“Mud Academy”: Perspectives on military adaptation

I published a chapter in a collective book on military adaptation.

My own research focused on British military adaptation during the Afghan campaign (2006-2011), but there is a serie of fascinating chapters (some in French, others in English) on XVI° century warfare, counter-insurgency, the French experience in Afghanistan or military adaptation in EU operations (among others). This collection of chapters offers a large view on the processes of military adaptation.

The book is available from here and in PDF.

My own chapter is written in French, but English-speaking readers interested in British military adaptation in Afghanistan can look at the articles by Theo Farrell, Sergio Catignani and Tom Dyson.

I hope you will find it of interest.

CouvLabo10-2012

NATO and the end of the expeditionary model

I published an article (in French) in the prestigious Revue Défense Nationale on “Nato and the End of the Expeditionary Model”. It is available online and in PDF.

Here is the abstract: After twenty years of expeditionary activities, we can see the emergence of a less interventionist posture within the Atlantic alliance. A less interventionist NATO would nevertheless keep its utility as: a communication channel between the Europeans, the Russians and the Americans; a socializing institution for newcomers; a deterrent capability in new areas of collective vulnerability.

The paper is published in a special issue on NATO, which deals with many aspects of the alliance in a fresh and multinational perspective. You can access the TOC here.

The Causes, Character and Conduct of Armed Conflict, and the Effects on Civilian Populations, 1990-2010

My new publication is available from here and in pdf.

It is a paper I co-authored with my thesis supervisor, Theo Farrell, originally commissioned by the UNHCR.

The UNHCR is engaged in a major project to get states to look again at the 1951 Refugee Convention. This is the key international agreement on international protection of refugees. It provides a right of asylum for individuals fleeing persecution but, amazingly, it does not provide any such right for those fleeing armed conflict. The UNHCR wants states to rethink this. Our paper is supposed to provide background for brainy lawyers working on the implications for refugee law.

This paper provides an overview of the whole debate on “new wars”, “civil wars”, “greed v grievance”, etc. and uses six short cases studies to illustrate the effects of war on civilian populations.

The paper will be reprinted as the first chapter of a UNHCR-edited book to be published by Cambridge UP in 2013.

I hope you will find it of interest.

Strategic Users of Culture: German Decisions for Military Action

My new paper has just been published by Contemporary Security Policy, and is available from here (behind a paywall) and in pdf.

Here is the abstract:

This article looks at cases in which political leaders have engaged in seemingly inconsistent behaviour and explores how they framed and justified their decisions. After showing that strategic culture is composed of different facets, I argue that when faced with conflicting pressures from the international environment and their own national constituencies, political leaders intentionally manipulate facets of their own strategic culture to legitimate a decision, made for contingent reasons, to participate (or not) in a military operation. I illustrate this argument by analysing in depth the decision-making process and public justifications of the German participation in the European and Security Defence Policy (ESDP) mission EUFOR Congo in 2006 and its refusal to militarily participate in a similar mission in Chad in 2007. This conception of strategic culture as both a constraint and a resource for policymakers reinforces our understanding of the boundaries of strategic culture’s explanatory power, and provides an explanation of seemingly inconsistent foreign policy behaviours.

An earlier draft was presented at the ISA annual convention in Montréal (2011) and won the honorable mention of the Alexander George Best Graduate Student Paper Award.

I am extremely grateful to Keith Krause, Stephanie Hofmann, Theo Farrell, Thomas Rid and Heather Williams for their help on earlier versions of the paper.

Alien invasions and the U.S. strategic debate

This is a slightly longer version of a post on Kings of War.

I recently watched Battleship and, frankly, I had a lot of fun. The movie is at times thrilling, visually impeccable, voluntarily caricatural (hence funny) and if, like me, your favorite mind-clearing technique is to watch a blockbuster, you should appreciate it. As a reserve naval officer, I was sort of bound to enjoy it anyways because of the beautiful ships displayed. However, after a good two hours of laughs and visual entertainment, the movie got me into thinking about the cinematic expression of strategic concerns in the U.S.

Several scholars, in particular James S. Shapiro or James Der Derian have shown the epistemic significance of cinema as a way to both show and constitute specific world visions. In particular, Hollywood (producers, actors, agents, etc.) being the largest entertainment conglomerate in the world, it is both sensitive to the political climate in the U.S. and is a great medium to export and, to a certain extent, shape these political trends. For example, several American actors opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a mobilization significantly different from the opposition to the Vietnam War in the 1970s. But while some liberal-minded Hollywood stars can sometimes oppose the U.S. foreign policy, a specific sub-field of the Hollywood production is much more closely associated with the mainstream discourse.

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