Strategic Aspects of International Relations

This information is for the 2022/23 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 not available as an outside option. This course is available with permission to General Course students.

This course has a limited number of places (it is capped).

Course content

This course examines key topics in relation to contemporary strategy. The course begins by exploring its relationship to the field of strategic and security studies. This includes an introduction to the literature on strategic theory, and the meanings of a range of strategy-related concepts. The course will then explore the insights and contributions of some important strategic thinkers, such as Carl von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu. With regard to military strategy, the course offers a particular focus on maritime strategy and the uses of air power. In addition, the course covers strategy in relation to several further topics including: nuclear power and deterrence; irregular war, especially insurgency and counterinsurgency; technological change; as well as ethical constraints. Multiple contemporary empirical cases relating to the study of strategic aspects of international relations will be discussed, such as the failures of counterinsurgency strategies; Russian strategy and ‘hybrid war’; geostrategies towards the North Atlantic and the Arctic region; US-China strategic competition; contemporary hedging strategies by smaller powers; as well as debates about recent UK strategic defence and security reviews.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term.

Students on this course will have 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).

Robert A. Pape, Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War (Cornell University Press, 1996).

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).

Ben Barry, Blood, Metal and Dust: How Victory turned into defeat in Afghanistan and Iraq (Osprey, 2020).

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives, (Basic Books,1997).

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).


Online assessment (100%) in the ST.

The online assessment is a 3-hour online exam in the summer exam period.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2021/22: 29

Average class size 2021/22: 15

Capped 2021/22: Yes (30)

Lecture capture used 2021/22: Yes (MT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication