Crimes Against Peace Syllabus



University of New Mexico, Taos

UNIVERSITY HONORS 205 (Humanities Society and Culture)

Fall 2014, Tuesdays 6:00 – 8:30 p.m

Instructor: Allen Ferguson, JD, MFA

Office Hours: By individual arrangement

Contact:; 575-776-1118



SYLLABUS  [Revised 8/14/14]




This multi-faceted humanities course relates to history, philosophy, political science, law, the environment, human rights, and the future of civilization.  We often hear or read in the news some passing reference to the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Torture Convention, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and other international documents related to war and peace.  Yet few people have read them or learned about the contexts in which they were created.  Perhaps even less common is exploration of ethical principles that often underlie legal principles concerning war and peace.  As a result, despite the obvious importance of these issues — indeed the threat that war poses today to the very existence of civilization — it is not possible for most people to form an informed opinion on how international norms apply, or should apply, to real world situations.  This course is designed, first, to expose students to ethical writings from ancient times to the present concerning war and peace; second, to help students learn about key legal documents bearing on those issues; and third, to enable students to apply the ethical and legal principles they learn about to contemporary world conflict situations. By gaining critical perspective on war and peace issues, students will be in a stronger position to develop their own views and take their own actions in helping to bring about the universally proclaimed but tragically unrealized goal of world peace.




  1.   Learn about the ethical views of philosophers and statesmen from ancient times to modern times concerning war and peace.

2. Distill specific ethical principles from their writings.

3. Learn about key international legal documents bearing on war and peace.

4. Distill both ethical and legal principles from the legal documents and compare them with the principles derived from ethical writings.

5. Develop critical perspective, based upon ethical and legal principles, from which to view official rationales for state violence and threats of violence, and develop ability to articulate personal views and possible courses of action based on such critical analysis.

6.  Demonstrate ability to apply both ethical and legal principles to real world and hypothetical international conflict situations in reports, quiz, class exercise and final paper or project.




Required book:  Supplement of Basic Documents, International Law and World Order (“Documents Supplement”), 4th Ed,Weston, Falk, et al. eds., Thomson West 2006.

Other Required Reading: materials posted on website, and documents to be handed out in class and/or posted in UNM “LEARN” system.

Note: Instructor may add, modify or remove assignments during the course. 


Reading, Attendance and Participation: Reading the assigned materials, attending class and participating in class discussion are all essential for individual learning and class synergy.  In addition, each student will be assigned to do one or two short research reports addressing issues that arise in class concerning world situations.  Also, students will participate in teams in a mock deliberation of an international organization.


Quiz and Final Paper or Project.  There will be one quiz on assigned material as noted below.  The purpose of the quiz is not memorization of facts but understanding  important ideas and information.  Each student will be required to either write a final academic paper or do some other type of project (such as a video or an action project) on a topic approved by the instructor.  Papers should be at least fifteen pages double-spaced and in appropriate academic format.  Students will present their papers or projects or summaries to the class.


IV. ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Qualified students with disabilities needing appropriate academic adjustments should contact the instructor as soon as possible to ensure your needs are met in a timely manner.

V. Academic Honesty.  At UNM-Taos academic honesty is considered one of the cornestones of academic development.  All UNM policies regarding academic honesty apply to this course.  Academic honesty includes but is not limited to refraining from plagiarism (claiming credit for words or works of another, taken from any source – print, internet, or electronic database – or failing to cite the source), cheating, fabricating information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, or submitting the work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor.




Class discussions . . . . . . . . 25%

Short research reports . . . . .15%

Quiz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10%

Class exercise . . . . . . . . . . .15%

Final paper or project . . . . .35%


THREAT.  Introduction and course overview.


Why did you decide to take this course?  Students’ experiences and views regarding war and peace.  If everyone from Lao Tzu to Jesus Christ to Barak Obama has condemned war and sought peace, why has this universally acclaimed goal not been achieved?  Why is it so important?  Causes of war and sources of peace. What can be done?  How does international law fit in?  Review syllabus and course requirements.  List of possible final paper topics.

            Before or after this class, view the website:



Ancient Greek, Roman and Chinese perspectives on war; Renaissance writing and the just war doctrine; natural law; distinction between rightness or wrongness of going to war (“jus ad bellum”) and rightness or wrongness of how war is fought (“jus in bello”); distillation and articulation of ethical principles espoused.


Assigned Reading                  

Website ( On “Wisdom” page: Ancient and Renaissance wisdom. On “Articles” page: Natural Law; World Citizen’s Guide.


HANDOUT or on LEARN system: U.S.Declaration of Independence.



MANKIND.”  Modern ethical treatment of war and peace.  

What have more recent writers, philosophers and leaders had to say about ethical issues involved in going to war?  What do these writings have in common with the ancient and Renaissance writings, and what is different?


Assigned Reading

Website: On “Wisdom” page: Modern Wisdom. (Eisenhower, King, Kennedy, Gandhi.)


HANDOUTS or on LEARN SYSTEM:  Mark Twain; Matthew Arnold; Wilfred Owen; Marshall McLuhan; Desmond Tutu.


Note: Start reading for 4th and 5th classes early due to importance and volume.


 4th –  5th  Classes.  “WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED TO SAVE SUCCEEDING GENERATIONS FROM THE SCOURGE OF WAR.. .”  Key legal documents concerning war and peace today.

These two classes will expose students to key international documents concerning war and peace.  Students will discern relevant legal principles directly from source documents and will be asked to consider ethical foundations of the legal principles.  In subsequent classes, we will build upon this framework as we explore how and why the principles apply or do not apply to world situations. Concept of customary international law.

Topic for final paper or project due 4th class.


Assigned Reading

Website: On “Treaties” page: UN Charter, Kellogg-Briand Pact; Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court, Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Non-Intervention Declaration). On“Nurembergpage: London Agreement, Robert Jackson, Final Judgment.  Note: More complete versions of most of these documents appear in the Documents Supplement.


Documents Supp.: Hague Convention of 1907, pp. 208-210 and, in Annex starting on p. 211, Articles 4, 7, 18, 22-28, 46, 50 (doc. 2.2); Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 (doc. 2.9, pp. 226-227); Geneva Convention IV (doc. 2.12) Articles 4, 27, 28, 31, 32, 33. 49, 53; Genocide Convention (doc. 3.2); Torture Convention (doc. 3.26), Arts. 1-5, 15-16; Protocol Additional I to Geneva Conventions (doc. 2.31), Articles 35, 48, 51, 52, 57; International Convention for Civil and Political Rights. Arts. 1 – 4, 6(1), 7, 9, 14, 15, 17, 20, 21, 22, 47.


 6th Class: CRIMES AGAINST PEACE (Aggression); Use of Force; Intervention; Self-Defense.

What were the “Crimes Against Peace” for which the Nuremberg Tribunal convicted Nazi leaders?  When is use of armed force against another nation legal and when illegal?  When is a state entitled to use force in self-defense? Is preemptive action ever a legitimate form of self-defense?  Where is the line between illegal aggression and legal self-defense?


Assigned Reading

Website: On “Treaties” page: UN Charter, Rome Statute Preamble and Art. 5; whole “Nuremberg” page; on “Articles” page: Crimes Against Peace.

Documents Supp.:  Draft Code of Crimes Against the Peace and Security of Mankind (doc. 2.16), Articles 15-22, 24; UNGA Resolution on Aggression (doc. 2.29); Declaration on Inadmissibility of Intervention (doc. 2.36); National Security Strategy of the United States (doc. 6.9), pp. 1664 -1666.


HANDOUT or on LEARN:  World Court Judgment, Nicaragua v. U.S.A.


7th Class:  WAR AND TRUTH

Is it true, as the ancient Greek poet Aeschylus said, that “truth is the first casualty of war?”

Was Gandhi right that “lying is the mother of violence?”  What function does lying play in promoting or sustaining war?  What about lies of omission?  How is language manipulated so as to promote, extend or justify war?  A case study:  August 21, 2013 Sarin gas attack in Syria.



Assigned Reading/Listening

Website:  On Media page, listen to May 8 KTAO radio interview of instructor on “War and Truth.”  On Wisdom page, Gandhi passage.


Document Supp: World Charter for Nature (doc. 5.21); Space weapons (doc. 2.19); Convention on the Prohibition of Military Use of Environmental Modification (doc. 2.30), Articles I – IV.


HANDOUTS or on LEARN system: Chris Hedges, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning (excerpts); Seymour M. Hersh, London Review of Books, “Whose Sarin?” and “The Red Line and the Rat Line.”


Quiz (on classes 1-6).


8th Class:  WAR AND HUMAN RIGHTS. Treatment of Civilians, POWs, Detainees; Rights of People in Occupied Territories.

The influence of ethics on law concerning human rights in the context of warfare; “Humanitarian Law” and “Human Rights Law.” Torture; “extraordinary rendition;” “humanitarian intervention,”  “Responsibility to Protect.”  Deprivation of the right to live.


Assigned Reading

Website: On Blog page: First Blog, “Back to First Principles: War and Human Rights;” on “Treaties Etc.”  page: Universal Declaration of Human Rights;


Documents Supp:  Genocide Convention (doc. 3.2); Geneva Convention Article 3 Common (doc. 2.9, pp. 226-227); Geneva Convention III, Treatment of  POWs (doc. 2.11), Articles 4, 12, 15, 17, 25, 34;Geneva IV, Protection of  Civilians (doc. 2.12); Convention Against Torture (doc. 3.26); Convention prohibiting land mines, doc. 2.52.


HANDOUTS or LEARN  system: U.S. Supreme Court decision, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld; Lillich and Hannum, Internatioinal Human Rights, “An Eventful Day in My Lai Hamlet, South Vietnam, March 1968.”


Materials for upcoming class exercise to be handed out; assignment of teams; time allotted to start preparing for exercise.



            Bans on weapons that cause unnecessary suffering or that cannot distinguish military from civilian targets; conventional weapons treaty; land mines and cluster bombs; arms manufacture and trade; influence of profit motive; Arms Trade Treaty.  Disarmament?

Time allotted for teams to prepare for class exercise next class.


Assigned Reading

Website: on Blog page: second blog post, “War and Armaments . . .;” on “Wisdom” page, Modern wisdom: JFK speech, Eisenhower speech.

Documents Supp.: Hague Convention of 1907, Article 23, (doc. 2.2, p. 213); Convention on Conventional Weapons (doc. 2.34, pp. 336, 342-344); Land Mines Convention (doc. 2.52).


HANDOUT or LEARN system: Arms Trade Treaty.


10th Class:  MODEL INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION EXERCISE based on a real or hypothetical world crisis situation (each student part of a team representing a country or organization).



            Chemical and biological weapons treaties.  Nuclear test ban treaty.  How great is the danger; is it decreasing or increasing?  What is being done and what more can be done to eliminate or mitigate the peril? 


            Assigned Reading

            Website: On “Wisdom” page, Modern Wisdom: Eisenhower and Kennedy speeches. On “Treaties” page: Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.


            Documents Supp:  Biological Weapons Treaty (doc. 2.25), Preamble and Articles I-IV, X; Chemical Weapons Treaty (doc. 2.42), Articles I, II (1, 2, 9), III (1(a), (c)), IV (3-6), V (6-9), VI (1);  Declaration on the Prohibition of the Use of Nuclear Weapons (doc. 2.17); Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons (ICJ Advisory Opinion), pp. 1718-19, 1721-26, 1732-34 (doc. 7.10).


LEARN system: Falk, “The Shimoda Case;” Hersey, Hiroshima.



The right of a people to self-determination is well established in international law, but what does it mean?  What is “a people.” How may they achieve self-determination? Do they have a right to take up arms in revolt?  Does a government have a right to put down rebellion?  — To receive international help? Do rebels have a right to receive international help?  Do other nations or international organizations have a right to intervene?  If so, which and under what circumstances?  How do these questions apply to the revolts in the Arab world?  To Palestine’s bid for statehood?  To the secession of Crimea from the Ukraine?


Assigned Reading

Documents Supp: Declaration of the Inadmissibility of Intervention etc., doc. 2.36;  Declaration on Principles of Friendly Relations etc. doc. 1.11, pp. 106-107.


HANDOUT or LEARN system:  Declaration of Independence; Canada Supreme Court, Quebec Secession case; International Court of Justice, The Wall case. 



            The International Criminal Court (ICC) – the world’s answer to impunity for those who commit serious international crimes?  Subversion of the ICC. American Service Members Protection Act.  Undermining war and peace functions of the World Court (International Court of Justice).

            Assigned Reading

            Website: “Undermining International Law” page (whole thing).


HANDOUTS or LEARN system: American Servicemembers’ Protection Act; Jason Jaramillo law school paper.


Final papers or projects due. Begin class presentations of papers/projects



How does international law apply to these wars? Is it being applied effectively?  What ethical principles are involved? Is the “war on terror” a war?  Is there any limit to the war on terror either geographically or in time?  What are the uncertainties and gaps in international law regarding new types of war and new weapons?


Assigned Reading

Documents Supp: UNSC Resolution 1373 on Acts of  International Terrorism (doc. 2.58);  National Security Strategy of the U.S., 2002 (doc. 6.9); USA Patriot Act (doc.6.7); UN Security Council Resolution 1441 (doc. 2.60).


Presentation of student papers and projects, continued.


15thClass:  PREVENTION OF WAR, CREATION OF PEACE.  What does the future hold for the rule of law and peace or war? What can be done?


What are the real forces driving the world’s war machines?  What has happened to the basic ethical and legal principles we studied earlier in this course?  War crimes tribunals; truth and reconciliation commissions; protests and demonstrations; climate change, implications for war or peace; millennium goals; social, economic, political, environmental & ethical issues. Lying and manipulation of language as weapons; truth as a remedy (Gandhi, Tutu).


Assigned Reading

Website:  Re-read and consider deeply all materials on “WISDOM” page (Ancient, Renaissance, and Modern), especially Martin Luther King’s speech under Modern Wisdom; Nuremberg page, especially excerpts from Justice Robert Jackson.

Continued presentation of final papers, projects.


16th Class:  WRAP UP AND CONSIDERATION of information and ideas covered in the course, including the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of international law; challenges posed by new wars and new weapons in the context of old mindsets and traditions.  How do law and ethics dealing with international violence compare to law and ethics dealing with violence at home? How do ethical considerations, legal principles and realpolitik interact in warfare decision-making; whether and how the mix should change.  Can the UN Charter’s vision of peace be realized in our time? Why or why not?  Avenues for activism.

Complete presentations of student papers, projects.