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UVA Law School


Offered in the Fall

HOW WE GET INTO WARS (LAW ***) (Seminar), Mr. Setear, Credits: 3

Prerequisite: International Law or National Security Law.

Many view the United States as a peace-loving and essentially isolationist democracy. Yet, during the 20th century, we have fought at least five major overseas wars: World War One, World War Two, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War. (As of this writing—April 11, 1999—events in Kosovo clearly constitute a war, but, in the absence of large-scale combat involving US ground troops, Kosovo is not a "major" US war in the same sense as the five conflicts mentioned just above.) This seminar will examine how the United States becomes involved in overseas wars, using the two world wars and recent events in the former Yugoslavia as case studies.

The seminar will begin with extended treatments of World War One and World War Two. Both world wars began in eastern Europe. Both saw the US declare war only after an extended period of formal neutrality. And, at least in the hind-sighted eyes of some, both conflicts led to post-war settlements that (a) contributed materially to the causes of the next major war (so long as we count the Cold War as a "war" for these purposes), and (b) saw US presidents outmaneuvered by leaders of other nations in the formulation and implementation of those post-war settlements.

After examining these world wars of the first half of the 20th century, we will compare and contrast them with events during the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia to see how, if at all, US politics, international politics, and international law have changed during the 20th century.

Written requirement: A substantial research paper. (Those students not needing to satisfy the Writing Requirement may pursue analytically substantial alternatives to a traditional research paper, such as creating a Web page including substantial original and analytical content.)

Other requirements: Participation in two historically oriented, four-hour simulations of international politics held during mutually agreed upon, non-class times.

Limited to 16 students.

This course falls under the International and National Security Law concentration and the Legal History concentration.