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Regaining Strategy: Small
Powers, Strategic Culture, and
Escalation in Afghanistan
Jan Angstrom
a
& Jan Willem Honig
b
a
Department of Peace and Conflict Research , Uppsala
University , Sweden
b
Department of War Studies , King's College London ,
UK
Published online: 07 Nov 2012.
To cite this article: Jan Angstrom & Jan Willem Honig (2012) Regaining Strategy: Small
Powers, Strategic Culture, and Escalation in Afghanistan, Journal of Strategic Studies,
35:5, 663-687, DOI: 10.1080/01402390.2012.706969
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2012.706969
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Regaining Strategy: Small Powers,
Strategic Culture, and Escalation
in Afghanistan
JAN ANGSTROM* AND JAN WILLEM HONIG**
*Department of Peace and Conict Research, Uppsala University, Sweden,
**Department of War Studies, Kings College London, UK
ABSTRACT In Western operations in Afghanistan, small European powers
escalate in different ways. While Denmark and the Netherlands have contributed
to Western escalation through integration with British and US forces, Norway
and Sweden have done so by creating a division of labour allowing US and British
combat forces to concentrate their efforts in the south. These variations in
strategic behaviour suggest that the strategic choice of small powers is more
diversied than usually assumed. We argue that strategic culture can explain the
variation in strategic behaviour of the small allies in Afghanistan. In particular,
Dutch and Danish internationalism have reconciled the use of force in the
national and international domains, while in Sweden and Norway there is still a
sharp distinction between national interest and humanitarianism.
KEY WORDS: Strategy, Escalation, Afghan War, Strategic Culture, Small States
Introduction: Regaining the Lost Art of Strategy
In a seminal 1997 article, Richard Betts emphatically answered his own
rhetorical question Should Strategic Studies Survive? by arguing that
the United States still needed to consider how the use of force is
translated into political aims even without the Soviet threat. If the
1990s seemingly was a period when the United States did not face the
threat of large-scale war, Betts suggested that such wars might re-occur
again. Also the limited wars that the United States fought in places like
Somalia and Bosnia very much continued to require strategy.
Strategic studies is both necessary and contested because it focuses
on the essential Clausewitzian problem: how to make force a
rational instrument of policy rather than mindless murder howto
The Journal of Strategic Studies
Vol. 35, No. 5, 663687, October 2012
ISSN 0140-2390 Print/ISSN 1743-937X Online/12/050663-25 2012 Taylor & Francis
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2012.706969
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integrate politics and war. This requires the interdisciplinary
joining of military grammar and political logic, in Clausewitzs
terms, a marriage that gets lip service in principle but is often
subverted in practice by those who identify more with one half of
the union than the other. Soldiers often object to politics
permeating war because it gives civilians the right to meddle in
operations, while many intellectuals object to dignifying war as an
instrument of policy or an academic priority.
1
In hindsight, it appears that Betts argument fell on deaf ears, at least in
the United States. A mere four years after his article was published, the
Bush administration as a response to the terrorist attacks of
September 11, 2001 launched the war on terrorism and began the
still ongoing operations in Afghanistan. Less than two years later, it
invaded Iraq with a clear emphasis to use John Stones words on the
technique of war rather than with a political aim in sight and as a
result the United States found itself bogged down in another long war.
2
The United States was not alone in having forgotten the essential
Clausewitzian lesson that politics should govern and permeate war and
its conduct. Throughout the Western armed forces, the Cold War with
its static war planning and xed strategic situation increasingly led to
the belief that war had become something that could be controlled with
plans and increasingly complex staff procedures. In the alleged name of
efciency, staffs introduced standardized procedures and planning
methods. In doing so, war became bureaucratized a routine. Nowhere
was this more true than for the small Western powers. The United
States dominated NATO strategy and the small powers, almost wholly
dependent upon the United States for their defence against the threat of
the Soviet Army, gradually came to understand war as narrowly
military, rather than political. As a result, strategy was taught less at the
military academies in favour of tactical manuals and the so-called
operational art the coordination and maneouvre of army corps.
3
That
strategy was lost did not pass unnoticed. Keen observers such as British
General Sir Rupert Smith complained that, after the Cold War, the
West was only able to deploy forces rather than usefully employ them
for a political purpose.
4
1
Richard Betts, Should Strategic Studies Survive?, World Politics 50/1 (1997), 8.
2
John Stone, Military Strategy: The Politics and Technique of War (London:
Continuum 2011).
3
Justin Kelly and Mike Brennan, Alien: How Operational Art Devoured Strategy
(Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute 2009).
4
Rupert Smith, The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (London:
Allen Lane 2005).
664 Jan Angstrom and Jan Willem Honig
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The end of the Cold War hammered a second nail into the small
states strategic cofn. As the perceived threat from the Soviet Union
disappeared when the Warsaw Pact dissolved, the small Western
powers dramatically reduced the size of their armies. Between 1989
and 2010, Sweden reduced its eld army from 29 brigades to a mere
seven battalions. Denmark went down from three divisions and ve
auxiliary brigades to one division consisting of two brigades. Norway
more than halved its armed forces during the 1990s from 13 brigades
in 1990, to six in 2000, and to one brigade and a number of auxiliary
units in 2010. The Netherlands which once possessed a corps with ten
brigades now only elds three understrength brigades.
5
Unfortunately,
at the same time as these reductions were implemented, the threat
from terrorism increased and the September 11 attack as well as the
ensuing lengthy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan put a huge strain even
on the armies of the remaining superpower, the United States, and its
closest ally, Britain. In the capitals of the small West European states
this presented a dilemma. For the rst time since the end of World
War II, they were forced to conduct strategy independently and
without a clear threat directed at them. However, as a result of
shrinking defence budgets they did not possess the traditional means
with which to conduct large-scale ghting on a sustained basis.
Strategy and, to use Rupert Smiths words, the ability to escalate to
success which political circumstance had made irrelevant for so long
for the small West European states, now appeared needed again. This
left the small European powers with a difcult dilemma. What kind of
strategy should they pursue? How could they escalate and achieve
success in war?
The problem of escalation in modern war is seemingly straightfor-
ward. As M.L.R. Smith outlines elsewhere in this issue, the nineteenth
century Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz deducted that the
interactive nature of war would lead the opponents to escalate as
quickly as possible to subdue the opponent and make him unable to
continue resisting (wehrlos).
6
In a much-quoted passage, Clausewitz
suggested that there is no logical limit to the application of that force.
5
On the transformation of European armed forces, see Anthony King, The
Transformation of Europes Armed Forces (Cambridge: CUP 2011) in general, and
more specic details about the reduction of armed forces in Scandinavia, see Magnus
Petersson, En skandinavisk transformatjonsbolge, in Tormod Heier (ed.), Nytt
landskap Nytt forsvar (Oslo: Abstrakt forlag 2011), 117; and Magnus Petersson,
Defence Transformation and Legitimacy in Scandinavia after the Cold War:
Theoretical and Practical Implications, Armed Forces & Society 37/4 (2011), 70124.
6
M.L.R. Smith, Escalation in Irregular War: Using Strategic Theory to Examine from
First Principles, Journal of Strategic Studies 35/5 (Oct. 2012), 61337.
Regaining Strategy 665
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Each side, therefore, compels its opponent to follow suit; a reciprocal
action is started which must lead, in theory, to extremes.
7
In reality,
Clausewitz noted, this escalation did not always occur and it never
occurred instantaneously as the theory demanded. Instead, as is now
commonly accepted, he argued that politics had an opportunity to
inuence war and this political inuence could explain why some wars
escalated and others did not. Whether or not to escalate (and with
what) is thus a political decision.
8
As M.L.R. Smith points out, again
following Clausewitz, whether or not to escalate in any war regular or
irregular is a decision that requires two components: political will and
military capability.
It is precisely this political dimension to war that poses a dilemma in
decisions to escalate or de-escalate in current Western operations in
Afghanistan. On the one hand, if the West escalates and increases the
boots on the ground, it may feed the Taliban narrative of the West
being an occupier, thus strengthening support for the Taliban. If, on the
other hand, the West de-escalates and withdraws units, it could be
understood as defeat, thus strengthening the Taliban locally and
weakening the domestic support of operations in the West. The strong
actor is damned if he does, and damned if he does not. Negotiating
between these two extremes is the central strategic challenge in counter-
insurgency warfare.
9
The small Western states, however, had few
strategic options when the invasion of Afghanistan began. They no
longer possessed any signicant ability to escalate. Their forces were
largely gone and, for over 40 years, they had ignored strategy as a
distinct category of knowledge. They now had to regain strategy in a
situation where their political will and military capability were weak.
7
Carl von Clausewitz, On War, transl. by Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton
UP 1976), Book I, Chapter 1, Section 3, 77.
8
On the rather more complicated relationship between war, escalation and politics in
Clausewitz which is obscured in the most popular modern translation by Michael
Howard and Peter Paret, see Jan Willem Honig, Clausewitzs On War: Problems of
Text and Translation, in Hew Strachan and Andreas Herberg-Rothe (eds), Clausewitz
in the Twenty-First Century (Oxford: OUP 2007), 5773 and Andreas Herberg-Rothe,
Jan Willem Honig and Daniel Moran (eds), Clausewitz: The State and War (Stuttgart:
Franz Steiner 2011).
9
See, e.g. David Ucko, The New Counterinsurgency Era: Transforming the US Military
for Modern Wars (Washington DC: Georgetown UP 2009); David Kilcullen, The
Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One (London: Hurst
2009); Isabelle Duyvesteyn, Great Expectations: The Use of Armed Force to Combat
Terrorism, in Jan Angstrom and Isabelle Duyvesteyn (eds), Modern War and the
Utility of Force (London: Routledge 2010), 6589; John Mackinlay, The Insurgent
Archipelago: From Mao to Bin Laden (London: Hurst 2009).
666 Jan Angstrom and Jan Willem Honig
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Analyses of Western operations in Afghanistan are dominated by an
almost exclusive focus on US and British military and political
concerns.
10
On the one hand, this is understandable since the US and
Britain contribute roughly 100,000 of International Security Assistance
Forces (ISAF) combined total of 130,000 troops. Moreover, the United
States also controls the key command, surveillance, and airpower
assets, thus making its contribution even more critical in practice.
There simply would not be an Afghan mission without US and British
forces bearing most of the burden. In similar fashion, most of the early
counter-insurgency literature focused on the travails of Britain, the
United States and France, namely the Western post-World War II great
powers as they attempted to maintain their colonies or fend off a
perceived communist threat.
11
On the other hand, analyzing only the
major actors in the war in Afghanistan provides a biased and
incomplete picture of the strategic situation.
Focusing on the smaller powers makes it apparent that there are
several as yet unnoticed empirical puzzles. For example, Sweden,
Hungary and Norway assumed responsibility for a Provincial
Reconstruction Team (PRT) each in the north, thus allowing US and
British forces to concentrate in the more troublesome south. Other
small powers such as the Netherlands and Denmark opted for a
different strategy using their forces in Uruzgan and Helmand
respectively in close proximity to or even fully integrated with US
and British forces. Finland, meanwhile, chose to operate jointly with
the Swedes in Mazar-e-Sharif. Anthony King has suggested that the war
in Afghanistan has demonstrated the importance of NATO for
Europes defence transformation in comparison to the European Union
(EU). He suggested that European states have prioritized Afghanistan in
favour of EU operations elsewhere in order to cement their links to
the United States.
12
However, Norways and Hungarys non-participa-
tion in the south rules out that NATO membership alone can explain
this variation. Why do the small European powers behave differently
10
See, for example, Ahmed Rashid, Descent into Chaos: The US and the Disaster in
Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia (London: Penguin 2010); Seth G. Jones, The
Graveyard of Empires: Americas War in Afghanistan (New York: Norton 2010);
Robert Egnell and David Ucko, Rethinking British Counterinsurgency (New York:
Columbia UP forthcoming).
11
See, for example, David Galula, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice
(London: Pall Mall 1964); John Nagl, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife:
Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam (Univ. of Chicago Press 2005).
12
King, The Transformation of Europes Armed Forces, 58. On the degree of
integration of Danish and Dutch forces in southern Afghanistan, see King, The
Transformation of Europes Armed Forces, 25660.
Regaining Strategy 667
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strategically when given their weaknesses and apparent lack of strategic
choice one might have expected similar responses?
Rationalistic explanations such as the need of the small powers to
keep the US rmly anchored in Europe to prevent French or German
dominance of European security aspirations are similar for all of the
small states and cannot explain the variation in choice of strategy.
13
Concerns about a potential resurgence of a Russian threat does not
explain the variation either as, for example, Denmark and Norway face
a comparable challenge in the Arctic but are responding differently. In
this article, we argue instead that strategic cultural factors of the small
Western states can explain this variation. Cold War inertia remains
signicantly stronger in Sweden and Norway than in the Netherlands
and Denmark. The latter have succeeded in re-dening themselves and
their forces. More specically, we suggest that key strategic elites in
these states understand the Afghan war differently and this mental
frame makes a more militaristic response more likely in their case,
while in Sweden and Norway a different mental frame serves to
promote a more benign response.
By analyzing the cases of Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and
Denmark, the article makes three contributions. First, a study of the
strategic behaviour of these small powers nuances analyses of the
Afghan intervention. Second, it challenges the prevailing explanation of
small power strategy as instrumentally driven by concerns with NATO
and the United States. Third, it adds to the literature on strategic
culture that so far mostly has focused on the great powers and it avoids
the trap of over-generalization from one case that often has plagued
this literature by using a comparative approach.
14
The article proceeds as follows. First, we review the research on
strategic culture, thus providing a theoretical point of departure for the
analysis. More specically, we focus on identifying a strategic culture of
the small power. Second, we conduct the comparative case analysis of
how small European states have sought to regain strategy and
escalatory military means in the Afghan War. Our analysis is structured
according to understanding of the mission, the perceived relation
between means and ends, as well as the method of warfare. In the
13
This latter explanation has been used to explain Dutch NATO policies. See Alfred
van Staden, Small State Strategies in Alliances: The Case of the Netherlands,
Cooperation and Conict 30/1 (1995), 3151. For a counterargument, see Jan Willem
Honig, Defense Policy in the North Atlantic Alliance: The Case of the Netherlands
(Westport, CT: Praeger 1993).
14
See, e.g. Alexander George and Andrew Bennett, Case Studies and Theory
Development in Social Sciences (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 2005).
668 Jan Angstrom and Jan Willem Honig
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conclusion, we summarize the argument and make some policy
suggestions on regaining strategy.
Strategic Culture and the Small Powers
Strategy is commonly understood to be rationalistic. The concept of
strategy has three components. There is, rst, a conceptual contra-
diction to talk about a strategy where the distinction between ends and
means does not exist. If you try to make military behaviour under-
standable by referring to the goals of the military action, a discussion of
the overarching political ends and the relationship with subordinate
means is inevitable. One challenge is that it is sometimes difcult to
identify what constitutes a states political goals or interests. The search
for more permanence when it comes to dening goals has led many, like
Kenneth Waltz, to assume that states at least are driven by the interests
of survival and maintaining their position in the international system.
15
Others such as Hans Morgenthau and John Mearsheimer instead argued
that states want to maximize their power.
16
These extremes are
sometimes summarized as actors either having revisionist goals or
seeking to maintain the status quo. If this is accepted then it follows that
strategys second component is the need for careful management of
scarce resources.
17
If an actor has unlimited resources, a discussion of
strategy becomes pointless, because the actor would not have to worry
about which military resources to use in which way. Strategy thus
involves the careful husbanding and instrumentalization of resources.
The third component of the rationalistic approach is that strategy is
never conducted in a vacuum, but against another actor whose interests
are in conict with your own. Because his strategic options and
calculations are never fully knowable, the other actor has signicant
inuence over ones own actions. Escalation in the sense of increasing
the destruction of the enemys means of resistance thus constitutes an
attractive option as it reduces an opponents strategic options and thus
also reduces strategic uncertainty. These three components make
strategy a vital, yet very challenging activity.
The instrumental view of strategy and escalation is largely a product
of studies of the great powers. By virtue of their greatness they have
more abundant resources which gives them more escalatory strategic
15
Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (New York: McGraw-Hill 1979).
16
Hans Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (New
York: McGraw-Hill 1948); John Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics
(New York: Norton 2001).
17
James Gow, The Serbian Project and its Adversaries: A Strategy of War Crimes
(London: Hurst 2003), 1617; Betts, Should Strategic Studies Survive?, 12.
Regaining Strategy 669
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options than small powers. The rationalistic, realist literature has thus
tended to argue that, at worst, the smaller powers were on the road to
extinction, or at best, they possessed little option but to bandwagon
with major powers. Apart from the general fact that small states have
grown substantially in number over the past century, the small
themselves as this article also shows actively seek more options.
More broadly, the rationalist realist approach also faces two analytical
challenges, one of an ontological and another of a methodological
nature. The ontological problem is that interests may not be assumed a
priori, but are a malleable product of a complex web of social
interaction.
18
The methodological problem is that inferring interests
from military action is difcult as a specic behaviour, including what
looks like simple escalatory behaviour, can serve several purposes. It is
also not entirely obvious that an actors declared policy expresses the
interests that underpin a specic military behaviour.
Although rationalistic analyses of the use of military force are more
common than cultural analyses, there is a burgeoning literature on
strategic culture. In a relatively recent literature review, Lawrence
Sondhaus argued that strategic culture offers a fundamental criticism of
rationalistic interpretations of the use of military force.
19
He traces the
beginnings of the strategic culture literature to the early 1980s when, for
example, Robert Art claimed that one purpose of military power is to
swagger. Actors signal their identity through acquiring certain military
capabilities, while ignoring others. Art suggested that Britains acquisi-
tion of nuclear weapons falls into this category. Although the British lived
under the US nuclear umbrella, they acquired their own nuclear weapons.
They did not have to do this, according to Art, for their own security, but
to conrm their great power status at a time when the Empire was being
dismantled.
20
This idea is similar to the then emerging literature on
strategic culture, in which the main purpose was to better understand the
Soviet Unions nuclear doctrine. The advantage of the concept was that it
could be used to explain the stability of a strategic approach despite the
circumstances that gave rise to it having changed.
21
In the modern understanding of strategic culture, the concept has
been used in three main ways. Some treat it as an independent variable,
where a states strategic culture has been considered to cause a certain
18
Martha Finnemore, National Interests in International Society (Ithaca, NY: Cornell
UP 1996). Erik Ringmar, Identity, Interest, and Action: A Cultural Explanation of
Swedens Intervention in the Thirty Years War (Cambridge: CUP 1996).
19
Lawrence Sondhaus, Strategic Culture and Ways of War (London: Routledge 2006).
20
Robert J. Art, To What Ends Military Power?, International Security 4/4 (1980),
1718.
21
Sondhaus, Strategic Culture and Ways of War, 4.
670 Jan Angstrom and Jan Willem Honig
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behaviour.
22
Others have used the term as an intermediate variable,
namely strategic culture acts as a lter through which other factors,
such as organizations, inuence behaviour.
23
Finally, for some the term
implies a constructivist approach in which a distinction between
dependent and independent variables is impossible to make. In the
analysis below, we will follow this understanding of the concept.
Within a constructivist approach, it makes more sense to answer how
rather than why.
24
The analysis below highlights different patterns of norms in the
strategic discourse of the small European powers and how these
inuence the decision-makers understanding of the world around
them. Following Peter Katzenstein, we distinguish between constitutive
norms that can be said to dene who you are and regulatory norms that
dene what is considered appropriate behaviour.
25
Strategic culture is
thus dened as a set of beliefs and norms which govern against whom,
how, by what right and for what purposes the use of military force is
considered legitimate. It is important to note that identity is not
something that is produced solely by the actors own will, but is created
in a social context. This means that it is not only self-image, but also
anothers image of self that shapes identity. In this context it should be
claried which actors shape and preserve the strategic culture within
the small European powers. Following Lantis and Howlett, it is fruitful
to consider the strategic culture as a result of a negotiation and
balancing between various elites, such as armed forces leadership,
government, parliament and opposition parties, but also international
actors and the norms they spread internationally.
26
How does strategic culture inuence behaviour? According to some,
it inuences behaviour by its inherent norms limiting the options
the actor can imagine as solutions to a given problem.
27
It is difcult to
imagine that the Swedish and Norwegian troops in Kosovo, for
example, ever considered massacring the Albanians who rioted against
them in Caglavica in March 2004, even when the situation seemed to
22
Alistair Iain Johnston, Thinking About Strategic Culture, International Security 19/
4 (1995), 3264.
23
Elisabeth Kier, Imagining War: French and British Military Doctrine between the
Wars (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP 1997).
24
Martha Finnemore, The Purpose of Intervention: Changing Beliefs about the Use of
Force (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP 2003), 15.
25
Peter Katzenstein, Cultural Norms and National Security: Norms and Identity in
World Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP 1996), 1718.
26
Jeffrey Lantis and Darryl Howlett, Strategic Culture, in John Baylis et al. (eds),
Strategy in a Contemporary World (Oxford: OUP 2007), 94.
27
Finnemore, The Purpose of Intervention.
Regaining Strategy 671
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escalate out of control and they began to take casualties. But the
Swedes have not always been like that. During the Thirty Years War,
Swedish units systematically committed atrocities against a part of the
German population they would now regard as innocent civilians.
Norms for how military force is used change.
28
Norms, however, do
not only limit options, but they also indicate which options and values
an actor should strive for. Building on this insight, some argue that
strategic culture inuences by shaping the organizations that are
supposed to deal with a specic strategic problem.
29
According to a third logic, strategic culture inuences more indirectly
by contributing to how a specic strategic situation is understood
by policy-makers and the concepts they then use to discuss the
situation.
30
Such an understanding of strategic culture helps explain
differences among states responses to similar events. For example, the
terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in New York and Washington
were understood in the US as an attack against the country. The
terrorist attacks of 7 July 2005 in London, on the other hand, were
regarded as a crime in the UK.
31
Martin van Creveld stresses furthermore
that conventions and norms are not only relevant to how actors use
military force, but also matter regarding what is considered a military
problem. He argues that war cannot be understood, nor can it be per-
formed, without the existence of a set of norms that dene what it is.
32
Here, it becomes apparent that concepts such as security, war and threats
mean different things within a constructivist approach as compared to the
rationalist approach. Rather than considering security as part of an
interest-driven, calculated ends-means relationship, constructivists tend to
think about it as something that is constructed as a result of different
ideational patterns.
Interpreting strategy by taking into account culture makes it
important to avoid both ethnocentrism and cultural determinism in
the analysis. We should be careful not to assume that culture only plays
a role in Afghanistan and other such areas where small European
28
Jeffrey Legro, Military Culture and Inadvertent Escalation in World War II,
International Security 18/4 (1994), 10842; Martin van Creveld, The Transformation
of War (New York: The Free Press 1991).
29
Theo Farrell, Norms of War: Cultural Beliefs and Modern Conict (Boulder, CO:
Lynne Rienner 2005).
30
Sondhaus, Strategic Culture and Ways of War, 127; Judith Goldstein and Robert
Keohane, Ideas and Foreign Policy: Beliefs, Institutions, and Political Change (Ithaca,
NY: Cornell UP 1993).
31
Richard Jackson, Writing the War on Terrorism: Language, Politics and Counter-
Terrorism (Manchester UP 2005).
32
Martin van Creveld, The Culture of War (New York: Random House 2009), 158.
672 Jan Angstrom and Jan Willem Honig
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powers operate against strangers. If culture has an impact in the East, it
certainly has also an impact in the West. One should also be careful not
to exaggerate the cultural impact and equate it with national character.
This mistake is easily made. For example, when the British sea power
theorist Sir Julian Corbett formulated his thoughts on a British way of
warfare in the early 1900s, he intended not to try to identify a specic,
genetically based, eternal British way of waging war, but simply that
Britain traditionally, under the inuence of geographic position and
economic interests, had to balance between a strong eet and
continental involvement. Variations in emphasis between these oppos-
ing poles were affected by changes in technology, doctrine and policy
preferences. Strategic culture is thus subject to change, albeit like
other cultural characteristics a slow continuous remodelling.
33
As a
result, there are problems with explaining radical change. In the short
term, the strategic culture is thus embedded in certain discursive
frameworks, but in the longer term, this framework changes.
34
Explaining Small European Powers Strategic Choice
Why are Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands behaving
strategically differently in the Afghan War? In this section, we outline
an explanation based upon these states different strategic culture. We
will focus on three analytical dimensions; under what conditions force
is considered legitimate, how a particular international crisis is
understood, and the armed forces understanding of itself. If strategic
culture can help us to explain the small European state strategy,
we should expect Danish and Dutch strategic culture to have been
more belligerent before Afghanistan than the Swedish and Norwegian.
We should expect a lower threshold to the use of force in the former
cases compared with the latter, and we should expect a different
understanding of how force is translated into political effect. Broadly,
the expectations hold. The Danish and Dutch strategic cultures at the
turn of the millennium were more activist oriented, while the Swedish
and Norwegian strategic cultures still maintained a strong focus on
national, rather than international missions. Key players in Denmark
and the Netherlands, moreover, early on understood the war in
Afghanistan to be a war, while Swedish and Norwegian elites
33
Wilhelm Mirow, Strategic Culture Matters: A Comparison of German and British
Military Interventions since 1990 (Berlin: Lit Verlag 2009).
34
David M. Jones and Mike L. Smith, Noise but No Signal: Strategy, Culture, and the
Poverty of Constructivism, Studies in Conict and Terrorism 24/6 (2001), 48595;
Iver B. Neumann and Henrikki Heikka, Grand Strategy, Strategic Culture, Practice,
Cooperation and Conict 40/1 (2005), 523.
Regaining Strategy 673
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continue ten years on to refrain from using the word. Instead,
governments in the latter cases chose to term it a stabilization
operation.
Escalation by Integration: Denmark and the Netherlands
Danish and Dutch strategic culture led themto understand that strategic
success and escalation in Afghanistan rests with integration with the
Western great powers. While the Norwegian and Swedish cases point to
how strategic culture can be a source of inertia and continuity, the
Danish and Dutch cases very much show how strategic culture
discourses and practices are far from immutable. Indeed, Danish and
Dutch strategic culture transformed during the 1990s leading to new
interpretations of key concepts and world-views that made the countries
prone to opt for integration as a means to escalate legitimately when
core foreign policy values were perceived to be under threat.
In Denmark and the Netherlands, for different reasons, similar
conclusions were drawn from the end of the Cold War and the wars in
the Balkans. Both states have long been members of both the EU and
NATO. They share a strategic history in so far as both were occupied
by Nazi Germany during World War II and their economies rely
heavily upon trade. Both are considered and consider themselves to
be small states. Already in 1883, the Danish MP Viggo Horup
rhetorically asked about the Danish defence effort whats the use of it?
in the aftermath of the defeat by Prussia in 1864.With the ever growing
armies of the great powers, the country was seen as too small to defend.
The Netherlands took longer to accept its fate of small power status.
After the loss of empire in 1949, the long-serving foreign minister and
NATOsecretary-general, Joseph Luns, still used to quip that the Nether-
lands was a major power among the small powers.
35
Denmark and
the Netherlands, too, shared the same geostrategic position for most of
the twentieth century. Unable to rely condently on French land power
for support, they were squeezed between British maritime interests and
German expansionism. After the two world wars, Denmark and the
Netherlands joined NATO as the saying goes to keep the Americans
in, the Soviets out, and the Germans down.
During the Cold War, both states developed a defensively oriented
strategic culture. In the Danish case, there were still signicant doubts
about the utility of military force to reach political ends. According to
Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen, the central debate occurred between
35
Jan Willem Honig, Myths That Keep Small Powers Going: Internationalist Idealism
in the Netherlands, in Cyril Buffet and Beatrice Heuser (eds), Haunted by History:
Myths in International Relations (Oxford: Berghahn 1998), 23.
674 Jan Angstrom and Jan Willem Honig
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defencists and cosmopolitans, where the former position emphasized
the need for a strong national defence and alliances since Denmark was
surrounded by potentially threatening neighbours and the latter
stressed more pacist policies such as neutrality and reliance upon
international organizations such as the United Nations to keep stability
in Northern Europe.
36
An explicitly defensive posture with strong
connections to NATO was able to balance between these two positions
during the Cold War. The Netherlands established a very similar
strategic culture in that military means were reserved for narrow
national defence purposes. In foreign political terms, however,
neutrality and neutralist tendencies were completely abandoned and
foreign policy steered an increasingly uneasy, yet highly activist course
between Atlanticism which expressed unreserved support for the US
and NATO, and internationalist idealism which aimed to further the
rule of international law.
37
The end of the Cold War and the Balkan Wars during the 1990s had
a profound effect on both Danish and Dutch strategic culture. In
Denmark, the end of the Soviet threat implied that there was no longer
any need to debate the utility of force to defend Denmark. Rasmussen
suggests that this paved the way for mutual understanding of the two
Cold War camps of defencists and cosmopolitans in a more activist
direction. Danish interests began to be understood as best served
abroad. Crucially, the rather ironic and defeatist whats the use of it?
began to be reinterpreted as what should it be used for? an open-
ended question that for the rst time in modern history made the
Danish armed forces a resource in its foreign and security policy.
Hence, from being an essentially cosmopolitan argument, it began to be
understood as a vital strategic question that deserved an answer. The
old cosmopolitan agenda of globalization as a responsibility of the rich
Western world to share its riches and create a more peaceful world
provided the answer in the Danish case. Rather than assuming that
peace would come naturally from shared values, Danish elites during
the 1990s gradually came to the conclusion that the use of force could
be an option in creating those shared values.
38
The turn to a more activist discourse in Denmark began in the 1990s.
The basis for this signicant re-orientation was the way the end of the
Cold War was understood. In Denmark (as opposed to Norway and
Sweden), the end of the Cold War was understood fundamentally to
alter the conditions for Danish security. The participation of Danish
36
Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen, Whats the Use of It? Danish Strategic Culture and the
Utility of Force, Cooperation and Conict 40/1 (2005), 6789.
37
Honig, Myths.
38
Rasmussen, Whats the Use of It?, 81.
Regaining Strategy 675
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combat units, including main battle tanks that saw action, in Bosnia
and later in Kosovo made the use of force internationally appear
fruitful and to some extent the changing discourse was helped along by
NATO heading in the same direction. By 1998, the Defence
Commission declared that The task of the Danish Armed Forces has
changed in nature from being an element in a reactive, deterrence-
based guarantee of security to also being an active and condence-
building instrument of security policy.
39
In 2003, the Defence White
Paper completed the change from a deterrent logic to an activist,
expeditionary logic. Rasmussen suggests that the 2003 White Paper
implies that Danish ground forces should be able to participate in war
ghting operations and thus their performance should be bench-marked
by cutting-edge American and British forces.
40
From a nationally
focused defensive force posture, Danish strategic culture had changed
to an internationally focused one just in time for the war on terror
and operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Within this changed strategic
discourse, it was natural for the Danish decision-makers to understand
operations in Afghanistan as a war and as pressures for escalation
increased, Denmark became more prone to solve the strategic problem
of lack of military capabilities through integration.
A similar transformation occurred in the Netherlands though with
softer edges and more internal tensions. At rst, the armed forces,
Atlanticists and international idealists found themselves in unison on
the need to intervene in the Balkans. Like the Danish cosmopolitans,
the Dutch idealists pushed hardest for armed intervention, while
Atlanticists and military were more hesitant about the use of force.
41
The Srebrenica debacle, however, turned the tables. The armed forces
reacted by subscribing fully to the creation of professional expedi-
tionary forces which could be employed anywhere, partly to extinguish
the stain of Srebrenica and partly because they saw little future in
maintaining a narrow national defence capability. The foreign policy
elite turned more openly realist and favoured operating in an
international concert with other powers to ght global instability.
42
The internationalist idealists, on the other hand, became more cautious,
a development reinforced by the policies of the Bush administration
and the mounting difculties on the Iraqi and Afghan battleelds.
Nonetheless, they united in supporting a re-interpretation of the
39
Quoted in Rasmussen, Whats the Use of It?, p. 77.
40
Rasmussen, Whats the Use of It?, 80.
41
Jan Willem Honig and Norbert Both, Srebrenica: Record of a War Crime, rev. ed.
(New York: Penguin 1997).
42
Norbert Both, From Indifference to Entrapment: The Netherlands and the Yugoslav
Crisis, 19901995 (Amsterdam UP 2000).
676 Jan Angstrom and Jan Willem Honig
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constitution at the start of the new millennium, dening the purpose of
the armed forces not only as providing for the nations defence and the
protection of national interest, but now interpreting the clause of
promoting and maintaining the international legal order in a very
activist sense.
43
Unsurprisingly, therefore, thousands of Dutch troops deployed to
Iraq and Afghanistan. Some 1,100 served in Iraq between 2003 and
2005, allegedly arriving with the longest list of caveats of any
contributing country. Billed as a stabilization force and widely
understood at home as a peacekeeping mission, local commanders
nonetheless stretched their mandate and developed a Dutch approach
that went some considerable way towards a counter-insurgency light
operation.
44
From 2005 to 2010, another 1,600 went to Uruzgan, the
birth province of the Mullah Omar in Afghanistan. Operating with the
Australians, they were again subject to many caveats and ofcially
engaged in stabilization and reconstruction, though in practice the
troops were allowed to continue the trend set in Iraq of mission creep
towards counter-insurgency.
45
In contrast to the Danes, Dutch forces
operated at arms length from the British and the US in what, especially
in Afghanistan, was difcult, conict-ridden territory. So, in their own
way, by a careful choice of theatre of operations and combat troops,
they also sought to escalate through integrating as closely as was
possible given domestic political constraints with the US-dominated
international effort in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Escalation by Division of Labour: Sweden and Norway
Meanwhile, in Norway and Sweden, Cold War inertia lingers strongly.
Again, for different reasons, but ultimately the two states drew similar
conclusions from the end of the Cold War and the wars in the Balkans.
Whereas the latter taught the Dutch that force under certain conditions
was a necessity and the Danes that force actually worked, it taught the
Swedes and Norwegians that force is only a last resort and other ways
of using the military were more efcient. To a greater extent than in
Denmark and the Netherlands, their understanding led to an attempt to
maintain signicant independence within ISAF operations and to
43
Arie Rem Korteweg, The Superpower, The Bridge-Builder, and the Hesitant Ally:
How Defence Transformation Divided NATO, 19912008 (Leiden: Leiden University
Press 2011), 216.
44
Thijs Brocades Zaalberg and Arthur ten Cate, Missie in Al-Muthanna, De
Nederlandse krijgsmacht in Irak, 20032005 (Amsterdam: Boom 2010).
45
Christ Klep, Uruzgan, Nederlandse militairen op missie, 20052010 (Amsterdam:
Boom 2011).
Regaining Strategy 677
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pursue a more development-directed strategy in which military means
were just an enabler. A shortage of military capabilities prevented
traditional forms of escalation and so they understood their strategic
role in the Afghan War as carving out a niche in the north and
contributing to the overall Western escalation by allowing US and
British forces to concentrate in the more turbulent south.
Despite different strategic developments during the twentieth
century, Norway and Sweden share signicant parts of their strategic
culture. While Norway was occupied by Nazi Germany during World
War II and later joined NATO, Sweden managed to stay out of the war
and subsequently continued its policy of neutrality as a grand strategy
to avoid being caught in a potential third world war between the
superpowers. When one probes these differences, however, it becomes
clear that they were matters of degree rather than deep substance.
Within NATO, Norway posed signicant national caveats. For
example, uniquely in NATO, the country refused to have nuclear
weapons stationed on its national territory. On the other hand,
although Sweden was not a formal member of NATO, it had signicant
and secret cooperation with the alliance to prepare its defences in case
of a Soviet attack. If Norway was a somewhat reluctant member,
Sweden was an eager-to-please non-member.
46
In particular, Norway and Sweden share two signicant features in
their strategic cultures. First, the Cold War contributed to create a
culture that made a sharp distinction between the national and the
international and prioritized the former. This distinction made it
possible to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable: narrow, traditional
self-interest with humanitarianism and modernity, and the use of force
with peaceful conict resolution. Second, this distinction also
facilitated an internationalized identity that could accommodate
change in international normative structures. These two features are
central to Sweden and Norway, but were much less pronounced in the
46
On Swedens and Norways relations with NATO, see Magnus Petersson, The
Scandinavian Triangle: Danish-Norwegian-Swedish Military Intelligence Cooperation
and Swedish Security Policy During the Cold War, Journal of Strategic Studies 29/4
(Aug. 2006), 60732; Magnus Petersson, NATO and the EU Neutrals: Instrumental
or Value-Oriented Utility? in Ha kan Edstro m, Janne Haaland Matlary and Magnus
Petersson (eds), NATO: The Power of Partnerships (London: Palgrave Macmillan
2011); Kjell Engelbrekt and Jan Angstrom (eds), Svensk sa kerhetspolitik i Europa och
va rlden (Stockholm: Norstedts 2010); Rolf Tamnes, The Strategic Importance of the
High North during the Cold War, in Gustav Schmidt (ed.), A History of NATO, Vol.
3: The First Fifty Years (London: Palgrave Macmillan 2001), 25774; Rolf Tamnes,
Norsk forsvarshistorie, Allianseforsvar i endring (Bergen: Eide forlag 2004); Vojtech
Mastny, Sven Holtsmark and Andreas Wenger (eds), War Plans and Alliances in the
Cold War: Threat Perceptions in the East and West (London: Routledge 2006).
678 Jan Angstrom and Jan Willem Honig
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Danish and Dutch cases. The sharp distinction between the national,
where force is a legitimate defensive instrument, and the international,
where conicts should be solved peacefully, implies that Swedes and
Norwegians in contrast to the Danes and Dutch are less prone to use
force in practice.
47
The distinction between the national and international runs through
all facets of Swedish and Norwegian strategic discourse. The
dichotomy makes two separate forms of politics possible which avoid
succumbing to obvious contradiction. Participation in international
operations has been voluntary for ofcers, while for the defence of the
country neither ofcers nor soldiers were entrusted with such free will.
In the chapel at Karlberg Castle in Stockholm, home of Swedish ofcer
training for over 200 years, there is a plaque which lists the ofcer
cadets who have fallen for the fatherland separately from those who
have fallen for peace. This division indicates that the armed forces
distinguish sharply between service in the nations defence and service
in international peace. The distinction runs through the organization of
the armed forces too. In Sweden, units were specially created and
earmarked for international operations. Furthermore, instead of
training these forces within the usual regimental structure (where the
forces for national defence were trained), a separate training facility
and organization SWEDINT was created in 1948. Ofcers who
participated in United Nations (UN) operations during the Cold War
had to request leave from their regular units and take up employment
with the UN. In this way, the distinction between the national and
international was created and maintained in daily operations. The
situation in Norway was similar.
All this illustrates that in both countries the national is prioritized
over the international. If we use Mirows and Meyers differentiation
of strategic culture, we see this even more clearly.
48
It is only for
national defence that the use of force is legitimate and unproblematic.
In the international order, intervention for purposes of self-interest is
47
The description of Swedish strategic culture differs from Gunnar A

selius interpreta-
tion. A

selius focused only on national defence in his analysis and failed to recognize the
importance of international norms as critical in changing Swedish strategic culture in
the middle to late 1990s. See Gunnar A

selius, Swedish Strategic Culture After 1945,


Cooperation and Conict 40/1 (2005), 2544. A

selius did, however, recognize other


key features of Swedish strategic culture, such as the importance of administrative
structure, social democracy and corporatism in the creation of the guiding strategic
principle of total defence.
48
Mirow, Strategic Culture Matters; Christoph O. Meyer, The Quest for a European
Strategic Culture: Changing Norms on Security and Defence in the European Union
(London: Palgrave 2006).
Regaining Strategy 679
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not considered legitimate. The type of military force that can be
legitimately used also differs. The national imposes fewer restrictions,
whereas in international operations there is a lower tolerance for losses
for both soldiers and civilians in the area of operations. Maintaining a
sharp distinction between the national and international spheres frees
the Swedish and Norwegian strategic cultures from contradiction. The
Cold War implied that the threat of invasion required priority, The
clarity of us and them made the use of force in self-defence
unproblematic and gave it high moral and political legitimacy. In the
international sphere, solidarity, humanity and non-violence were the
key standards. In this way, a narrative was created that could reconcile
why the countries possessed armed forces and why they must be used in
specic and different ways. Through this dichotomy, ofcers were also
able to dene themselves in line with the dominant norm in Western
military hierarchies, that is the interstate conventional war.
49
The sharp
division between the national and international not only gave the
impression that these involved fundamentally different activities but
they also meant that experiences from ofcers and soldiers returning
from international operations could safely be ignored. As Nina Graeger
and Halvard Leira explain regarding Norway:
Since the main task of the military was national defence, it was
assumed that international experience had little to offer with
regard to relevant skills and scenarios. This was reected in career
patterns. Service in Northern Norway was a prerequisite if one
wanted to rise to the highest positions, whereas international
experience was neither necessary nor advantageous for a career in
the armed forces and could even spoil future promotions.
50
The primacy of the national over the international is also clearly visible
in the tasks given to the armed forces by their governments. It was not
until the defence reform of 2000 that Norway accorded international
operations a higher priority. Prior to this, international peace support
operations were only a supplementary task for the armed forces. In
Sweden, it took seven years after the Wall came down to ofcially
recognize new tasks. In the defence bill A Renewed Total Defence
(1996), international operations for the rst time became one of the
main tasks of the armed forces even though the whole remained
49
Eyal Ben-Ari, Changing Models of Military Violence? The Swedish Armed Forces
since the End of the Cold War, Paper presented at the ERGOMAS conference in
Stockholm, June 2009.
50
Nina Graeger and Halvard Leira, Norwegian Strategic Culture after World War II:
From a Local to a Global Perspective, Cooperation and Conict 40/1 (2005), 50.
680 Jan Angstrom and Jan Willem Honig
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subsumed under total defence. Until the mid-1990s, international
operations were not ofcially a part of security policy in Sweden, but
foreign policy, which can be seen as a sign that it was not considered
important to the armed forces. One analyst even claims that they were
seen in a negative light as they took away resources from the main task
of defending Sweden.
51
In the 2001 defence reform, the government
nally made international operations the main task for the armed
forces. As in Norway, ofcers careers, however, did not necessarily
benet from the participation in international operations. Even lessons
learned from the Congo in the 1960s, where Swedish soldiers
experienced combat for the rst time since the Napoleonic wars, did
not lter through to the Swedish infantry manuals. Fireghts in
the Congo were clearly understood to be different from combat in
Sweden.
Ten years after operations in Afghanistan began, there are still signs of
Cold War inertia. Both Sweden and Norway are struggling with
implementing reforms that make international operations mandatory
for ofcers and soldiers. Many continue to regard international
operations as optional and only national defence as mandatory. Yet
another sign that the national is associated with self-interest and the
international with humanitarianismis that it is relatively difcult to nd
explicit interest-driven motives why Sweden should carry out interna-
tional operations. This shows how deep the norm of humanity above
self-interest is in the international context. And it shows how intimately
connected it is with Swedish strategic identity. There almost seems to
rest a taboo on saying that Norway or Sweden have national interests
beyond the narrow national territorial sphere. If one compares this
political discourse with Denmark, where the utility of the use of force
and its connection to specied national interests are a necessity to justify
major national commitments, the differences in strategic culture are
clear.
52
The second major feature of Swedish and Norwegian strategic
culture is the high degree of susceptibility to the spread of international
norms. Martha Finnemore is among a growing number of researchers
who emphasize that the modern state is socialized into a system of
51
Mattias Viktorin, Exercising Peace: Conict Preventionism, Neoliberalism and the
New Military, dissertation, Stockholm Univ. 2008. See also Peter Viggo Jakobsen,
Nordic Approaches to Peace Operations: A New Model in the Making? (London:
Frank Cass 2006), 187 and Karl Yden, Kriget och karria rsystemet: Fo rsvarsmaktens
organiserande i fred (Gothenburg: Bokfo rlaget BAS 2008).
52
Magnus Christiansson, Far Away, So Close: Comparing Danish and Swedish
Defence and Security Policies, Militaert tidsskrift 138/3 (2009), 118.
Regaining Strategy 681
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states and that norms tend to spread among them.
53
There are several
key internationalized norms that matter in this context. One concerns
the accepted position and role of armed forces. Western armed forces
have over the past few centuries come to understand their identity as
managers of violence. The gradual professionalization of the ofcer
corps came to be understood as requiring increasingly complex
planning methods and staff procedures designed to lead large-scale
armies in conventional military campaigns. The Norwegian and
Swedish armed forces were not immune to this process by which
international relations not only create constitutive norms, but also
regulative norms about what kind of force can be legitimately used for
what purposes. During the 1990s, these traditional norms began to be
overshadowed by a new set when the international community
gradually attributed more importance to individual security, rather
than interstate security. Through the UN Secretary-Generals report
An Agenda for Peace in 1992 and The Responsibility to Protect a
decade later, state sovereignty came close to being trumped by
individual security. It is clearly possible to interpret the increased
number of international interventions in civil wars from this
perspective. Norway and Sweden have been far more prone to
participate in interventions after these norms started to be shared
widely among the international community.
Critically, there are differences in the spread of international norms
in Norway and Sweden, as well as in Denmark and the Netherlands.
Since the distinction between the national and international is far
stronger in the rst two states strategic culture, it is possible to discern
differences in the receptivity to certain international norms and also
differences in the ways the same norm is interpreted. For example,
when then British Minister of Defence (and subsequent NATO
Secretary-General) Lord Robertson expressed his ambition in 1998
that the British armed forces were to be a force for good in the world,
the phrase resonated strongly with how Oslo and Stockholm under-
stood their own international political role, including that of their
armed forces. The view that Norway and Sweden do good in world
politics is central to the self-perception of Norwegian and Swedish
decision-makers. They tend to think of themselves as conducting
international interventions not because it is in their interest to do so,
but because they are driven by altruism and compassion. This
understanding of self existed before 1989, but it was strongly
reinforced by the development of norms promoting humanitarian
53
Finnemore, National Interests in International Society; John Gerard Ruggie,
Constructing the World Polity (London: Routledge 1998); Alexander Wendt, Social
Theory of International Politics (Cambridge: CUP 1999).
682 Jan Angstrom and Jan Willem Honig
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operations during the 1990s. The increased number of armed conicts
globally after the Cold War implied that there were more places in need
of good. The effects of this need to do good, though, are different. In
Britain, and as we saw in the cases of Denmark and the Netherlands, it
has led to an increasing use of force. Sweden and Norway have chosen
to focus on PRTs in more peaceful regions of Afghanistan. Their
humanitarian efforts in support of peace seem to derive part of their
strategic validity from their contribution to creating and maintaining a
division of labour among Western powers in so far as it allowed Britain
and the US to concentrate their units in the south. At the same time,
governments and PRTs can maintain that reconstruction and develop-
ment are the main focus and therefore in line with the assigned
international role of the armed forces. This strategic idea thus ts
perfectly with Norwegian and Swedish self-perception as do-gooders
internationally. Without the means to support conventional ideas of
escalating to strategic success in military missions, both Norway and
Sweden can successfully maintain that peace enforcement is not their
main strategic priority in international missions.
Conclusions
Why are the small European states pursuing different strategies in
Afghanistan? In this article, we have argued that rationalist realist
calculations such as maintaining strong ties with the United States fail
to explain variation in strategic behaviour. Instead, we suggest that
strategic culture can explain this variation. Small states are particularly
interesting as cases for understanding escalation in modern war. The
end of Cold War resulted in dramatic cuts in armed forces size and
escalation in traditional ways suddenly became close to impossible.
This presented a key strategic challenge for the small states as they no
longer possessed the necessary forces to conduct and sustain large-scale
operations. To address the challenge they were suddenly required to
reengage with regaining strategy which during the long years of the
Cold War they had not needed to. The Danes and the Dutch opted to
escalate through integration with the Western great powers, while
Swedes and Norwegians opted to contribute to escalation through
creating and re-creating a division of labour that allowed British and
US forces to be centred in southern Afghanistan. The menu of strategic
choice thus proved richer than traditional rationalist realist theory
posits. Instead of putting up and wholly subsuming their military
efforts under the umbrella of the major powers, or shutting up by
staying away, these four small powers all strategized differently. Their
estimations of ends and means and their interaction with allies and
opponents differed substantially. Despite their limited means and
Regaining Strategy 683
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despite their inability to engage in traditional patterns of military
escalation, they nonetheless sought to exercise effective strategic choice.
The key difference that can explain this variation can be found in
strategic culture. On the one hand, the Danes and the Dutch were
found to share signicant traits in their strategic culture. In these small
states, their internationalist strategic culture, for slightly different
reasons, permitted them to understand the end of the Cold War as
fundamentally changing the conditions for their security, making them
more susceptible to activist and militarist policies. These policies
dissolved the distinction between the national and international and led
to abandoning of the Cold War primacy of national defence. On the
other hand, in Sweden and Norway sharing a small state northern
nationalist strategic culture the distinction between national and
international remained strong. This made it possible to maintain two
separate policy domains, which the Dutch and Danish internationalism
had reconciled. In the northern version of small state strategic culture,
the lingering distinction between the national and international spheres
created and re-created a sharp distinction between interest and
humanitarianism, which permeated the decision-making, as well as
the planning, training and conduct of military operations and led to a
different understanding of the strategic situation, the problem, and the
utility of force.
As noted in the introduction, traditional notions of escalation which
centre on overwhelming force and destroying an opponents means of
resistance are of limited utility in counter-insurgency. Both over-
escalation and under-escalation come with serious political price-tags.
The limited utility of the overt and crushing use of force means that
smaller powers with limited military capabilities have an opportunity
to play a role of strategic signicance which they, paradoxically, with
far larger armed forces could not achieve during the Cold War. In this
article, we have attempted to show that, in very varying ways, small
European states are seizing this newly discovered opportunity.
Note on Contributors
Jan Angstrom is an associate professor at the Department of Peace and
Conict Research, Uppsala University, Sweden. He holds a PhD from
Department of War Studies, Kings College, London. His research
interests include the nature and conduct of modern war. He has
published articles in several journals, among them, International
Relations, Security Studies, Civil Wars, Small Wars and Insurgencies
as well as Comparative Strategy. He has co-edited several books with
Isabelle Duyvesteyn, the latest being Modern War and the Utility of
Force (Routledge 2010).
684 Jan Angstrom and Jan Willem Honig
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Jan Willem Honig is Senior Lecturer in War Studies at Kings College,
London, as well as Visiting Professor in Military Strategy at the
Swedish National Defence College in Stockholm and a Senior Visiting
Research Fellow at the Department of Peace and Conict Research at
Uppsala University. He writes extensively on strategy and recently co-
edited, with Andreas Herberg-Rothe and Daniel Moran, a volume
titled Clausewitz: The State and War (Franz Steiner 2011).
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