Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

IR - Strategy - Applied POLITIC5084

  • Academic Session: 2021-22
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

This is an introduction to the practice of strategy making in the wider context of how defence policy is made at governmental and alliance level. The course considers how overarching government (and alliance) policies are translated into long-term planning and strategic concepts (a.k.a. national security concepts and the like). In a second part, it examines the ad hoc decision making in reaction to crises and other external factors, under the influence of a multitude of other factors, from the interests of individual politicians and different parts of the government apparatus to the pressures of defence procurement, alliance politics, and linkage with other ongoing issues.


10 weeks

4 introductory lectures in week 1. While this may be a timetabling challenge, this is essential to bring students from very diverse backgrounds up to a standard of knowledge that will allow all of them to engage with the subject. The strong, empirically established didactic reasons for this outweigh any bureaucratic arguments for standardisation.

2-hour seminars held weekly for 10 weeks, starting with an introductory seminar in week 1.

Requirements of Entry

Open to postgraduate students only

Excluded Courses



It is recommended but not mandatory that this course is taken with Strategic Theory.



A review of 1000 words (25%)

An essay of 3000 words, excluding footnote references and bibliography (75%).

Course Aims

This course focuses on the differences between the theory of strategy (recommended course but not mandatory) and its application in practice. The latter is influenced by a large number of varying factors, derived from the larger context of public policy, but also the particular configurations (domestic and international) in which strategy has to be formulated.

Typical questions include: What is strategy? How does it fit with 'defence policy making'? Who formulates strategy and how? What factors influence the decision-making process? How does a Strategic Concept differ from 'a strategy' in a particular conflict? Recent examples will be for illustration.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Understand how defence strategies are made today, especially, but not only, in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the USA, and Russia

■ Understand how party politics, bureaucratic interests, industrial interests, the aims of individual politicians, alliance considerations, and other political factors play into strategy making;

■ Understand and explain how strategy making fits into the larger context of government policy making (a.k.a. public policy);

■ Thus explain why the practice of strategy making is so very different, most of the time, from the ideal typical strategy making envisaged by AndrĂ© Beaufre;

■ Be able to write essays addressing questions or problems by digesting relevant literature and marshalling it into reasoned and factually supported answers;

■ Be able to make oral presentations on the basis of digesting and concisely presenting relevant literature;

■ Analyse individual cases drawing on what has been learnt about the complex mechanism and diverse, often conflicting, factors impinging on the strategy making process.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.