Interdisciplinary Studies 123W-Section 15
World Views: War and Its Alternatives
Fall Semester 2005
Smullin Hall, Room 315
MWF 12:40–1:40


Prof. Michael Marks
Office: Smullin 332
Office Tel. 503-370-6932
Home Page:
Office Hours:
MTWThF: 9:00-10:00

World Views Course Description

The World Views first-year seminar is a program unique to Willamette University. The primary motivation of the faculty who developed the course in 1987 was to provide a common experience for all first-year students that would serve as an introduction to the goals, the purposes and the rigors of the liberal arts tradition in which Willamette University is firmly rooted. The course is built around the skills of critical reading, informed discussion, and cogent writing, the same skills that are the foundation for most academic programs on campus.

Faculty who participate in the World Views program teach in a very different manner than if they were teaching in their discipline or area of expertise. World Views faculty come from a wide variety of disciplines and departments. They teach in the program because they believe in its overall goals, and because they realize that they can enrich their teaching and understanding by moving outside of the areas in which they are experts and joining the students in a community of learners. In the World Views classroom, the teacher is more a facilitator than an authority.

In order to encourage students to read carefully, think critically, discuss effectively, and write coherently, we have assembled a set of interesting and demanding readings on war and its alternatives. It is our belief that such readings provide an excellent introduction to the critical skills that students will draw upon during their years at Willamette, and a coherent framework in which to exercise these skills. Moreover, by engaging these materials, we hope that we will all come to a better understanding of ourselves and our place in society, and to achieve a deeper appreciation of the diversity and the rich cultural differences which characterize our world.

The current World Views topic engages students with classical and contemporary texts about human warfare. We will be asking about how nations characterize the causes and justifications of war, why some wars are deemed good and others are not so well received, how individuals experience war, and what alternatives to war exist that might change the resolution of conflict. These considerations will guide our focus throughout the coming semester.

At most moments in history, large numbers of people have been directly involved in destructive wars. At the end of the nineteenth century, many believed that there would never again be an "all-out" war among nations. Many were optimistic that civilization was advancing in ways that would make wars of all kinds less likely. Beginning with World War I, however, the twentieth century witnessed impressive advances in the technology of war, adding immensely to the damage that war can do. From our vantage point today, the optimism of the late nineteenth century seems naïve.

The major goals of this World Views topic are to study the origins and causes of wars, and to discuss their ethical and social consequences. We will study war conceptually and will apply the concepts to case studies that will illuminate and bring to life the experiences of war. We also will examine whether past wars could have been avoided and whether future wars need not occur if nations and individuals learn more about the causes of war, how to better conduct war, and how to make peace. We cannot discuss war without exploring ethical questions about the decision to go to war, conduct during and after the conflict, and what we can do to encourage nonviolent resolution to conflict.

The texts we will read and discuss this semester raise provocative questions about how nations decide to engage in warfare, what weapons to use, the effect war has on nations and individuals, and whether alternative to war exist. The texts also challenge us to review how we remember and reconstruct wars in our personal and national history.

Evaluation: Your grade in the course will result from your participation and from writing essays. Participation includes attendance at regular class sessions and mass lecture sessions. In addition, it includes your active and thoughtful role in class discussions. The writing component of the semester includes three formal essays in which you will synthesize readings, discussion and your own creative insights. Additionally, you will also have short in-class and out-of-class writing assignments. Your instructor will provide specific information regarding the criteria and weight of each aspect of evaluation.

World Views Required Texts:

1. Studs Terkel. The Good War: An Oral History of World War II. New York: The New Press,1984.

2. Pat Barker. Regeneration. New York: Plume, 1991.

3.Candace Ward, ed. World War One British Poets: Brooke, Owen, Sassoon, Rosenberg and Others. New York: Dover Thrift Editions, 1997.

4. Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War in On Justice, Power, and Human Nature. Translated by Paul Woodruff. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing, 1998.

5. Jean Bethke Elshtain, et. al. But Was It Just?: Reflections On The Morality Of The Persian Gulf War. New York : Doubleday, 1992.

6. Robert L. Holmes. Nonviolence In Theory And Practice. Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press, c1990, 2001.

7. Ariel Dorfman. Death and the Maiden. New York: Penguin Plays, 1994.

Also required for the optional unit in this section:

8. Carl von Clausewitz. On War. London: Penguin, 1968.

Managing the Reading List

In order to profit fully from the readings, students should read the material assigned for a particular week before the scheduled classroom discussion. We will discuss the readings assuming that the students have read them ahead of time. It is absolutely necessary that students be prepared to discuss the readings in the weekly discussion sessions.


The final grade will be computed as follows: First paper 20%; Second paper 30%; Third paper 30%; Class participation (including oral presentations on Nonviolence in Theory and Practice) 20%.

Incompletes will be given only under exceptional circumstances such as serious illness. You may appeal any of your grades during office hours only after you have handed in a typed, reasoned memorandum detailing the specific reasons why you think the grade you received is not justified.

Late writing assignments will be assessed a one-third grade penalty per day (e.g., a B+ paper handed in a day late receives a B, two days late a B-, etc.).

Unit I: Experiences of War


1. Studs Terkel, The Good War: An Oral History of World War II. New York: The New Press,1984.

Many Americans describe World War II as the "good war," fought for the right reasons with the right results. Not all wars in which America has participated have received such strong support during and after the conflict. The Vietnam War, for example, evokes quite different responses. Terkel's Pulitzer Prize winning oral history of World War II contains more than a hundred testimonials from a broad array of politicians, soldiers, scientists, journalists, factory workers, housewives, economists, laborers, and other Americans from diverse races, classes, and political persuasions. The Good War also contains interviews with survivors of the atomic bomb, and Germans, British, and Russians who experienced the war from a different perspective.

All the testimonials in The Great War are first-person accounts that transmit to us the urgency of the message. In reading these testimonials, you will see that, for many people of the era, World War II was the formative event of their lives. Terkel concludes that the war "changed the psyche as well as the face of the United States and the world." (3) Terkel's oral history raises questions about how we justify the weapons of war; how war equalizes the participants while nonetheless reflecting racial, gender, and class divisions; and how winners and losers are changed by how the history of the war is told.

2. Pat Barker, Regeneration. New York: Plume, 1991.

Inasmuch as war and conflict are constants in human history, we must not overlook the impact they have on individual lives. We will explore the personal experience of war through literature, because literature gives us an unadorned forum where ideas and experiences are presented without self-censorship, coyness, or shame. The language of art makes us aware that war affects each of us in different ways.

The First World War was a modern war in which more than 8 million people lost their lives. This war saw the development of great improvements to expedite human annihilation: air bombardment, chemical weapons, machine guns, and the tank. All these innovations and technological advances, however, reversed the idea of Progress and challenged humanity's trust and belief in the power of reason and of European civilization. In their place the war brought about an open questioning, an on-going doubt about the meanings and values that had been constants shaping society, art and religion.

Regeneration is part of a trilogy on World War I (sometimes called the "Great War"). Barker depicts the dilemmas experienced by the poet and war hero Siegfried Sassoon, a victim of "shell shock" or Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, as we would call it today, and his doctor, the brilliant psychologist Dr. William Rivers. Both characters have to confront moral, personal, and social predicaments associated with World War I, and their roles in that war. They must answer questions about the futility of war before they can go on with their lives as soldier and healer.

3. Candace Ward (ed.), World War One British Poets: Brooke, Owen, Sassoon, Rosenberg and Others. New York: Dover Thrift Editions, 1997.

Barker's historical novel also provides glimpses of the poet Wilfred Owen. Owen, a patient of Rivers, befriended Sassoon during their stay at a mental hospital. Owen died in action in 1918 at the age of 25. We will read and discuss the writings of Owen and other World War I poets in the collection, World War One British Poets. These writers found poetry an effective way to express their war experiences, some intellectualizing the events and others giving sentimental accounts. All plowed new artistic ground by describing their feelings in an open and passionate manner. This anthology provides a variety of genuine responses to the Great War, from patriotism to outrage.

Course Schedule and Weekly Reading Assignments for Unit I

August 25-29: Course Introduction

Required reading: The Good War (summer reading assignment)

Thursday, August 25: First class session 5:00-6:00 pm
Thursday, August 25: First Year Class Picnic 6:00-7:30 pm (Brown Field)

Friday, August 26: Class session 8:30-10:15 a.m.
Friday, August 26: Convocation, Smith Auditorium, 10:30–12:00. Speaker: (Topic: "")
Friday, August 26: Class session 1:30-3:00

Saturday, August 27: Class session 9:00-10:30

Monday, August 29: Class session 9:00-10:30
Monday, August 29: Fall Semester advising 10:30-4:00

August 31-September 14: Regeneration

Required reading: Regeneration

Wednesday, August 31: First regularly scheduled class time 12:40-1:40

Monday, September 12: Draft Workshop

September 16: World War I Poets

Required reading: Assignment: Read over the poems in World War Poetry, and be prepared to come to class on Friday and discuss which poem(s) you found most moving, and why.


Unit II: Ethics of War


1. Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War in On Justice, Power, and Human Nature. Translated by Paul Woodruff. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing, 1998.

The Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE) marks both the apogee and the end of Athenian hegemony in Greece. By this point, the Athenians had reduced the more than 400 independent member states of the Delian Sea League (a defense alliance to ward off the threat of another Persian invasion) to the status of mere tribute-paying vassals of Athens. Disgruntled members were prevented from leaving the league, and others were forced to join it. Threatened by the increasingly expansionist policies of Athens, Sparta and Sparta's allies in the Peloponnesian League finally declared war.

The Peloponnesian War raged for 27 years. Virtually the entire Greek-speaking world became involved. Cities were destroyed, and their populations killed or enslaved. Athens itself was almost constantly under siege, while Sparta's armies devastated Athens' hinterland and destroyed its crops. In the third year of the war, a plague killed a third of the Athenian population, including Pericles, the author of Athens' past successes. Nonetheless, it often appeared as though Athens would get the better of Sparta. In the end, however, bad strategy, ruthless treachery, and Persian support for Sparta resulted in the complete defeat of Athens. The Spartans razed the walls of the city and installed a puppet government. The days of Athenian greatness were over.

This devastating defeat severely challenged the Athenians' view of themselves. In his history of the war, Thucydides (ca 460-400 BCE), himself a former Athenian general, attempted to identify the causes of the war and the downfall of Athens. His account provides keen insights into the Greek psyche, the arrogance and hunger for power that often lead to war, and descriptions of what war does to a nation and its citizens. Historians and other scholars have always looked to Thucydides' account of the Peloponnesian War in their efforts to understand the causes and consequences of other wars.

1. Jean Bethke Elshtain, et. al. But Was It Just?: Reflections On The Morality Of The Persian Gulf War. New York : Doubleday, 1992.

The following passage is excerpted from a review of But Was It Just? by Joseph A. Kechichian which appeared the March 1, 1991 issue of Library Journal: "In But Was It Just?, a collection of essays, one of the authors, Stanley Hauerwas, painstakingly explains some of the many fallacies of the just war theory and, along with Sari Nusseibeh, asks whether the war for Kuwait was not a vindication of power. Rather than skirt the issue, argue authors Elshtain, Nusseibeh, and Hauerwas, it may be useful to assess Western economic motives in choosing to oppose Saddam Hussein. Western interests required that 70 percent of the world's proven reserves of petroleum should not fall under hostile hands, they conclude, and such a cause was truly just in the eyes of millions. Ironically, rather than invoke a just war imperative to take action against Iraq, the conservative Arab Gulf rulers invoked the Arab tradition of interest (maslaha) in rationalizing their policies. In a more honest approach, they sought religious decrees to address legitimacy questions, but did not cloak their mercantile objectives under convoluted moral pronouncements."

Course Schedule and Weekly Reading Assignments for Unit II

September 19: Convocation

Monday, September 19: Convocation, Smith Auditorium. Speaker: (Topic: "").

September 21-30: The Peloponnesian War

Required reading: The Peloponnesian War, Chapters 2-6; and also the editor's comments only (in italics) for Chapter 7.

October 3-14: But Was It Just?

Required reading: But Was It Just?, Chapters by Michael Walzer (pp.1-17), George Weigel (pp. 19-41), Stanley Hauerwas (pp.83-105), and Appendix One (pp.107-125).

Monday, October 10: Draft Workshop


October 17: Convocation

Monday, October 17: Convocation, Smith Auditorium, 12:40-1:40. Speaker: (Topic: "").

Unit III: Alternatives To War


1. Robert L. Holmes. Nonviolence In Theory And Practice. Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press, c1990, 2001.

The following is a description of the book as provided by the publisher: "This valuable collection of thirty-two readings - representing some of the most thoughtful attempts to explain what nonviolence is and to show how it is implemented - promotes critical thinking about what constitutes the success or failure of both violence and nonviolence. Through his arrangement of the works, Holmes has been mindful of readers who are relatively new to the philosophy of nonviolence. He begins with the origins of nonviolence; he then presents the perspectives of three principal philosophers; considers women and nonviolence, pacifism, and pragmatic nonviolence; and concludes with examples of the practice of nonviolence. Readers will discover the depth and multidimensionality of nonviolence - it can be passive resistance or nonviolent direct action; the commitment to nonviolence can be qualified or unqualified; it can be viewed as a tactic or a way of life. The knowledge gleaned from the highly regarded perspectives in this collection enables us to achieve meaningful objectives, whether they are focused on a personal level or on a broader initiative."

2. Ariel Dorfman, Death and the Maiden. New York: Penguin Plays, 1994.

On September 11, 1973, the government of Chile's democratically elected Salvador Allende was overthrown in a military coup supported by the U.S. government. For the next 17 years, the authoritarian dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet waged internecine war against its own citizens. Those who questioned the military, supported Allende, or were perceived as an "enemy" of Pinochet incurred the wrath and persecution of the repressive regime. Thousands were killed, tortured, exiled, or "disappeared".

Dorfman's play takes place in 1990, after President Patricio Aylwin has been democratically elected and has established a Human Rights and Truth Commission to uncover the truth regarding the human rights abuses under Pinochet, and to lay the foundation for a process of reconciliation among the Chilean people. The Commission was instructed to reconstruct a silenced history by making public the atrocities and the victims. However, for political, economic, and legal reasons, the Commission was not authorized to name or punish the perpetrators of Pinochet's horrors.

Dorfman's play addresses the issues confronting Chile in the aftermath of the Pinochet dictatorship. The lead character, Paulina, discovers that she might have the opportunity to impose punishment on her torturer. She must consider the consequences of her actions on her husband, a promising politician of the newly elected democracy, on the politics of her country, and on herself. Will revenge dehumanized her as it did her torturer? Will revenge satiate her thirst for justice? Can she forgive the man who hurt her irreparably? Through Paulina's struggles, we confront universal questions about forgiveness, memory, and the constitution of our own humanity.

Course Schedule and Weekly Reading Assignments for Unit III

October 19-November 2: Nonviolence in Theory and Practice

Required reading and assignment: Each student will choose one of the passages from Nonviolence in Theory and Practice (a sign-up sheet will be passed out approximately two weeks before this unit) and prepare an oral presentation of about 20 minutes on the passage from the book they have selected. Class sessions will be comprised of student oral presentations on their selected passages. These oral presentations will constitute a portion of the overall class participation grade.

November 4-9: Death and the Maiden

Required reading: Death and the Maiden

Unit IV: What is War?


1. Carl von Clausewitz, On War. London: Penguin, 1968.

Clausewitz's On War is perhaps the most widely read and influential text on the topic of war ever written. Published posthumously in 1832 (a year after Clausewitz's death), On War (German title, "Vom Krieg") represented over a decade's worth of thinking and writing by the book's author. On War has been translated into dozens of languages and is required reading in virtually every major military academy in the world. Even among his detractors, Clausewitz stands as the benchmark against which all other works on war are measured. According to one of Clausewitz's critics: "With the possible exception of the ancient Chinese writer Sun Tzu, no other author has ever been remotely as influential, and indeed to this day his work forms the cornerstone of modern strategic thought" (Martin Van Creveld, The Transformation of War, New York: The Free Press, p.34).

Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831) was a Prussian soldier who eventually rose to the position of Chief of Staff to the Prussian Army (Prussia was the largest principality which formed the core of what would finally emerge as the country known as Germany). His views on war were shaped by his first-hand experiences in the battles of the Napoleonic era. For Clausewitz, war was not merely an explosion of random violence, but rather, the logical extension of rational calculations of government leaders who viewed military force as the ultimate means of resolving political disputes. This thesis was consistent with the art of war as practiced during the era of Napoleon and the solidification of the European system of "nation-states."

With the end of the Cold War, a number of influential scholars now question whether Clausewitz's depiction of war remains an accurate picture of armed conflict. The emergence of a variety of non-state actors that wage violence—for example, organized crime syndicates, terrorist groups, regional warlords, religious cults, and "tribal" and "ethnic" groups"—make scholars wonder if Clausewitz's neat picture of government armies engaging in pitched battles continues to be relevant today. Classroom discussion of this text will focus on the ongoing challenge to define war and to analyze its purposes.

Course Schedule and Weekly Reading Assignments for Unit IV

November 11-16: On War

1. Required reading: On War, Book One: On the Nature of War (pages 101-168)

Monday, November 14: Draft Workshop

November 18-23: On War

1. Required reading: On War, Sketches for Book Eight: Plan of War (pages 365-410)