International Law [CRN 81492]

Discipline: Political Science
Instructor: Bunck/Fowler
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1230
End: 1350
Field Work: Day 2 | November 15, 2018 | Vietnam
Prerequisites: One (1) international relations course OR permission of instructors Download Syllabus

This course examines the role of international law in international relations by asking where is law important, where is it less important, and why? We will consider where international law comes from, how it differs from domestic law, how international tribunals function, and what is meant by such terms as sovereignty, sovereign immunity, jurisdiction, and extradition. Our special focus will be on the seas – piracy, fishing, drug trafficking, and maritime boundaries – as well as human rights matters – refugees, stateless persons, war crimes, and torture. We will examine cases involving ‘boat people,’ whale hunting, an oil tanker wreck, a night-time collision of ships, the war-time capture of fishing vessels, the interception of a cocaine ‘mother ship,’ the planting of explosives on a Greenpeace vessel, and the destruction of battleships traveling through international straits in peacetime. We will also consider cases involving hostages, the looting of artifacts, terrorist plans to down commercial jets flying from Asia to the U.S., the clash of neighboring states concerning a remote jungle temple in Southeast Asia, and trials involving alleged Nazi, American, and Japanese war criminals. We will debate different views of the handling of the enormous environmental disaster unleashed by Union Carbide in Bhopal, India.

Field Work

Country: Vietnam
Day: 2
Date: November 15, 2018

For our Field Class during the Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Port Stop we will visit the home of a Vietnamese citizen who served as a UPI photographer during the Vietnam War. We will examine the photos he took during that conflict and have a question-and-answer session with him about his experiences during and after the conflict. We will talk with him, in particular, about what war photography accomplishes, and more generally, about the media’s responsibility in providing information to the public and to policy makers regarding how the strategies and objectives of countries’ foreign policies are relating to what is actually happening on the ground. We will then travel by bus to downtown Ho Chi Minh City to visit the War Remnants Museum. Exhibits in the Museum document various aspects of how the Vietnam War was fought. After the Field Class students will write a Field Class Reflection Paper that considers one or more issues regarding the laws of war.

Learning objectives

  1. To have the students think about the subject of war crimes, an important topic in our International Law course, with respect to the actions of the belligerents in the Vietnam War.
  2. To have the students consider the following questions in light of the Vietnam experience. What do the Geneva Conventions state concerning laws of war? Why do laws of war exist? How often and in what varieties of conflict are they respected or ignored? What types of violations commonly occur? What repercussions do ignoring the laws of war entail?