Wednesday, March 19, 2008

UK's New NSS and NSC: Lessons for Scandinavia

The brilliant and insightful Charlie Edwards at GlobalDashboard Monday told us all about today's announcement (not, its not out as of yet) of the new UK National Security Strategy:
This Wednesday the British Government will publish the UK’s first ever National Security Strategy. This is a big moment for Gordon Brown and comes with great expectations. Don’t be surprised if there is no Minister on the Today Programme discussing the strategy’s pros and cons on Wednesday morning - this will be Gordon Brown’s opportunity to kill lots of birds with one mighty strategic stone (so lets hope he does wait and announce it in Parliament).

Dignity and gravitas will ooze from every pore of the front bench as Brown steps up to the dispatch box and announces the strategy. MPs from all sides of the House will nod and mouth their agreement. In the gallery sketch writers will pen columns for Thursday’s newspapers about how important Parliament is. For a brief moment the Government will look in complete control of its destiny - polls will even show the Labour party jump ahead of the Conservatives.

Some British newspapers are already trailing the announcement. The Telegraph suggests that ‘a national security council will be created, staffed by senior politicians including, potentially, individuals from other parties, intelligence and military chiefs, and scientific experts.. and that Paddy Ashdown has been suggested as a possible leading opposition figure with the experience to be invited to serve alongside senior Government ministers’.
The National Security Council bit is the perhaps most interesting part. The process more than the actual documents all clearly the most inventive parts intended with the Dutch and Canadian security strategies and the French Defense White Paper. Process is here to be understood not only as a process of creation (of the document) but also a process of evaluation (of its priorities).

Together these things will make possible a more thoroughly democratic debate on what is essentially political choices in international security (the 'wars of choice' in Iraq and Afghanistan; global warming as strategic challenge; the Arctic, etc); and a more stringent political leadership in the executive - not by civil servants. In sum, they should enable governments more effectively to face the challenges of security in a globalized world, including operational challenges such as a the interagency challenge in COIN and SSTR.

The Scandinavian countries, with their development legacy and 'moral foreign policies', more than other countries must go down this road as they need strive to conceptually converge the morality and national interest of global politics. And, in Denmark's case especially, deal with Afghanistan as war-fighting and as development.

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