By Micro Wong Cheng Heng
War is hell… And also defined as a period of conflict between two or more recognized states that must result in at least a thousand combat deaths; anything less is categorized as an MID (Militarised Interstate Dispute).
That reflex response, along with the need to clearly define each term within, will become second nature to you once you’re through with UQF2101H: War and Democracy. Taught by Dr Shawna Metzger, this module is a thorough introduction to basic quantitative and statistical analysis using the democratic peace theory.
The module has a deceptively simple overall question: Are democratic states less likely to go to war compared to non-democratic states? To anyone who answers “yes, duh!” (I know I did), there are at least three terms within that question that have to be defined in order to get a qualitatively sound answer: What is democracy? What constitutes a state? What constitutes a war? How can we measure democracy? Assuming we can measure it, is democracy a discrete variable? What is a discrete variable anyway? The numbers, what do the numbers mean!?!
Thus begins the descent into the rabbit hole that is quantitative analysis. Fortunately, Dr Metzger will be there to guide you every step of the way. The mathematically disinclined amongst you need not fear; Excel does all the mathematical heavy lifting and Dr Metzger does an excellent job of meticulously explaining concepts like linear regression and significance testing to the unfamiliar (read: introduction).
Great attention to detail is required with quantitative analysis, and Dr Metzger is nothing if not meticulous (read: thorough). Each of her lessons is carefully planned out and structured, with clear learning objectives, notes being prepared well in advance and workload spread out to ensure as little of it is concentrated in one period as possible and lessons beginning on the hour and lasting exactly 95 minutes. She does however, expect this meticulousness to be reciprocated by her students in both work and conduct. Her assignments are designed to force you to decide which details are to be elaborated upon and which can be safely assumed to be understood to ensure you learn to be precise without becoming pedantic. Latecomers will be greeted with a stern look, though she is marginally more forgiving if the Super Bowl was on recently. Any extensions must be within be requested at least 24 hours in advance of the original deadline (down to the hour, I’ve tried). Dr Metzger may not tolerate failure in her class (rumour has it that she, not Blofeld, is SPECTRE No.1), but she is reasonable.
All in all, I’d highly recommend taking War and Democracy. Dr Metzger’s energetic and in-depth teaching style will ensure you’ll finish with a solid grounding in statistical analysis and quantitative reasoning. Though you should probably check under your seat for wires if you didn’t do your readings for class. Just in case.
PS: For additional mood whiplash, take Professor Richardson’s Imagining War module at the same time.