06 February 2019

No strategy behind Denmarks military engagement - we follow the United States

Democracy

It is very much government officials, ministers and the Danish Defence that stage the political decisions to go to war. Denmark's military engagement is only to a lesser extent based on strategic choices and long-term analyses – rather, it is a desire to follow the United States' priorities that sets the agenda.

When Denmark goes to war, the Foreign Policy Committee of the Danish Folketing does not play any significant part. The decisions to engage in war and Denmark's specific commitment are shaped by key ministers, government officials and representatives of the Defence in dialogue with allies, most notably the United States. A string of minor decisions gradually narrows politicians' scope for action and raises the political implications of choosing other options.

When Denmark goes to war, the Foreign Policy Committee of the Danish Folketing does not play any significant part. Photo: Danish Defence.

This is one of the conclusions of the analysis of the political decisions that led to Denmark's engagement in the wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. Researchers Rasmus Mariager and Anders Wivel, along with several colleagues, have had permission to investigate the decision-making processes that led to the Danish engagement in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Danish Parliament plays little role

“The Government has adopted a minimalist information practice towards the Foreign Policy Committee. The Government typically consults with the Foreign Policy Committee late in the process in connection with decisions that require the Committee’s involvement. Informal contacts between the Government and the Folketing play an important part in the decision-making process,” says Associate Professor and historian Rasmus Mariager, who has headed the research together with Professor MSO Anders Wivel from the Department of Political Science.

The analysis shows Denmark's military engagement as being based only to a lesser extent on strategic choices and long-term analyses. At the same time, Denmark's war engagement is a general reflection of policymakers’ willingness to accommodate American requests for military contributions. It is not a question of direct pressure from the United States with threats of sanctions or promises of gains.

The report recommends, among other things, the creation of a cross-sectional analysis unit in the general government administration with a view to strengthening a systematic gathering of experience, ensuring the link between military engagements and Denmark’s foreign-policy objectives and to assessing the demand for Danish military engagement in the short and medium term.

The analysis shows Denmark's military engagement as being based only to a lesser extent on strategic choices. Photo: Danish Defence

Read the full report and the researchers' presentation at www.krigsudredning.ku.dk (in Danish)