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The Duality of Tactical Thought: A Study of how Swedish Land Forces’ Commanders view Tactics in Irregular Warfare
Swedish National Defence College, Department of Military Studies, War Studies Division, Sektionen för operationskonst (KV Opkonst). National Defence University, Department of Tactics and Operational Art, Finland.
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This is a sociological study of the views of officers in the Swedish Army and its Amphibious Forces on tactics in Irregular Warfare (IW), in particular, Counterinsurgency (COIN). IW comprises struggles, where the military weaker part uses an indirect approach with smaller units and integrates the civilian and military dimensions in a violence spectrum including subversion, terrorism, Guerrilla Warfare and infantry actions. IW is the main armed warfare style in insurgencies. COIN is the combined political, military, economic, social and legal actions in counter insurgencies.

Data has been collected by means of interviews with almost all (n =43) officers, who were either commanding battalions or rifle and manoeuvre companies while undergoing training for general warfare and international operations. The main theoretical and methodological inspiration is the traditional one for research on social fields, inaugurated by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. The statistical technique used is Multiple Correspondence Analysis. As a background and context base, an inquiry inspired by the Begriffsgechichte (Conceptual History) tradition explores the genesis and development of understandings of the term Irregular Warfare. The research question is outlined as; “how can contemporary Swedish military thought on tactics in Irregular Warfare be characterized using descriptive patterns, mapped in relation to background factors and normative standards?

The most significant findings are that there are two main opposing notions separating the officers’ views on tactics in Irregular Warfare: (1) a focus on larger, combat oriented and collectively operating military units versus smaller and larger, more intelligence oriented and dispersed operating units, and (2) a focus on military tasks and kinetic effects versus military and civilian tasks as well as “soft” effects. The distribution of these views can be presented as a two-dimensional space structured by the two axes. This space represents four categories of tactics, partly diverging from normative military standards for Counterinsurgency. This social space of standpoints shows different structural tendencies for background factors of social and cultural character, particularly dominant concerning military backgrounds, international mission experiences and civilian education. Compared to military standards for Counterinsurgency, the two tactical types characterized by a Regular Warfare mind-set stands out as counter-normative.

Signs of creative thought on military practice and theory, as well as a still persistent Regular Warfare doxa are apparent. Power struggles might thus develop, effecting the transformation to a broadened warfare culture with an enhanced focus also on Irregular Warfare. The result does not support research results arguing for a convergence of military thought in the European transformation of Armed Forces. The main argument goes beyond tactics and suggests sociological analysis on reciprocal effects regarding strategy, operational art, tactics as well as leadership, concerning the mind-set and preferences for Regular, Irregular and Hybrid Warfare.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Helsinki: National Defence University, Department of Tactics and Operational Art , 2014. , 276 p.
, Series 1, ISSN 1238-2744 ; 3/2014
Keyword [en]
Bourdieu, military thought, tactics, Irregular Warfare, Multiple Correspondence Analysis, field theory, sociology, War Studies
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Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:fhs:diva-5024ISBN: 978-951-25-2604-8ISBN: 978-951-25-2605-5OAI: diva2:768762
Available from: 2014-12-04 Created: 2014-12-04 Last updated: 2014-12-05Bibliographically approved

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Gustafson, Michael
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