paper.  Students are expected to produce a 2,500-word paper (@10 double-spaced pages) on one of the following topics (see below).  Performance on intermediate due dates of topic selection and outlines will impact the final paper grade. The term paper is worth 20% of the final course grade.  Please refer to the Writing Well Handout as you produce all written work for this course. The writing handout can be found at:

Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945 (Smithsonian Institution)


Topics include (but are not limited to):


1)  Evaluate the morality of an existing international institution. This might include the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank or International Monetary Fund, or another organization of the student’s choosing.


2)  Develop a set of criteria, like jus ad bellum and jus in bello, for jus post bellum. What are the moral requirements of the post-war?   Should a nation that goes to war have moral requirements to meet in the post-war setting?  (Please note that this topic requires research into what serious scholars are doing on this issue.  Use scholarly journal articles and inter-library loan (ILL) books and build your ideas from these bases. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.)


3) Do/should ethical norms be shelved in cases of supreme national emergency?  You may consider targeted killing and coercive interrogation in your answer.


4) Watch the movie The Trials of Henry Kissinger at the library.  Balancing the information presented in the video with other historical analyses of Kissinger’s stewardship of American foreign policy as well as primary documents from the period, evaluate whether Kissinger should be held to moral (and legal?) account for the activities of his time in office. 


5) Evaluate the morality of the Reagan-era policy of US aid to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan.  Students might consider the intervention in Afghanistan’s affairs, the role of the struggle in the Cold War, the tactics used by the mujahedeen, and the perceived blowback from the policy (Would there have been an Osama bin Laden without US policy in Afghanistan in the 1980s?).


6) Was the US war in Vietnam a just war?  Consider both jus ad bellum and jus in bello.  A note for those who choose this option: You must go beyond a popular culture understanding of the war to do well answering this question.  You must go out and learn new things about how the war was justified and how it was fought.  Ignore this advice at your peril.


7) Throughout the Cold War, nuclear deterrence, particularly Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), played a role in the maintenance of peace between the superpowers.  Is nuclear deterrence a moral strategy?  Please note that this topic requires research into existing lines of argument on this topic.


8) Was the use of the atomic bomb by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the close of World War II an ethical choice?


9) Should Iran have the right to develop nuclear capabilities?


10) Do we have an ethical responsibility to work to prevent global warming?


11)  In addition to the topics above, students are free to develop their own question for the paper (however, they should consult with the instructor on an on-going basis to ensure that they are moving in a productive and workable direction).


Tests/Final Exam. There will be two tests in addition to the final examination.  Tests are each worth 15% of the final grade. The final exam is worth 20%. 






Getting Help


Students are encouraged to talk to me if they feel they need assistance with the course material. I can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 910-962-3221. I am in my office most days at least 8:15-3 (with the exception of the times I am teaching). Dedicated office hours are Tuesday and Thursday 9:00-10:00am. 


Students may also find help through the University Learning Center (ULC).  The ULC’s mission is to help students become successful, independent learners.  Tutoring at the ULC is NOT remediation: the ULC offers a different type of learning opportunity for those students who want to increase the quality of their education.  ULC services are free to all UNCW students and include the following:


¦  Learning Services (University Studies)

¦  Math Services

¦  Study Sessions 

¦  Supplemental Instruction

¦  Writing Services


Find the ULC in DePaolo Hall 1056 & 1003. Call 910.962.7857


Course Policies


Academic Honesty


This instructor believes academic honesty is the foundation of the entire enterprise of a university. Only in an environment of honesty can genuine learning occur and good citizenship be fostered. For further information, students should consult the online UNCW Code of Student Life at (The Honor Code begins on page 5 in the 2012 version). Students should also feel free to ask the instructor any questions they may have about academic honesty. Because academic honesty is treated as a serious matter, the course policy is one of zero tolerance for academic DIShonesty.


The core principle of the Academic Honor Code is that student work represents the original work of the student. For this reason, plagiarism, using the work of another without proper citation, and cheating, the unauthorized use of information during an examination, are prohibited.


The Academic Honor Code works for both students and teachers. Students can expect that the instructor will treat them in a fair, honest, and impartial manner. The instructor also expects students to deal with her and with one another honestly. Plagiarism and cheating are violations of academic honesty because they steal from the original creator of the work. In addition, they violate the relationship of honesty between student and teacher as the student attempts to pass off work as his or her own which was produced by another. Further, plagiarism and cheating violate the bond of honesty among students themselves. Students who produce their assignments through long, hard work are being violated by those taking a shortcut through the misappropriation of another’s work or knowledge. Most sadly, students who violate academic honesty cheat themselves of the chance to learn.


Please note two particular policies the instructor follows:


1) Work for this course must be yours, and it must be original. If you wish to work on a project you have previously worked on for another class, you must add at least as much content as the assignment requires that is new and original for this class.


2) You may receive help on your written assignments (not tests) from your roommate, significant other, parents, the University Learning Center, or a passerby on the street. The process of reading and revising your work based on the comments of others is an important part of how we learn and improve.


Contacting the Instructor


Students are encouraged to call or e-mail with questions, or stop by office hours (listed above). I endeavor to be available to assist you with your course work. It’s my job. As a hint, e-mails are likely to guarantee a quicker response than phone messages. I am most happy to set up an appointment for a meeting in addition to those times listed as office hoursA note on courtesy: When students receive assistance through any one of these extra-class channels, they should be sure to thank the instructor for her time, thought, and effort. This little trick will serve you well in the future. It is an expected part of social etiquette.


Late Papers




Students are encouraged to plan in advance to make time to complete assignments. Things come up during the semester; relatives require our attention, cars break down, and students get sick. Students should begin their assignments early enough to allow for these foreseeable and unforeseeable eventualities. The instructor does not wish to receive any late assignments during the semester.


Papers are due at the start of class on the date listed on the syllabus. Each twenty-four hours that a paper is late may result in a penalty of one letter grade. Late papers must be submitted by e-mail and must receive confirmation of receipt from the instructor to be considered "turned in." For your protection, submit your paper from an e-mail account which will keep a record of your outgoing e-mail. With this, you could demonstrate a true attempt to submit the paper that somehow disappears. Do not submit papers to the instructor’s faculty snail mailbox, the department secretary, or under the instructor’s office door. After submitting papers electronically, students should bring a print-out of the late assignment to the next class meeting. Late assignments will not be graded on the same schedule as assignments submitted on time. Under no circumstances should students miss class to complete an assignment.


Extra Credit


Students are invited to attend lectures, panels, and movies on campus that deal with international/Asian affairs. Just check with the instructor beforehand as to whether you've picked a good event. After the event, submit a one- to two-page single-space write-up that deals with your reactions to the presentation. How does it relate to what we are doing in class? How does it relate to other things you've studied? Did you agree or disagree with the speaker/s argument? What did the presentation make you think about? This extra credit will be used toward class participation or in the calculation of final grades in borderline cases.




Students are strongly encouraged to show respect for fellow students and the instructor by arriving for class on time. Late arrivals disturb fellow students and disrupt the learning process. It is better to come in late than not to come at all, but try to be respectful of classmates by making arrangements to be in class and in your seat at the start of class.


Excused Absences


For your two absences allowed during the semester, it doesn’t matter whether these are excused (doctor’s visit) or unexcused (I was sleepy).  Whether the absence is excused only comes into play when a student misses a class assignment (test, quiz, due date).  An excused absence is one that is discussed with the professor IN ADVANCE and for which documentation can be provided.  Only for excused absences will the professor allow work to be made up.  All make-up work will be done at the instructor’s convenience.




The instructor understands that some students may have need of accommodation (for example, extended testing time or a quiet testing locale) due to a disability. If you feel that you are in need of an accommodation, please contact Disability Services in Westside Hall to make the appropriate arrangements. The phone number is 910-962-7555.


Electronic Devices


Students are permitted to use laptop computers during class to access PowerPoints, online notes, or to type their own course notes. Laptops are not to be used for surfing the internet or checking e-mail. Students with computers are encouraged to sit in the back of the classroom to avoid disturbing fellow students. During periods of class discussion, computers should be closed to ensure adequate attention and participation. Obviously, when tests and quizzes are being administered, laptops are not permitted. Use of cellphones, including texting, is never permitted. PLEASE NOTE: If students are found to be using electronic devices in a manner inconsistent with the professor’s assessment of the best environment for group learning, they may be penalized with a one-letter grade reduction in their class participation grade per incident. In extreme cases of violation of the policy, students can anticipate their final course grade to be reduced one letter grade per incident.

Market, Jaipur, India (2004)


Required Reading


Mark R. AmstutzInternational Ethics: Concepts, Theories, and Cases in Global Politics.  Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013. (This is our textbook for the course.)


Bronwen Manby.  “Shell in Nigeria: Corporate Social Responsibility and the Ogoni Crisis.” Washington, Carnegie Council, 2000 (purchase from, Case number 520).


Dinshaw Mistry, “India's Nuclear Tests: The Consequences for International Security,” Washington, Carnegie Council, 2000 (purchase from, Case number 519).


Additional readings are occasionally assigned in the course schedule.  These are generally available free on the internet or in the reserve reading section of our course Blackboard Learn site.


World Wide Web Resources

Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs

Clausewitz, On War, /

Council on Foreign Relations

Crimes of War

Foreign Ministries on the Internet

Foreign Policy in Focus

Global Issues

Global Policy Forum

Group of 77

International Affairs Resources: WWWVL

International Monetary Fund

National Security Archive

Prevent Genocide

Rules of Warfare

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Terrorism from the Council on Foreign Relations

Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, and Homeland Security

United Nations

US Department of Defense, News on the War on Terror

US Department of State

US House, Committee on International Relations

US Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations

Watching America

White House

Whirled Bank

World Bank


Periodicals, Scholarly Journals, and US Government Publications


As wonderful as the web is for finding information, periodicals and scholarly journals still form the backbone of our academic work.  Some periodicals and journals helpful for the study of international affairs are listed below:

American Political Science Review

Asian Survey

Ethics in International Affairs

European Journal of International Relations

Foreign Affairs

Foreign Policy

Human Rights Quarterly

International Organization

International Security

International Studies Quarterly

International Studies Review

Journal of Conflict Resolution

PS Political Science

Pacific Review

Policy Review


Washington Quarterly

World Politics


Anti-poverty crusader Bono and former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil (undated Wikipedia photo)






01 Aug 22  Introduction

Reading:  Amstutz, 9-22. 

In-class reading: Thucydides, “The Melian Dialogue,” The Peloponnesian War (in Blackboard as Melian.pdf).

Topic: Introduction to the course. 

Case: Athenian-Melian Encounter, Peloponnesian War (5th c. BC).


Theoretical Underpinnings and How-To


02 Aug 27  Realist Ethics: An Oxymoron?

Reading:  Amstutz, 45-54 (on realism).

Activity: Student poll on attitudes toward ethics and international affairs. 

Recommended: George F. Kennan, “Morality and Foreign Policy,” Foreign Affairs, Winter 1985/86 (Available in Blackboard as Kennan Morality.pdf. 

Case: Grenada.


03 Aug 29 Idealism (Liberalism/Cosmopolitanism) and Principled Realism

Reading:  Amstutz, 54-65. 

Case: President Carter’s Human Rights Policy (1977-1981), Bush Doctrine (2001-2009).

Looking ahead: Pass out map quiz preparation materials.


04 Sep 3 Sources of Ethical Traditions and Ethical Reasoning

Reading: Amstutz, 67-70, 74-80. 

Recommended Video: “Are We Good Because of God?” Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs, April 1, 2013.

Case:  Famine in Soviet Russia.


05 Sep 5  Ethics in Other Traditions (Islamic/Confucian)

Reading: Amstutz, 96-99.  Osama Bin Laden, "Letter to America," (Bin Laden Letter to America.pdf).

Consider “Asian values” and Islam as alternative sources of ethics.

Case: Caning of Michael Fay, Singapore (1994), September 11th attacks on America (2001).


06 Sep 10  Justice: Distributive, Restorative, and Retributive

Reading: Amstutz, Ch. 6.

Cases: Indonesia, Rwanda’s genocide offenders, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Comment/Question cards.  How is class going so far?

Please note the need to get the case for next time.  See


07 Sep 12  Nuclear Proliferation

Reading:  Dinshaw Mistry, “India's Nuclear Tests: The Consequences for International Security,” Washington, Carnegie Council, 2000 (purchase from, Case number 519).

Case: India Gets the Bomb.

Map quiz.


08 Sep 17 Just War Tradition: Jus ad Bellum

Reading:  Amstutz, Ch. 7. 

Cases: Persian Gulf War (1991), Iraq War (2003).

Looking ahead: Discuss op-ed assignment and term paper.


09 Sep 19 Just War Tradition: Jus in Bello

Reading: None for today.

Cases: Battle against Al Qaeda (2001-present).

Looking ahead: Test 1 next week.


10 Sep 24  Just War: Kosovo Case Study

Reading: Amstutz, 22-28. 

Case: Evaluate the justness ad bellum and in bello of the Kosovo war (1999).

Looking ahead: What makes a good response to an essay question?

Please remember to bring some notebook paper next time for your answer to the essay question on the test Thursday.


11 Sep 26  Test 1

Remember: You need your own paper to answer the essay question!

Goddess of Democracy ,Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China (1989)


12 Oct 1 Video: Battle of Algiers, Part I

Reading: None assigned for today.

Case: The Front Liberation Nationale (FLN) Battle for Independence in Algeria and the French Response (1954-1962).


13 Oct 3  Video: Battle of Algiers, Part II

Reading: None assigned for today.

Case: The FLN Battle for Independence in Algeria and the French Response (1954-1962).

Looking ahead: Writing well handout.


Oct 8 Poli Sci Days


Oct 10 Class Cancelled for Fall Break


14 Oct 15  Terrorism

Reading:  Amstutz, 157-170.

On your own, if you haven’t already, watch Zero Dark Thirty.

Case: Israelis v. Palestinians, Ethics of Coercive Interrogation (torture).


15 Oct 17  Terrorism, continued

Reading: Amstutz, 170-175.  Ed Pilkington, “’Killer Robots’ Pose Threat to Peace and Should Be Banned, UN Warned,” The Guardian, May 29, 2013 (Pilkington Killer Robots.pdf).

Video: Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs Ethics Corner, “What’s Going on in Guantanamo Bay?” April 22, 2013.

Case: Targeted killing with drones (Anwar al-Awlaki), killer robots, Guantanamo.  

Looking ahead: Op-ed due 10/31. 


16 Oct 22  Humanitarian Intervention

Reading:  Amstutz, Ch. 9.

Cases: Somalia, Libya.

Due: Term paper topic. 


17 Oct 24 Mass Murder and Genocide: Cambodia and Rwanda

Reading: Amstutz, 107-111.

Video: Pol Pot: Inside Evil (50 minutes)

Case: Cambodia 1975-79, Rwanda 1994


Horrific images from Abu Ghraib, Iraq, 2004


18 Oct 29  The Environment: Indigenous People, and Development

Reading: None for today.

Video: Blowpipes and Bulldozers (60 minutes)

Case: Malaysia’s Penan, the Environment, and Development in Borneo (1980s).


19 Oct 31  Guest Lecturer on War Crimes Tribunals, with a focus on Cambodia


You may omit: The Environment: Climate Change

Reading: Amstutz, 243-255.

Video: McKibben on Climate Change at the Carnegie Council, Ethics Matters TV.


Still due: Op-ed. 

Looking ahead: Test 2 next week.


20 Nov 5   Globalization

Reading: Amstutz, 201-212. 

Case: Euro Crisis, Free Trade.

Due: Term paper outline due today.


21 Nov 7   TEST 2

Remember to bring notebook paper to write your essay.

Falling Berlin Wall, Germany (1989)


22 Nov 12  Ethical Dilemmas in International Humanitarian Work

Reading: None for today. 

Case: Oxfam and the Famine in Ethiopia (1980s)


23 Nov 14  Poverty Relief and Foreign Aid: The Magic 0.7%

Reading: Amstutz, 36-44, 225-233. 

Recommended: Commitment to Development Index:

Video: UK PM Gordon Brown at TED, July 2009, (17 minutes)

Case: Foreign Aid, PEPFAR, Food for Peace.

Looking ahead: Term paper due soon.


24 Nov 19  The Moral Duties of Multinationals

Reading: Bronwen Manby.  “Shell in Nigeria: Corporate Social Responsibility and the Ogoni Crisis.” Washington, Carnegie Council, 2000 (purchase from, Case number 520). S. Prakash Sethi, “The World of Walmart,” Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs, May 8, 2013 (Sethi Walmart.pdf).

Recommended:  See Starbucks' corporate social responsibility site at

Note: If you're interested in these issues, maybe a career in Corporate Social Responsibility is for you.  Check out CSRNewswire

Case: Shell in Nigeria (1995), Walmart/clothing in Bangladesh (2013).


25 Nov 21  The Ethics of Sanctions

Reading: Amstutz, Ch. 212-223.

Discuss: Careers in Ethics in International Affairs.  Career Center’s Skillseeker handout: (

Case: Apartheid-era South Africa.

Due: Term paper. 


26 Nov 26  Ethics on Film: Argo

Reading: None for today.


27 Dec 3  Ethics on Film: Argo

Reading: None for today.


28 Dec 12 11:30am-12:45pm FINAL EXAM

UN Peacekeeper (undated Wikipedia photo)





You have finished the course (hopefully!).

Congratulations and enjoy a great break!