Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Contemporary Warfare

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT International Relations

DESCRIPTION This study-unit addresses the issue of the evolving nature of war and the ongoing debate about the viability and legitimacy of the use of force. The objective of the study-unit is to familiarise students with the main issues surrounding the politics, ethics and strategy of contemporary warfare, so as to further understand the role and centrality of war and conflict in contemporary international affairs.

The study-unit will begin by assessing the causes of war and factors that contribute to the outbreak of conflict. In doing so, the evolution of warfare throughout the centuries will be reviewed, taking into account the role of technology in contemporary warfare and its impact on the evolution of war. In order to further understand the nature of contemporary warfare, particular attention must be given to the role of strategy in the conduct of international relations, the political and legal considerations and implications related to war and the use of force, as well as the moral and ethical arguments regarding warfare. When evaluating the characteristics and implications of contemporary warfare, the varying types of war that exist in international relations must also be taken into consideration. The study-unit will therefore evaluate the role of regular and irregular warfare, limited wars, and the role that Weapons of Mass Destruction play in the conduct of contemporary international relations and the prospects of war. The course will go on to assess the role of warfare in contemporary international relations more holistically by giving due consideration to the role of deterrence efforts through diplomacy and international institutions and frameworks. The theoretical considerations discussed throughout the course will be complemented by case studies of recent and contemporary conflicts in post-Cold War Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.


At the end of the study-units the learner will be exposed to the following specialised knowledge:

- Theories on warfare and strategic theory;
- The impact of Technological developments on the nature of warfare;
- The academic and political debates surrounding the strategic, political and ethical considerations over the use of war.


At the end of the study-unit the learner will have mastered the following skills:

- Discuss the evolving definitions on war and theories on the role and nature of war;
- Ability to trace the developments in strategic theory and the nature of war that emerged as a result of technological developments;
- Ability to discuss the strategic political and ethical debates surrounding the use of war.


At the end of the study-unit the learner will have acquired the responsibility and autonomy to:

- Identify the characteristics of contemporary warfare;
- Ability to identify the types of warfare that have emerged as a result of developments on technology;
- Ability to discuss the roles of political considerations and ethical and moral justifications in contemporary warfare.


At the end of the study-unit the learner will be able to:

- Demonstrate an understanding of the causes of war and defining features of the use of force;
- Discuss the impact of developments on the nature and character of war on strategic theory and contemporary warfare;
- An understanding of the evolving nature of war and the ongoing debate about the viability and legitimacy of the use of force.

Reading List:

- J. Baylis, J. Wortz & C. Gray Strategy in the Contemporary World Fifth Edition (Oxford University Press, 2016).
- D. Jordan, J.D. Kiras, D.J. Lonsdale, I. Speller, C. Tuck, & C.D. Walton Understanding Modern Warfare Second Edition (Cambridge University Press, 2016).
- Alan Collins Contemporary Security Studies Fourth Edition (Oxford University Press, 2016).
- Lawrence Freedman (ed.) War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM2 Yes 75%
Presentation SEM2 Yes 25%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.