The course reviews the principal features of international security as currently practiced. It traces the evolution of contemporary policy and other determining circumstances through the sequence of formative experience whereby current international security conditions developed. Understanding the consequence of formative experience is indispensable for adequate comprehension of the prevailing concepts, organizing principles, military deployment patterns, legal regulations, and political relationships that determine the current state of international security.
The course begins with the circumstances and choices that shaped security policy after World War II. Contemporary security policy has deeper historical roots, but developments during the Cold War shaped the concepts, institutions, force structures, arms control agreements, and political debates that are particularly important today. Although it is common to assert that we are in a new era, anyone who does not understand the formative events and enduring legacy of that period will not understand the contemporary problems covered in the second half of the semester. Reviewing history from contemporary perspective is a revisionist perspective from the point of view of those who lived through the events in question, but it is legitimate and important to use the advantage of retrospect to understand current circumstances.
The course is intended to be useful and appropriate for all people of whatever national affiliation. There is heavy emphasis on the experience of the United States and of Russia as principal successor to the Soviet Union because the historical interaction between these two countries has disproportionately affected the international security conditions that all other countries now experience. Understanding this experience is a necessary foundation for any more focused national security perspective a student might wish to develop.