LWMTUM-The Use of Military Force

Module Provider: School of Law
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Prof James Green

Email: J.A.Green@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

The Use of Military Force explores a major area of public international law (the jus ad bellum) that deals with the military actions of states. It therefore examines the prohibition on the use of force in international law and the exceptions to that prohibition. As such, the module offers a unique insight into the some of the most controversial and fundamental aspects of the modern international legal order and their manifestations in practice (such as the 2003 Iraq intervention and the uses of force by states in the ongoing conflict in Syria). It analyses the successes and failures of that order in attempting to, as the UN Charter put it in 1945, ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’. The module essentially asks when – under what circumstances – is the resort to military force lawful. This question is assessed through both abstract examination of the law and through detailed real world case studies.

This module is designed to complement the LWMTAC Law of Armed Conflict module, which considers the rules of international law applicable once a full blown armed conflict is underway (the jus in bello). However, the modules can also be taken wholly independently.


The module examines the international law governing the use of force through abstract assessment of the law itself, but also through detailed assessment of real world examples that highlight the law (including its inadequacies) in practice. As such, students will engage with key controversial uses of force from the modern era. The aim is for students to gain a detailed substantive understanding of the jus ad bellum, but also to understand both its value and limitations in practice. In addition, the module aims to provide some theoretical underpinning to this substantive knowledge and to question, amongst other things, the moral implications of the use of military force at the international level. 

Assessable learning outcomes:

On completion of the module, students will be expected to be able to:

• Draw upon a body of detailed substantive knowledge of international law gained through both class participation and self-study, and apply this to an international dispute or incident (actual or fictional) under examination conditions.

• Debate the relative legal merits of controversial claims made in the context of the use of force by states.

• Demonstrate an ability to set the substantive law content of the module in a wider context, both legal and non-legal.

Additional outcomes:

Given the fact that the module is orientated towards small group teaching and independent study, it will encourage autonomy with regard to critical analysis of the legal topics examined, as well as high-level oral communication skills. The module will also require students to prepare a succinct case study on an international incident relating to the use of force, draw legal conclusions with regard to the incident (both in terms of its lawfulness and any long term normative impact) and present this orally.

These outcomes are in addition to those listed in the School's ‘core skills statement’.

Outline content:

The module will cover such topics as:

• The Prohibition on the Use of Force and the Principle of Non-Intervention

• Self-Defence: General Principles

• Anticipatory Self-Defence

• Collective Security: Force Authorised by the United Nations

• Peacekeeping Operations

• Humanitarian Intervention

• The Responsibility to Protect

• The Protection of Nationals Abroad

• The Use of Force against Non-State Actors

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Teaching in this module is designed to provide students with a range of resources on which they can draw in their learning. The main elements are:

• A list of required and recommended readings, with notes and questions that will be used to guide class discussion and reflection.

• Ten weekly seminar classes of 2 hours each. 

• Students will prepare a 10 - 15 minute ‘case-study’ presentation on an international incident where a state has used force, and present this in class. Formative feedback will be provided following this presentation.

Where there are Faculty seminars relevant to the area then students in the module will be encouraged to attend and given the opportunity to discuss the issues with visiting academic presenters.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 20
Guided independent study 180
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:
An assessed essay of 15 pages (formatted in accordance with the School of Law’s Assessed Work Rules).

Formative assessment methods:
One compulsory non-assessed presentation of 10-15 minutes (during a seminar), on which the students will receive written feedback.

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/exams/student/exa-guidePG.aspx

Assessment requirements for a pass:
50% overall

Reassessment arrangements:
See School of Law PGT Programme handbook

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
1) Required text books:
2) Specialist equipment or materials:
3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
4) Printing and binding:
5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

Last updated: 20 April 2018


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