POL 2224 -- War in Human History
“The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death; a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
“For what can be done against force without force?”
Cicero, The Letters to his Friends
War is relentlessly brutal, and yet this tragedy belies the vast complexity that sits beneath any outbreak of organized violence. Indeed, war has been examined since the dawn of civilization, yet many of its riddles remain unanswered. The tragic consequence of this ignorance is that the horrors of war have yet to be banished from the political realm, and thus the challenge of securing peace for all looms large even still. With this in mind, POLS 2224 attempts to illuminate the path towards possible solutions by conducting an examination of the material forces underpinning the evolution of violent conflict throughout human history.
As the millennia have progressed, the particularities of war have taken far different shape. From Assyrian chariots and the Roman legion, to aircraft carriers, Navy SEALs, and the atomic revolution, the implements of war have changed radically over time, even while human biology—if not human nature—has remained unchanged and enduring. The question for this course is straightforward: what has such technological and institutional change meant for both the conduct and resolution of violence throughout humanity’s long history? Moreover, what can be said about these dynamics as they relate to humanity’s evolution from an exceedingly violent past, where war, or the expectation of war, was the norm, to today’s (relatively) pacific state of international affairs? In short, has war become so dangerous that it has become obsolete, or has the recourse to violence remained a plausible option? C’est plus ça change…or does peace finally now sit on the horizon?