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Diplomacy of International Conflict




Admissions requirements

Either Introduction to International Relations & Diplomacy or Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies as well as two of the following 200-level courses: War and Strategic Studies, Theories and Concepts in IR, Foreign Policy and Diplomacy, Critical Security Studies, 20th Century Diplomatic History.


What role does diplomacy play in inter-state conflicts? Besides the all-out use of military force, states typically employ two broad strategies vis-à-vis their enemies: coercive and non-coercive diplomacy. The former entails state A using threats, sanctions and limited force with the aim of producing involuntary compliance on the part of state B. The latter entails state A using promises, appeasement and negotiations with the aim of either producing voluntary compliance on the part of state B or transforming the underlying conflict altogether.

Under what conditions do coercive and non-coercive diplomacy succeed? Why do states choose one strategy over the other? Can they be combined or are they mutually exclusive? Are today’s most deeply ingrained conflicts amenable to diplomatic solutions at all? This research-led course will enable students to answer these vital questions and to formulate practical policy advice by examining the diplomacy of inter-state conflict in-depth. We will study concrete cases – comprising both historical case studies of inter-state conflict and present-day rivalries (e.g. USA-Iran India-Pakistan, NATO-Russia) – in order to understand (a) the geostrategic, political, economic, symbolic and psychological dynamics that enable or constrain diplomatic solutions and (b) the scope conditions for the successful application of non-coercive diplomatic strategies.

Throughout the course, we will pay particular attention to the ways in which diplomacy can contribute to the management, de-escalation and transformation of inter-state conflict. In doing so, we will focus on what is arguably the trickiest diplomatic process of them all: the ‘diplomacy of first steps’ also known as ‘icebreaking’. After years, sometimes decades, of intense rivalry, how can enemies initiate a process of diplomatic engagement? Often, formidable obstacles exist to breaking the ice between adversaries, including the strategic risk of getting exploited by your adversary, domestic resistance (divided party politics, bureaucratic opposition, civil society resistance) and psychological pathologies (misperception, enduring enemy images). Nonetheless, spectacular successes of engagement – including the rapprochements between France and Germany after WWII, Egypt and Israel in the 1970s and the Soviet Union and the USA at the end of the Cold War – provide a glimmer of hope. Could relations between North Korea-South Korea, Japan-China, the USA-Cuba and Israel-Iran etc. develop in similar ways?

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Examine and critically evaluate the role that diplomacy plays in world politics;

  • Analyze key diplomatic options of conflict management, de-escalation and transformation;

  • Compare and contrast cases of diplomatic engagement past and present;

  • Formulate policy proposals for the diplomatic solution of enduring rivalries.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour seminars, using a mix of short lectures, group discussions and student presentations. During the course of the seminar, students are expected to participate consistently in seminar discussion by presenting and defending their ideas.


10% class participation
20% group presentation
30% book review
40% policy brief


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Students are required to buy Charles Kupchan’s book How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace (Princeton University Press, 2010).


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Kai Hebel


By the end of the first week, students are required to have read Charles Kupchan’s book How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace (Princeton University Press, 2010). The book will serve as a guide throughout the course and will also be the subject of a critical book review.