PS 543/CR507 Seminar: Resolving International Conflict

Prof Mel Gurtov
Office: 650D Urban Affairs Building
Telephone: (503) 725-5974


Office Hours: Tues., 2-4; Wed., 9-11; and by appointment

"For transgressions against God, the Day of Atonement atones; but for transgressions by one human being against another, the Day of Atonement does not atone until they make peace with one another." Torah


The seminar explores different kinds of international disputes and actual conflicts in order to identify and assess theories, analytical frameworks, and methods of conflict prevention, management, and resolution.  A wide variety of case studies and literature is used.  Our emphasis is on understanding why conflicts arise, under what circumstances they lead to violence, and (most importantly) what techniques, skills, and ethical concerns come into play in peacemaking and peace building.


The seminar requires a high degree of participation, which means: (1) attending every session; (2) helping facilitate one session; (3) doing the readings and being prepared to discuss them; (4) presenting research results (week 10); (5) submitting a major research paper (15-20 pages), due at the last class, on some aspect of international conflict resolution; and (6) taking the final examinationThere are no Incomplete grades.

Texts to purchase:

C. Crocker et al., eds., Herding Cats;
R. Fisher, Beyond Machiavelli;
I. W. Zartman, Cowardly Lions;
Cousens and Kumar, eds., Peacebuilding as Politics;
J. Lederach, Building Peace.

Discussion Schedule (starred [*] items on reserve in the PS library, 650P):

  1. Thinking about International Conflict Resolution
  Readings Lederach,introduction and chs. 1-2
Crocker, ch. 1  

Sources of Conflict and Escalation

  Readings Zartman, ch. 1
*R. Cohen,"Negotiating Across Cultures"
*I. Janis, "Groupthink"
*G. Paige, "On Values and Science"
*T. Homer-Dixon, "On the Threshold"
*T. R. Gurr, Minorities At Risk (chapter)

Structural and Social-Psychological Frameworks

  Readings: R. Fisher, entire book
Crocker, #2-3 and #11
Lederach, Chs. 3-4
*H. Kelman, "The interactive Problem-Solving Approach"

Warning and Prevention

  Readings: Zartman, chs. 2-5, 8
Crocker, #4-6 and 8
*Carnegie Commission, Preventing Deadly Conflict (chapter 3)
  5. Humanitarian Action and the Role of NGOs
  Readings: Read UN Charter, esp. Chapters VI-VII
Crocker, #7 (Burundi)
*T. Weiss, "Principles, Politics, and Humanitarian Action"
*Fiona Terry, Condemned to Repeat? (chapters)
*The Responsibility To Protect (Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty)
*L. Minear, "A Moment of Truth for the Humanitarian Enterprise"

The Civil-Society Factor in Peacemaking

  Readings: Crocker, #17-18 (Northern Ireland)
*A. Varshney, Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life (chapters)
*Edwards and Gaventa, eds., Global Citizen Action (chapters)
*R. Daubon and H. Sauders, "Operationalizing Social Capital," ISQ (2002)
*M. Cholchester, "Sustaining the Forests"

Agreeing and Settling: Hopes and Failures

  Readings: Crocker, #20, 22-24
Lederach, chs. 5-10
*J. Tepperman, "Truth and Consequences," Foreign Affairs (Mar. - Apr. 2002)
*Savir, The Process (chapters)
[Also valuable: *The 2003 Geneva Accord (or Initiative) on Israel-Palestine]
  8. Distorted Nationalism: Two Cases
  Readings: (1) China-Japan Rivalry: see and other Internet readings to be assigned. China Assails Japan's Books on 30's Invasion; China's Economic Brawn Unsettles Japanese; China Pushing and Scripting Japan Protests; Sino-Japanese Rapprochement as a "Diplomatic Revolution"
(2) Yugoslavia:
Zartman, ch. 6
Cousens and Kumar, ch. 5.
  9. Finding a Path to a Durable Peace
  Readings: Cousens and Kumar, entire book (except chaps. on Haiti & Yugoslavia)
Lederach, pp. 149-end of book
Zartman, ch. 7 (Haiti)
Crocker, chs. 15 and 19 (Haiti)
  10. Presentations of Research Results

Instructions for Papers

1. Choice of topic: Make sure we have discussed and reached agreement on a topic.  Remember that your paper should clearly focus on the theory and application of some aspect of international conflict resolution.  Avoid excessive background information in the paper, and instead devote most of your time to analysis of the problem

Possible topics include: interstate disputes; NGO-state disputes; multiparty disputes (e.g., over territory); government-political movement disputes; peacekeeping in theory and practice (incl. third-party interventions); role of international law; disputes involving multinational corporations, labor, and environment; comparative approaches to conflict resolution; comparisons of conflict resolution efforts in two or more disputes.

2.  Make explicit use of the ideas and frameworks in our class readings.  Your paper should have a theoretical foundation (hypotheses) that can be tested in practice (e.g., a case study).

3. The Paper: 15-20 double-spaced pages (minimum-maximum), using at least 12 sources other than the course texts (which you certainly may cite).  Sources may be a mixture of books, scholarly articles, newspapers, and documents.  Use the Internet for opinion articles by scholars and practitioners and for especially for official documents (such as UN decisions and official government materials). 

4. Citations: Use any consistent form for citing sources: footnotes, endnotes, in-text notes.  A bibliography is not needed except for in-text notes; include relevant information (author, article and journal or book title, and page numbers) in your notes.  Refer to class readings if in doubt about proper form.  Avoid lengthy direct quotations or excessive reliance on any one source.

5.  Check spelling, punctuation, and grammar.  A sloppily written paper will count heavily against you. Paginate your paper; use 12-point font; give it a title.