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Current Threats: External and Internal

Module leaders: Professor Anthony Glees and Dr Julian Richards
Winter Term (30 units)

This module aims to develop an in-depth understanding and appraisal of macro geopolitical threats as perceived from a UK and European perspective at the beginning of the 21st Century. In so doing, the module aims to:

  • show the transition from the threat picture during the Cold War to current security priorities in the UK and the wider region.
  • demonstrate the critical linkage between major external threat issues external to the UK, and the security and threat picture within the UK.
  • provide a predictive analysis of how the threat picture might develop in the immediate future and the implications of this for intelligence and security policy formation in the UK and the wider region.

In analysing the material presented, students will develop a critical approach to threat perceptions and strategies which questions why the West sets the security priorities as it does currently, and how perspectives may be different in other societies and cultures. The scale and relative priority of key threats, both external and internal, is constantly analysed, appraised and challenged. A historical analysis will demonstrate that, while the macro threat picture has changed substantially in recent years, there are important political and ideological trends spanning many years which have shaped the current situation and the resultant policy responses in the West.

In terms of methodology, reading and lectures will be interspersed with practical exercise and debates which will encourage students to develop skills of information analysis, assessment and appraisal; of the crystallisation of different perspectives on threat perceptions and priorities into useful and clear policy recommendations; and the presentation of arguments and analyses to the rest of the group, both orally and using presentation aides and techniques. The skill of teamwork will also be developed at certain stages of the module, as students will experience working in small groups in a complementary way on specific analysis and presentation tasks.

Module outline

  • Introduction: from Cold War to new threats

External threats

  • Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation
  • Energy security and globalisation
  • China, Korea and non-aligned “Third Worldism”
  • Iran, Iraq and the Middle East
  • Terrorism 1: foundations – “many terrorisms”
  • Terrorism 2: Al Qaeda and the Islamist terrorist threat

Internal threats

  • Radical Islamism and “home-grown” terrorism
  • Cyber-terrorism and the Internet age

Assessment

  • A formal seminar paper, of around 30 minutes’ duration, delivered to fellow students (30%)
  • A written 3,000 word essay on a topic approved by the teaching team (70%)