DHP P208M: Topics in International Relations and Security Policy
This course examines core issues in international relations and security policy. It aims to give students a fundamental understanding of physical security and to address the broader dimensions of security and threats to human security in light of the contemporary challenges around the use of force and violence faced by states and citizens. We will investigate whether the nature of violence has changed such that states and citizens have had to reassess how to respond. For example, since the end of the Cold War, the locus of security threats has shifted. No longer is the only and greatest threat to security great powers tilting against one another but now the threat rests in dynamics within and across states by actors with global reach. Saying this, however, does not imply that dynamics between states no longer matter for global security. We live in an unprecedented era in which not only states but also individuals and groups of individuals can do great harm to global peace and security. Just consider the digital revolution and cyber security or transnational networks and jihadists. As we know from research on armed conflict, organized political violence has been declining, particularly interstate war, and trends indicate that people dying from war has also declined. Moreover, events of the past three decades have impressed upon scholars and policy-makers alike that the problem of fragile and failed states and internal war are no longer peripheral issues that can be ignored, as they are often at the center of major shifts in world affairs. Recent events in Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria, Libya, Iraq, and Ukraine demonstrate that fragile states and those states experiencing civil war pose serious threats to international stability through the overflow of violence, the mass migration of refugees, the disruption of trade, and the potential for terrorist network sanctuaries. Never before has the threat environment been so varied and the nature of violence so dispersed. Furthermore, we have come to understand that security is more than just physical and that issues of identity, justice, and societal well-being are core elements of security that also require consideration.