Steep learning curve for efforts between war and peace – University of Copenhagen

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30 April 2015

Steep learning curve for efforts between war and peace


In a new Danish-language book entitled "Never-ending War? Denmark, civil-military cooperation and stabilization of global conflicts", senior researcher Henrik Ø. Breitenbauch, the Centre for Military Studies, examines how and what Danish and international actors have learned from the complex interventions and comprehensive missions of the last two decades since Osama Bin Laden’s declaration of war in 1996. The book is an analysis that points toward future conflict resolution.

Almost twenty years ago, Osama bin Laden declared war on America and the West from his exile in Afghanistan. Although the fight against international violent extremism has changed both the pace, scope and nature along the way, there still is a straight line from the declaration of war in 1996 to the assassination of the editorial team of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in 2015 and the massacres of school girls in Peshawar in 2014 and students at Garissa University College in Kenya in 2015.

In between, global actors including the major Western states, the United Nations, NATO and the European Union have attempted to develop the overall ability to stabilize conflict-affected states and zones both in order to counter terrorism and to create the basis for peaceful development. This is no easy task, according to Henrik Ø. Breitenbauch, senior researcher at the Centre for Military Studies in the Department of Political Science.

Special forces, drones and support for local

“Never-ending War?” examines how and what Danish and international actors have learned about these complex activities in the zone between war and peace. The learning curve with respect to stabilization and its instrument civil-military cooperation has been steep since the beginning of the extensive missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to the author, over the last two decades the focus has shifted from post-conflict stabilization, in large missions with extensive Western forces to a more upstream focus on conflict prevention as well as counter-terror efforts. In consequence, missions with large Western ground forces have been forsaken in favor of a model with special forces, drones and capacity building among local and regional security forces. But the pendulum can swing back, not least because there are conflicts and civil wars in a wide arc around Europe from Ukraine to West Africa, he says.

Stabilization through integrated (often both civilian and military) efforts is therefore a long-term challenge for Danish and international security, defense and development policy. With a forward-looking analysis of the last 15 years of experiences "Never-ending War?" contributes to an understanding of the problems and challenges Denmark and the international community face in relation to global conflict resolution and stabilization.

Senior researcher, PhD Henrik Ø. Breitenbauch
Centre for Military Studies
Tel: +45 35 32 40 86