The course is designed to review the principal features of international security as it is currently practiced. It does so by tracing the evolution of contemporary policy and ther determining circumstances through the sequence of formative experience whereby current international security conditions developed. The underlying contention is that understanding the consequence of formative experience is indispensable for adequate comprehension of the prevailing concepts, organizing principles, military deployment patterns, legal regulations, and political relationships that determine the state of international security at the moment. This set of arrangements provides the foundation for all international relationships and affects all international policy topics.
The period of time reviewed begins with the initiation of nuclear weapons programs during the course of World War II. Contemporary security policy has deeper historical roots, of course, but current conditions were heavily determined by the developments that occurred over the past seven decades. Although it is common to assert that we are now in a new era, anyone who does not understand the formative events and enduring legacy of that period will certainly not understand the contemporary problems that are covered in the second half of the semester. The course reviews this history from contemporary perspective for the purpose of understanding the current implications. That is, of course, a revisionist perspective from the point of view of those who lived through the events in question, but it is legitimate and important to use the advantage of retrospect to understand current circumstances.
The course is intended to be useful and appropriate for all people of whatever national affiliation. There is heavy emphasis on the experience of the United States and of Russia as principal successor to the Soviet Union, and in fact the course has been shaped by a joint curriculum development effort involving the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland and the Institute of USA and Canada Studies in Moscow. The reasoning is that the historical interaction between these two countries has disproportionately affected the international security conditions that all other countries now experience. Hence it seems important for anyone to understand this experience as a necessary foundation for any more focused national security perspective they might wish to develop.