2012-13 Catalog

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Offering Description

Transforming the Art of War: From Industrial to Asymmetric Warfare, and Beyond


Fall 2012 and Winter 2013 quarters

Steven Niva political science, Middle East studies
Fields of Study
international studies and political science
Preparatory for studies or careers in
political science, security studies, international studies, government policy, and social change.

This program will examine the transformation of the practice of warfare in the late modern period, from the rise of modern industrial war to the proliferation of guerilla insurgencies, transnational terrorism and asymmetric wars that we are seeing today. The program will primarily focus on the emergence and transformation of modern war at the level of form—the changing nature, actors and strategies of war. We will explore the work of military theorists such as Clausewitz, Mao, Virilio and others who have theorized the changing nature of war. We will examine key historical turning points in the nature and strategies of war that include Napoleon’s wars in Europe, World War I and World War II, Maoist guerilla war, and the rise of unconventional and asymmetric wars today that many claim signal a new “generation” of warfare. In this context, we will focus on the rise of unconventional tactics such as suicide bombings and truck bombings among insurgent groups and also examine contending theories about how best to respond to these unconventional tactics. We will read and critically analyze the new Army/Marines Counterinsurgency Field Manual in the context of the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as current debates over the strategies and tactics of counter-terrorism following the 9/11 terror attacks. Finally, we will examine how the rise in new forms of warfare mirror broader changes in international society, with the rise of new social media, networked communications technologies and late capitalist globalization.

The primary learning goals of the program include: obtaining a thorough knowledge of the modern history of war; developing an understanding of contending theories and strategic approaches to war; understanding the diversity and strategies of guerilla and insurgent groups; and developing an ability to engage in critical thinking, analytical writing and informed opinions regarding these topics.

The program will be organized around a series of texts, exercises, films and assignments, including several class presentations, role-plays and several analytical papers. We will watch films and documentaries to supplement our learning, including The Battle of Algiers , Body of Lies , No Country for Old Men , and others. This program will demand a serious commitment by students to all of the work within the program and will focus on skill development in writing, analysis and public speaking.

Online Learning
No Required Online Learning
Greener Store
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
April 26th, 2012 New program added.