At the end of the Cold War, there was widespread belief among democratic elites that the end of history finally had arrived. They predicted that the United States (indeed the West, if not the world) would benefit from the peace dividend resulting from the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the undisputed role of the United States as the world’s predominant power. But the spread of democracy across Eastern Europe and Latin America as the Cold War ended has been met with highly unanticipated reversals. Relations among nation-states are in flux. In the twenty-first century, the United States has been engaged in continuous Middle East and South Asian wars, intense territorial disputes among the great powers (US, China, and Russia) are redefining the international landscape, civil wars routinely spill over into larger regional conflicts, and cyber warfare and terrorism intersect in deadly ways.
For the generation of students we are now teaching, war has been a constant in their lifetime. Accordingly, the primary focus of the International Relations and Politics Accelerated Master’s Program (IRP/AMP) is international security.
Perhaps at no time since the interwar period of the twentieth century has there been so much uncertainty about what path the international system will take and how states will internally organize themselves. During this current period of uncertainty, transformation, and chaos, there is no denying President Barack Obama’s dictum: The United States is the world’s indispensable nation. In other words, the United States is the main nation-state actor that helps to organize and enforce norms in the anarchic international system. It is a system marked by the absence of any authority above states or any commonly agreed-upon authority for the use of force – the opposite of domestic society. Perforce, understanding domestic political institutions must be a component of the accelerated master’s program.
It is important to comprehend how the political institutions of other nations function because domestic political processes of all sorts help to shape international relations. Theorists of international relations no longer contend, as they did a half century ago, that politics stops at the water’s edge. International security will be the area of concentration in this accelerated master’s program. Courses in political institutions also will be integral to IRP/AMP because they will enrich students’ scientific understanding of political processes. Areas other than international security, such as political economy and income distribution, clearly bear upon twenty-first century politics and are causal factors in major international outcomes.