Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Strategic Culture: Comparing Progress in the European Union and the Southern African Development Community

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Strategic Culture: Comparing Progress in the European Union and the Southern African Development Community

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

A parallel development to the dominant state-centered paradigm of strategic culture is the salience of regional organisations such as the European Union and the Southern African Development Community. After the Cold War the European Union and the Southern African Development Community emerged as regional actors dedicated to development and security, but both were soon confronted by the prioritisation of security matters. After 2000 both regions responded to security interests through regional arrangements that recognised the indispensability of the military instrument--although in different roles. However, despite the higher profile of this strategic option, both the European Union and the Southern African Development Community lack a strategic culture that guides the use of their armed forces as a policy instrument. Subsequently, the need exists to reconcile this strategic option with a regional strategic culture--a matter characterised by gradual progress in the European Union, but apparently absent in the Southern African Development Community.

1. INTRODUCTION

Strategic culture directs the use of armed forces through the growth of ideas, concepts, preferences and the internalisation and institutionalisation thereof by a political community. Going to war is thus embedded in some measure of politico-military, cultural and institutional consensus on when and how to use the strategic instrument (denoting, hereafter, the use of the military instruments of policy). Irrespective of the kind of military operation(s) envisaged by political actors, strategic culture functions as an important catalyst since it provides the politico-military foundations for the use of the strategic instrument. To the extent that the peace-war divide had collapsed since 2000, the influence of strategic culture had correspondingly increased in importance.

Although decision-makers prefer to avoid war at the lower end of the conflict spectrum, 'dirty wars' in the name of values and principles persist. (1) Not only has the setting of war changed, but flexible armed forces that can deal with drawn-out and expansive strategic situations have became paramount. (2) Consequently, for decision-makers in particular, the art of preparing and employing armed forces for diverse settings has become a complex matter. Nonetheless, international norms on conventional warfare and humanitarian law still influence decision-makers when they select postures and strategies according to which armed forces are prepared and employed. (3) However, according to Farrell, key actors "shift their preferences in response to a rising threat" (4) by bolstering existing norms or stretching these norms in order to respond to new strategic settings. In essence, both norm stretching and norm bolstering are responses to challenges that threaten the established way of doing things - a matter relevant to armed forces as well.

As the expected peace dividend waned during the 1990s, decision-makers increasingly opted to employ their armed forces in a multilateral manner,5) These multilateral arrangements dealing with new and shifting threats, however, bring strategic culture to the fore in various ways. Firstly, the use of armed forces features quite prominently in these arrangements, although in a different mode.(6) Secondly, decision-makers increasingly call for pooled, integrated and transformed armed forces to contend with an ever-increasing number of threats and vulnerabilities.(7) Thirdly, the growing preference for multilateralism involves the merging of the politics of persuasion with soft politics, (8) since emergent threats call for an array of soft and hard arrangements.

Both the European Union (EU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have to contend with the multilateral domain of their respective regions and the need to forge an appropriate strategic culture. The aim of this article is to investigate indicators of strategic culture in SADC by comparing the Southern African situation with European progress in this regard. …

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