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COURSE NAME: "Special Topics in Political Science: Interventions"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Simone Tholens
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 3:00 PM -4:15 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: Junior Standing

An in-depth treatment of a current area of special concern in the field of Political Science. Topics may vary.
May be taken more than once for credit with different topics.

Course description:

This course introduces students to security interventions, which includes military interventions as well as other practices where external actors seek to shape a state’s internal security. It particularly emphasises the shift from liberal interventionism of the 1990s and early 2000s, to post-liberal interventions from mid-2000 onward, including ‘light footprint’ warfare, stabilization, complexity, resilience and ‘remote warfare’. It explores changing intervention practices, different types of intervention actors, and their effects on local conflicts, regional security and international orders. The course engages with International Relations theory, peace and conflict studies, political sociology and critical geopolitics, and furnishes an advanced understanding of global-local relations in international security.  


Summary of course content:

In this course we survey a wide range of intervention practices. Departing from a brief introduction to Cold War peacekeeping and proxy wars, and to Post-Cold War liberal interventionism, we explore contemporary debates and practices on remote warfare, complexity approaches, resilience and capacity building, proxy wars and stabilization operations. The course will then move on to examine particular actors and transversal issues, including the role of technology and data, responsibility and protection, and effects on stability and conflict resolution. The course will be global in scope, drawing on conflicts and interventions in a variety of cases. Students will become familiar with key policies, discourses, practices and effects that shape contemporary interventions, as well as a wide range of scholarly debates analysing them. Drawing on a diverse body of theory from International Relations, Political Sociology, Geography, Strategic Studies and Peace & Conflict studies, the course will provide students with skills to critically engage with key theme in international politics.


On successful completion of the course a student will be able to:


Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate theoretical understanding and practical applicability of key terminology, concepts, institutions and actors defining the field of interventions
  • Recognize and evaluate the drivers and effects of contemporary forms of interventions
  • Acquire knowledge of key cases of post-liberal interventions


Intellectual skills

  • Analyse interventions holistically
  • Critically reflect on international intervention practices


Transferable skills

  • Debating and discussing different perspectives and positions in an academic environment
  • Analytical reasoning in oral and written form
  • Critically using existing written texts and resources
  • Critically using electronically available resources
  • Discussing audio-visual documentary work 
  • Planning and practicing the presentation format


Discussion paperA 1500 words discussion paper on What are Interventions (due Week 4).25
ParticipationActive class participation and demonstrated competence in discussing assigned readings. Each class will feature a collective discussion of the assigned readings, and students will be assessed on their performance in these discussions, in addition to general participation in class. 15
PresentationA 10-minute presentation in Week 8 on a case of post-liberal interventions, highlighting what is instructive about the case for the perspective of ‘remote warfare’. 20
Final essayThe final essay covers the full range of materials, concepts, and ideas from the course. The final assessment consists of a 4500 word essay on a choice of three pre-defined essay questions An essay outline (1000 words) is due in Week 10, and the final essay is due in Week 15. 40

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.






Week 1

Class 1: Interventions in the 21st Century - Welcome & General Overview

Read and bring along the course syllabus.


Class 2: What are interventions?

Search online for some of the keywords in the course summary. Come to class with a few ideas of how we might answer this question.


Chandler, David. 2016. “New narratives of international security governance: the shift from global interventionism to global self-policing”. Global Crime, 17 (3-4): 264-280.

SIGAR. 2021. What We Need To Learn: Lessons From Twenty Years Of Afghanistan Reconstruction, available here: https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/lessonslearned/SIGAR-21-46-LL.pdf (Introduction, Chapter 1, 2 and 7)


Week 2

Class 3: Interventions during the Cold War: First generation UN Peacekeeping and Proxy Wars

Paul Williams with Bellamy, Alex J. 2010. Understanding Peacekeeping. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press. [Chapter 3]

Groh, T. L. (2019). The Evolution of Proxy War Since 1945. In Proxy War: The Least Bad Option (1st Ed., Pp. 41–82). Stanford University Press. [Chapter 3]


Class 4: Interventions after the Cold War: Humanitarian Intervention, Responsibility to Protect

Doyle, Michael & Sambanis, N, 2006. Making war and building peace: United Nations peace operations. Princeton University Press.[Chapter 1]

Williams with Bellamy, Alex J. 2010. Understanding Peacekeeping. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press. [Chapter 4]

Welsh, Jennifer M. 2013. Norm Contestation and the Responsibility to Protect, Global Responsibility to Protect, 5(4), 365-396.


Week 3

Class 5: From UN Peacekeeping to Peace enforcement

Berdal, Mats and David H Ucko. 2015. ‘The Use of Force in UN Peacekeeping Operations: Problems and Prospects’, in The RUSI Journal, Vol. 160, Issue 1, pp. 6-12.

Karlsrud, Jon. 2014. ‘The UN at war: examining the consequences of peace-enforcement mandates for the UN peacekeeping operations in the CAR, the DRC and Mali’, in Third World Quarterly, Vol, 46, Issue 1, pp. 40-54.


Class 6: Liberal interventionism and statebuilding

Oliver P. Richmond. 2006. The problem of peace: understanding the ‘liberal peace’, Conflict, Security & Development, 6:3, 291-314.

Barnett, M., & Zürcher, C. 2009. The peacebuilder’s contract: How external statebuilding reinforces weak statehood. In The dilemmas of statebuilding (pp. 37-66). Routledge.



Week 4

Class 7: Post-liberal interventions: conceptual approaches I

Chandler, David. 2012. “Resilience and Human Security: The Post-Interventionist Paradigm.” Security Dialogue 43 (3): 213229.

Demmers, Jolle, and Lauren Gould. 2018. “An assemblage approach to liquid warfare: AFRICOM and the ‘hunt’ for Joseph Kony”, Security Dialogue 49(5): 364-281.  


Class 8: Post-liberal interventions: conceptual approaches II

Doucet, Marc G. 2016. "Global assemblages of security governance and contemporary international intervention." Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 10 (1): 116-132.

Moe, Louise W., and Markus-Michael Mueller. 2017. Complexity, Resilience and the ‘Local Turn’ in Counterinsurgent Warfare. London: Palgrave. [Introduction]

Riemann, Malte and Norma Rossi. 2021.Remote warfare as “security of being”: reading security force assistance as an ontological security routine”, Defence Studies, 21:4, 489-507,


Week 5

Class 9: War on Terror and Counterinsurgency

Niva, Steve. 2013. “Disappearing Violence: JSOC and the Pentagon’s new Cartography of Networked Warfare.” Security Dialogue 44 (3): 185202.

Andersen, Lars Erslev. 2017. “The locals strike back: the Anbar awakening in Iraq and the rise of Islamic State”, in Louise Wiuff Moe and Markus-Michael Mueller (eds.) Reconfiguring Intervention. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2017. 187-205.


Class 10: From Counter-insurgency to complexity approaches

Bell, Colleen and Brad Evans. 2010. “Terrorism to Insurgency: Mapping the Post-Intervention Security Terrain”, Journal of Intervention & State Building, 5 (1): 371-390. 

Moe, Louise Wiuff. 2017. “Counterinsurgent warfare and the decentering of sovereignty in Somalia”, in Louise Wiuff Moe and Markus-Michael Mueller (eds.), Reconfiguring Intervention. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2017. 119-140.


Week 6

Class 11: Global Security Assemblages

Abrahamsen, Rita, and Michael C. Williams. 2009. “Security Beyond the State: Global Security Assemblages in International Politics.” International Political Sociology 3 (1): 117.

Sandor, Adam. 2016. “Border Security and Drug Trafficking in Senegal: AIRCOP and global security assemblages.” Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 10 (4): 490512.


Class 12: Everywhere wars/Shadow wars

Davidson, Christopher. 2016. Shadow wars: The secret struggle for the Middle East. Simon and Schuster. [Chapter 4]

Gregory, Derek. 2011. "The everywhere war." The Geographical Journal 177 (3): 238-250.


Week 7

Class 13: Remote Warfare, Vicarious Warfare, Surrogate Warfare

Knowles, Emily and Abigail Watson. 2018. Remote Warfare: Lessons Learned from Contemporary Theatres, Remote Warfare Program. London: Oxford Research Group.  

Krieg, Andreas, and Jean-Marc Rickli. 2018. “Surrogate warfare: the art of war in the 21st century?. Defence studies 18 (2): 113-130.

Waldman, Thomas. 2020. Vicarious Warfare: American Strategy and the Illusion of War on the Cheap. Bristol: Bristol University Press. [Introduction and Chapter 1]



Class 14: Security Assistance

Tholens, Simone. 2017. “Border Management in an Era of ‘Statebuilding Lite’: Security Assistance and Lebanon's Hybrid Sovereignty.” International Affairs 93 (4): 865882.

Wilén, Nina. 2021. "Analysing (In) formal Relations and Networks in Security Force Assistance: The Case of Niger." Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 15 (5): 580-597.


Week 8

Class 15: Resilience and Capacity building

Bueger, Christian, and Simone Tholens. 2021. Theorizing Capacity Building. In: Bueger, C., Edmunds, T., McCabe, R. (eds) Capacity Building for Maritime Security. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Chandler, David. 2012. “Resilience and human security: The post-interventionist paradigm. Security dialogue 43( 3): 213-229.


Class 16: Stabilization and Fourth Generation Peacekeeping

Cold-Ravnkilde, Signe Marie, and Katja Lindskov Jacobsen. 2020. "Disentangling the security traffic jam in the Sahel: constitutive effects of contemporary interventionism." International Affairs 96 (4): 855-874.

Karlsrud, John. 2019.From Liberal Peacebuilding to Stabilization and Counterterrorism”, International Peacekeeping, 26 (1): 1-21.


Week 9

Class 17: Student Presentations


Class 18: Student Presentations




Week 10

Class 19: The West

Biddle, Stephen, Julia Macdonald, and Ryan Baker. 2018. “Small footprint, small payoff: The military effectiveness of security force assistance”. Journal of Strategic Studies 41 (1-2): 89-142.

Rittinger, Eric, 2017. “Arming the Other: American Small Wars, Local Proxies, and the Social Construction of the Principal-Agent Problem”. International Studies Quarterly, 61 (2): 396-409.

Matisek, Jahara. 2018. “The crisis of American military assistance: strategic dithering and Fabergé Egg armies." Defense & Security Analysis 34 (3): 267-290.


Class 20: Global contenders - Russia and China

Natulya, Paul. 2021. China’s Blended Approach to Security in Africa. ISPI report, available here: https://www.ispionline.it/en/pubblicazione/chinas-blended-approach-security-africa-31216

Springborg, Robert, F. C. Williams, and John Zavage. 2020. “Security Assistance in the Middle East: A Three-Dimensional Chessboard”. Beirut: Carnegie.


Week 11

Class 21: Regional states

Krieg, Andreas and Jean-Marc Rickli. 2019. Surrogate Warfare: The Transformation of War in the Twenty-First Century, Washington: Georgetown University Press.  [Chapter 6 - UAE]

Ostovar, Afshon. 2019. The Grand Strategy of Militant Clients: Iran’s Way of War, Security Studies, 28 (1): 159-188.


Class 22: International Organisations and non-state actors

BBC. 2021. The lost tablet and the secret documents: Clues pointing to a shadowy Russian army. Full report available here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/extra/8iaz6xit26/the-lost-tablet-and-the-secret-documents

EEAS. 2022. A Strategic Compass for Security and Defence. Available here:


Raineri, Luca, and Francesco Strazzari. 2019. "(B) ordering hybrid security? EU stabilisation practices in the Sahara-Sahel region." Ethnopolitics 18 (5): 544-559.


Week 12

Class 23: Conflict Resolution

Hellmüller, Sara. 2021. “The challenge of forging consent to UN mediation in internationalized civil wars: The case of Syria.” International Negotiation 27 (1): 103-130.

Kane, Sean William. 2022. “Making Peace When the Whole World Has Come to Fight: The Mediation of Internationalized Civil Wars”, International Peacekeeping, 29 (2): 177-203,


Class 24: Stability

Rubrick Biegon & Tom F. A. Watts. 2022. Remote Warfare and the Retooling of American Primacy, Geopolitics, 27:3, 948-971,

Watling, Jack and Nick Reynolds. 2020. War by Others’ Means: Delivering Effective Partner Force Capacity Building (New York: Routledge). Chapters 1 and 2.


Week 13

Class 25: Technology and data

Thomas Gregory. 2015. “Drones, Targeted Killings, and the Limitations of International Law”, International Political Sociology, 9 (3): 197–212.

Hurd, Ian. 2017. "Targeted killing in international relations theory: Recursive politics of technology, law, and practice." Contemporary Security Policy 38 (2): 307-319.

DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency). 2018. Mosaic Warfare. Available at https://www.darpa.mil/work-with-us/darpa-tiles-together-a-vision-of-mosiac-warfare 


Class 26: Protection and Responsibility

Saferworld. 2018. Lawful But Awful? Legal and political challenges of remote warfare and working with partners. Available here: https://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/publications/1279-lawful-but-awful-legal-and-political-challenges-of-remote-warfare-and-working-with-partners

Cormac, R. and Aldrich, R.J. 2018. “Grey is the new black: covert action and implausible deniability”, International affairs, 94(3), pp.477-494.


Week 14

Class 27: Knowledge and expertise  

Gould, Lauren and Nora Stel. 2022. “Strategic ignorance and the legitimation of remote warfare: The Hawija bombardments”, Security Dialogue, 53(1):57-74.

Guevara, Berit Bliesemann de, and Roland Kostić. 2017. “Knowledge Production in/about Conflict and Intervention: Finding ‘Facts’, Telling ‘Truth.’” Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding 11 (1): 1–20.  

Moe, Louise Wiuff and Markus-Michael Mueller. 2018. “Counterinsurgency, knowledge production and the traveling of coercive Realpolitik between Colombia and Somalia”, Cooperation and Conflict, 53(2): 193-215.  

Washington Post. 2019. At War with the Truth, Dec 9, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/


Class 28: Summing up the course