Explain The Decision to Send Canadian Combat Troops to Afghanistan

POL208Y5Y Introduction to International Relations
Fall/Winter Session 2008-2009, University of Toronto at Mississauga
First Term Paper
Prof. Steven Bernstein

Length: 7-9 pages
Worth: 15 % of your final course grade
Due: Nov. 12, 2008

Explain The Decision to Send Canadian Combat Troops to Afghanistan

Essay Question:

Which level of analysis best explains the decision of the Canadian government to send combat troops to Afghanistan in 2002? The paper should focus on the 2002 decision, but may also explore later decisions to extend and deepen Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.

You should base the analysis in your paper solely on assigned course readings, lectures, and the following book (available for purchase in the UTM Bookstore), which provides detailed information on the case:

Janice Gross Stein and Eugene Lang. 2007. The Unexpected War: Canada in Kandahar. Toronto: Penguin.

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a research essay. It is an analytic paper designed to learn how to apply and evaluate explanations at various levels of analysis in international relations. The paper is NOT: a book review; an analysis of the rightness or wrongness of the decision on ethical grounds (we will address normative concerns in the second half of the course); or a research paper on the wider causes of war or the causes of conflict in Afghanistan.

In the assignment (which you should download and read carefully), I asked that you focus on the decision to initially deploy troops in 2002. However, as many of you have rightly noted, there were a number of subsequent decisions that are discussed in some detail in the book. I want everyone to look initially at that 2001/2002 decision because it is clear and relatively straightforward. However, I am absolutely open to you exploring in some detail later decisions as well (as it says in the essay question). While you are only required to examine the first decision from different levels of analysis, I could imagine a number of possibilities of very good papers that might compare that decision to later decisions. For example, you might assess whether different explanations, at different levels of analysis, best explain different decisions or whether there is a good explanation (at a particular level of analysis) that spans all the decisions. Or, you might use evidence from what happened later to inform the discussion of how the first decision was made and whether, for example, it was “rational” or some other model of decision-making best explains it. These are just examples of what you might do.

We are also very open to whatever explanations you explore (provided they were covered in class or in the readings) or how many decisions you cover. You may also combine explanations from different levels of analysis – but then you should be clear about how you do that and any potential problems or contradictions that result in doing so. Again, what is absolutely required for everyone is to try to explain the first major decision and to make an argument about what explanation (or explanations) best explain it, drawing on the various explanations/theories we have examined in class or the readings at different levels of analysis. Doing more is also perfectly fine – and could make an excellent paper. But – you won’t be penalized for sticking to that first decision.

Finally, I encourage you to bring up further questions you might have in class, but even more so in tutorials where there is more opportunity to discuss them.

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