93339 - Peace And War In American Politics

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Gender equality Peace, justice and strong institutions

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course aims to provide advanced, interdisciplinary knowledge of the U.S. political, constitutional, and intellectual debate on the problems of peace and war. Emphasis will be also put on the decisional processes concerning the decision to declare war or the use of military force to solve some specific International crisis. The course will, therefore, focus on the analysis of some relevant case studies. At the end of the course, the student knows the main aspects of the American political, constitutional, and intellectual debate on the war and peace dilemma. He/she will be able to identify the main social and political actors involved in decisional political processes and to contextualize those decisions in the American political and intellectual foreign policy traditions.

Course contents

The course focuses on the political processes which legitimize American government decisions to declare war or to pursue peace. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, the course will concentrate 1) on the constitutional relationship between Presidency and Congress in terms of war powers and the deployment of US armed forces abroad; 2) on the creation and development of the National Security State and the relationship between civil and military powers; 3) on the political and intellectual debate concerning the war and peace dilemma. Emphasis will also be put not only on political and state actors but also on social movements, civic associations, think tanks considered as crucial protagonists of the mobilization of civil society and interlocutors of political government.

Please, check Virtuale to download the file concerning the description of the course and the seminar for attending students.

The course is organized in lectures and seminars, as detailed in the following program. Lectures (16 hours) aim to introduce students to the core tenets of the discipline. Seminars (12 hours) aim to provide occasions for in-depth discussions of class materials and exercises. For the seminar section of the course, students will be divided in two groups according to their preferences and according to rules concerning the current pandemic emergency. Students are required to carefully read the assigned material before the session and – in the case of seminars – active participation through presentations of existing scholarship and case studies will also be expected.


Non-attending students are required to read three books as follows:

One book to be chosen in the following list

Warren I. Cohen, Nation like all others : a brief history of American foreign relations, New York, Columbia University Press, 2018.

John W. Dower, The Violent American Century. War and Terror since World War II, Chicago, Haymarket Books, 2017

Frank Ninkovich, Global Republic: America’s Inadvertent Rise to World Power, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2014

Two books to be chosen in the following list

Clair Apodaca, Understanding U.S. Human Rights Policy. A Paradoxical Legacy, New York-London, Routledge, 2006

Carl Boggs, Origins of the Warfare State : World War II and the Transformation of American Politics, New York, Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2017.

Sarah Burns, Politics of war powers : the theory & history of Presidential unilateralism, Lawrence, University Press of Kansas, 2019

Don H. Doyle,The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War, New York, Basic Books, 2013

Dario Fazzi, Eleanor Roosevelt and the anti-nuclear movement : the voice of conscience, New York, Macmillan, 2017.

John Gans, White House Warriors: How the National Security Council Transformed the American Way of War, New York : Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2019

Michael A. Genovese, War power in an age of terrorism : debating presidential power, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

David Kieran, ed., The War of My Generation: Youth Culture and the War on Terror, Rutgers University Press, 2015

Randall B. Woods, ed., Vietnam and the American Political Tradition: The Politics of Dissent, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003

Marilyn Young with Lloyd Gardner, Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam, New York, The New Press, 2007.

Teaching methods

Lectures and seminars. Students are expected to actively partecipate in class

Assessment methods

Students who attend the course will be asked to write a 8.000-word paper on one of the topics discussed in class. More details will be provided in class. The final assessment will also consider active participation and involvement in class activities.

For non-attending students: oral exam on the readings as required in the section Readings/Bibliography.

Students are expected to have an analytical knowledge of the books chosen, to understand and elaborate causal, theoretical and logical connections, and finally to contextualize them from an historical point of view.

Teaching tools

power point presentations

Office hours

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