International Conflict Management


David Last, PhD

Office: SSS25; telephone 613 532 3002; email last-d@rmc.ca

Office hours as posted in winter schedule (please call or text to confirm, 613 532 3002)

Course web site for additional information: http://www.davidmlast.net

Course description

This course introduces students to the theory and practice of international conflict management, with a focus on third party intervention. Students are introduced to conflict analysis, and the use of diplomatic, economic, military and non-governmental intervention by international organizations involved in prevention and management of violence and post-conflict reconstruction.


The course and most materials are offered in English only.  The professor will accept written work in the students’ language of choice.


Le cours et la plupart des matériaux sont offerts en anglais seulement.  Le professeur acceptera tout travaux écrit dans la langue de choix des étudiants.

Online resources

The course is supported by the professor’s website (www.davidmlast.org), by Moodle, and by Turnitin. Students will use the course website to access notes, and Moodle to contribute to discussions and receive weekly updates. Written assignments will be submitted through Turnitin.

Where it fits in the program

The course is open to all students on approval of the instructor.  POE410 is a senior seminar in the international relations field of political science.  Students will normally have completed an introductory course in international relations (e.g. POE116) and will also benefit from a prior knowledge of international organizations, comparative political science, and research methods.  Courses in strategic studies and conflict analysis are relevant. Review notes are available from the instructor for students lacking this background.  Conflict analysis for strategic purposes (i.e. prevailing over an opponent) differs significantly from conflict analysis for management purposes (i.e. efforts by a third party to accommodate interests and reduce costly violence). POE410 focuses on the latter.


POE410 counts as military content for students in Military Strategic Studies (MSS).


Students off site or with schedule conflicts can be accommodated with online resources. Please contact the instructor before the course begins.

Learning objectives and pedagogy

In a senior undergraduate seminar, students are expected to be self-directed learners. Within the scope of the learning objectives below they will identify their own areas of interest. I am experimenting with Ambrose et al (2010), Weimer (2013), 60-second summaries, and group-led interviews for guest speakers (see course web site).


The following books are in stock at RMC bookstores. Contents and key subject areas are summarized. Selections from the titles not issued as texts are available from the instructor, or linked to your Moodle course materials.


Butler, Michael J. (2009) International Conflict Management. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415772303 * An overview of international conflict management; major changes in post-cold war environment; then four pairs of conceptual and empirical chapters: peacekeeping (4 & 5), Mediation (6&7), enforcement (8&9); and adjudication (10&11). This will be the text to which you may refer most frequently.


Diehl, Paul and Alexandru Balas (2014) Peace Operations, 2nd Edition. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.  ISBN 0745671802 * Historical evolution and record; organization; success and failure; ten challenges for future peace operations.


Doyle, Michael W. and Nicholas Sambanis (2006) making war and building peace: united nations peace operations, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,  ISBN 069112275x * War-making, peacebuilding, and the UN; theoretical perspectives; testing peacebuilding strategies; making war (Somalia, Yugoslavia, Congo, Clausewitz and PK); making peace (el Salvador, Cambodia,E. Slavonia, Dayton, E. Timor); Failures (Cyprus, Rwanda); transitional strategies; costs of staying and leaving. You will find this useful for your conflict analysis, and for case analysis, depending on the cases you choose.


Dziedzic, Michael, editor (2016) Criminalized Power Structures: The Overlooked Enemies of Peace. New York: Rowman Littlefield. * Irreconcilables (BiH, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Haiti) Violent opposition and negotiable interests (Kosovo, DRC, Iraq); Supporters of peace (Colombia, Afghanistan, Iraq); toolkit and recommendations. This addresses many of the cases you might choose, but also forms the basis for our discussion of spoilers in week 9.


Heinze, Eric A. (2009) waging humanitarian war: the ethics, law, and politics of humanitarian intervention. Albany NY: State University of NY, ISBN 0791476960 * Concept of humanitarian intervention; morality of humanitarian intervention; consequentialist ethics; international law; universal jurisdiction; who intervenes and why it matters. This is one of two sources we will focus on for week 6.


Levinger, Matthew (2013) Conflict Analysis: Understanding Causes, Unlocking Solutions. Washington,DC: United States Institute of Peace. ISBN 9781601271433. * Patterns of conflict; causes (strategic, political, socioeconomic, psychological cultural); risk assessment and early warning; conflict assessment frameworks; narrative analysis; conflict mapping, scenario analysis; cognitive minefields, planning processes, value of collaborative conflict analysis.


Paris, Roland and Timothy Sisk, editors (2009) The dilemmas of statebuilding: confronting the contradictions of postwar peace operations. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415776295 *I. Domestic and international context. The peacebuilder’s contract; the coordination problem; foreign militaries, sustainable institutions and post-war statebuilding; making peacemakers out of spoilers; political economy – trajectories of accumulation; patronage and clientelism as enduring forms of politics, postwar constitution building; electoral processes after war; externally assisted state-building; promoting local ownership; Afghanistan and Iraq. This will be useful for some of the cases you may choose, and will be the main source for module 4 (weeks 10-12) on post conflict reconstruction.


Pattison, James (2010) humanitarian intervention & the responsibility to protect, who should intervene? Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199656622 * the problem of who should intervene; international law; instrumentalist approach; interveners conduct; representativeness; motives, intentions, and outcomes; assessing interveners; reforms to the agents of humanitarian intervention; realizing legitimate humanitarian intervention. This is one of two sources we will focus on for week 6. 


Wallensteen, Peter (2012) Understanding Conflict Resolution; London: Sage; 2015. 4th ed., ISBN 9781473902114 * conflict resolution; armed conflicts and peace agreements; conflict dynamics; analyzing conflict resolution; II resolving conflict between states; resolving civil wars; resolving state-formation conflicts; conflict complexes and resolution; UN and conflict resolution; international communities and conflict resolution. You have not been issued with this text, but some extracts are connected to your Moodle course outlines.


Weiss, Thomas G. and Sam Daws (2007) The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199560102 – on reserve at Massey Library.  Introduction; theoretical frameworks, principal organs; relationsips with other actors; international peace and security; human rights; development; prospects for reform.


*e-books available (instructor copies not required)

Marking Scheme

Introduction and personal analysis         5 percent

Module 1 conflict analysis         15 percent

Module 2 conflict prevention         20 percent

Module 3 conflict management         20 percent

Module 4 post-conflict reconstruction     20 percent

Assignment revision and presentation     20 percent

Course outline

The course consists of four problem-based modules, completed in sequence. Before the course begins, students will identify the regions, organizations, and cases that are of most interest to them, and will focus on these during the course.

Module 1: Conflict Analysis (weeks 1-3)

Students will master tools prescribed by the United States Institute for Peace and the United Nations for describing and understanding conflict dynamics at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels (e.g. within communities, for international missions, and for international organizations).

The module 1 assignment is a conflict analysis drawing on USIP or UNDESA materials.

Module 2: Conflict prevention (weeks 4-6)

Students will describe recent cases of conflict prevention, analyze and explain the principles of conflict prevention based on a conflict analysis, and prescribe prevention strategies integrating the activities of bilateral initiatives, international organizations, and NGOs.


Humanitarian intervention and R2P is a special submodule which students may choose for module 2 or 3. See bibliography.


The module 2 assignment is developing a prevention strategy, or analyzing a prevention failure.

Module 3: Conflict management (weeks 7-9)

Students will analyze and explain decisions by international organizations to intervene in conflict, the forms of intervention, and their effectiveness under changing conditions over time. Students may choose to focus at the tactical, operational, or strategic level, but must demonstrate understanding of the connections to the other levels.


The module 3 assignment is developing a conflict management strategy for a specific problem within the context of the conflict addressed.

Module 4: Post-conflict reconstruction (weeks 10-12)

Students will analyze and explain successes and failures in a selection of activities from post-conflict peacebuilding, DDR, SSR, elections, and institution-building.


Spoilers and criminalized political structures constitute a special submodule which students may choose for module 3 for 4. See bibliography.

The final week is reserved for review and resubmission of assignments.


Each module has an accompanying written assignment.  All assignments are submitted by stages and can be reworked as part of the learning process. Detailed instructions are on the assignments page.


Students will be paired with a writing partner who will complete an assignment wrapper on each paper before it is submitted.  Part of the assignment mark will reflect the student’s contribution as a writing partner.

David Last, lastdav(at)gmail.com,  updated December 2016