Strategic Aspects of International Relations

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Jürgen Haacke CBG 9.01


This course is available on the BSc in International Relations, BSc in International Relations and Chinese, BSc in International Relations and History and BSc in Politics and International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This course examines key topics in relation to strategy and war. In order to contextualise these topics, the course first explores the meaning of strategy and the place of strategic studies in International Relations. The course will then discuss the contributions made by important strategic thinkers, focusing on Carl von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu (Sunzi), as well as on Alfred Thayer Mahan and Julian Stafford Corbett in relation to maritime strategy. The course will also investigate particular influences on the ways of conducting warfare, including strategic cultures. Other topics will focus on war and technology, nuclear strategy, asymmetric and irregular warfare, geopolitics and geostrategy, as well as ethics and war with reference, among others, to works on humane warfare. The Lent term lectures and classes focus on contemporary empirical cases relating to the study of strategic aspects of international relations: the failures of counterinsurgency strategies; Russia and hybrid war; geostrategy and the Arctic; US-China strategic competition; as well as debates about recent UK strategic defence and security reviews.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totaling 37.5 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online lectures and in-person classes/classes delivered online. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will be required to write two essays (c. 2000 words each) in the course of the year, one in MT and one in LT.

Indicative reading

  • Beatrice Heuser, The Evolution of Strategy: Thinking War from Antiquity to the Present (Cambridge University Press, 2010)
  • Clausewitz, Christopher Coker, Rebooting Clausewitz- On War in the 21st Century (Hurst, 2017)
  • Derek M.C. Yuen, Deciphering Sun Tzu: How to read The Art of War (Hurst, 2014)
  • Ian Speller: Understanding Naval Warfare, 2nd ed. (Routledge 2019)
  • Patrick Porter, Military Orientalism: Eastern War Through Western Eyes (Hurst, 2009)
  • P.W. Singer, Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century (Penguin, 2009)
  • Vipin Narang, Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era: Regional Powers and International Conflict (Princeton, 2014)
  • David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One (Hurst, 2009)
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives, (Basic Books,1997).
  • James E. Hickey , Precision-guided Munitions and Human Suffering in War (Ashgate, 2012).
  • Frank Lewidge, Losing Small Wars: British Military Failure in The 9/11 Wars, 2nd ed. (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2017)
  • Mitchell A. Orenstein, The Lands in Between: Russia vs. the west and the New Politics of Hybrid War (Oxford, 2019)
  • Klaus Dodds and Mark Nuttal, The Scramble for the Poles (Polity Press, 2016);
  • Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap? ((Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017)


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2019/20: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication