Tag Archives: Norway

Nordic roundup

What do you do when you’re the national intelligence service and you’ve had a busy 12 months with an attempted terrorist attack in the capital city, another plot in one of the nation’s major cities and a reorganization?sapo.jpg

 

Well, if you’re Sweden’s Säpo you take about $800,000 and throw a James Bond themed party for all your employees.

 

“This was a unique and extraordinary time and we’d been subjected to extreme pressure. We thought that we needed a special gathering for the whole security police team,” he told the paper.

I don’t know much about Säpo but I need to get a job with them…

The Finns, on the other hand, are up to their regular, no-nonsense selves.  There appear to be some threats on unidentified Finnish-language forums that are threatening the Finnish parliament.

Finally, keeping with the Nordic security theme (and part of the reason why the Finns give a damn about what any says on the interwebs) we have the Norwegians and Andres Breivik.  Here in America it goes without saying that he’d get the death penalty, even if there was compelling evidence he was insane (but, based on my imperfect understanding of this case, he doesn’t appear to have crossed that threshold into non-culpable insanity).  Personally, I’m not much in favor of capital punishment but Breivik makes about the best case for it you can find.

Max Fisher over at the Atlantic does a pretty good job of explaining not only how the Norwegians view criminal justice generally but also how that applies to Breivik specifically.  It does provide what appears to be a sensible alternative to our system of locking people up for long periods of time in conditions that seem to do little other than make them more dedicated (and violent) criminals.

Scandinavian Roudup

Well, those pesky Russkies are at it again.  Finland has been flirting with the idea of joining NATO for years now.  I’m not sure how realistic of a chance that was but the talk has obviously gotten Comrade Bear a bit edgy and so they’ve moved to nix that idea before it goes any further.

General Nikolai Makarov, the commander of the Russian armed forces…warned directly that possible NATO membership for Finland would constitute a military threat against Russia.

Of course, given the current state of the Russian military I’m not sure what they could do about it.  I suppose they could do what they did to Ukraine a few years ago and just turn off the oil (Finland gets 64% of its supply from Russia) and natural gas pipelines (100%!).

A bit of nostalgia for Mrs. TwShiloh.  I asked if this made her homesick but she just looked at me in that odd way she does when I ask her if those helmets with horns were uncomfortable…

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The Scandinavian states engage in some rivalry that has been described as sibling in nature.  Case in point, is a recent survey of Swedes who air their complaints about the Norwegians.

They claim Norwegians “don’t know how to drive at roundabouts, they park in handicapped areas… are immoral and buy lots of tobacco and alcohol,”
according to accounts from the study, quoted by Expressen.

Sound a lot like Texans to me.  My Swedish contacts also tell me that Norwegians also have an inexplicable fondness for frozen pizza.  Go figure.  You think they’d be tired of frozen things.  Crazy Norwegians.

Bonus non-Scandinavian item!:  Some crazy Germans decided it’d be a good idea to import North American racoons into Germany in the 1920s.  Well, good luck to them because now there’s an estimated one million of the buggers knocking over trash cans and making a general nuisance of themselves.

Personally, I like racoons but they’re native here.  When they don’t have rabies, they’re pretty cool.  Just secure your garbage…

Nordic News

One of the things I enjoy is trying to stir up some Scandinavian chauvinism with Mrs. TwShiloh.  I always try to bait her to indulge in some stereotyping of her Scandinavian neighbors.  Quite frankly, I haven’t been able to get more out of her than to say that she thinks Danes talk like they have marbles in their mouths and Norwegians act like a nation a nouveau riche.  Of course, the rest of the Nordics tend to think of Swedes as a bit pompous.

So, I found it interesting at Norwegian and Danish ‘fury’ over Stockholm’s marketing claim that it’s the ‘Capital of Scandinavia’.  How angry are they?

The dust up over which city reigns supreme in Scandinavia took place at a real estate and investment show in Cannes, France, where some 200 Swedish representatives placed banners and advertising with the slogan “Stockholm: The Capital of Scandinavia”.

The move sparked a fierce backlash from Norwegian and Danish delegations miffed by the Swedish capital’s unsubstantiated claim to be the top city in Scandinavia.

”This is typical Swedish megalomania,” said Erling Fossen to Norwegian Afenposten newspaper.

“Many Norwegians reacted by spontaneously tearing off the Stockholm advert [from the entry card],” Fossen said.

I’ve advocated for Sweden to invade Norway to teach them a lesson and take their oil but Mrs TwShiloh thinks that may be a bit of an overreaction.

Scandinavism; A 19th-century propaganda image ...

We just passed the anniversary of the end of the Winter War and this Russian webpage has some really cool photos of a reenactment of that conflict.

We’re fast approaching Eurovision time which means all the European nations are having their national contests to pick who will represent them.  One of Sweden’s entrants in Melodifestivalen is a band called Dead by April.  The channel that broadcasts the contest has people to do sign language of the songs for the hearing impaired and you’ve got to check out the rendition.  It’s a total win.

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Finland and Sweden have a long history of mutual coexistence.  Finland was, after all, part of Sweden for hundreds of years.  Even today about 5% of Finland speaks predominately Swedish.  One way the Finns commitment to inclusion manifests is through the Uusimaa Brigade.  It is a Finnish marine infantry unit “where the training is given in Swedish, although the command language is Finnish.”  This may seem a bit clumsy at first glance but given the two nations cooperate on defense issues and even have some joint units, which make multilanguage interoperability much more valuable.

Kvick Tänkare

We’ll start with a short zombie film.  ‘Rest’ is about a soldier from WWI that rises from the grave.

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What appears to be a pretty comprehensive look at the battles between Norway and Sweden in 1808.

Alright, I’m calling bullshit on this story (at least as it’s being reported).

A middle-aged Swedish man has been found alive after having sat snowed under in his car for the past two months, with only ice and snow to keep him alive.

I just have trouble believe that the human body can survive without food for two months while having to maintain sufficient body temperature to stay alive.

See the horror! Hear the terrifying howl of the killer…uh….mouse

Speaking of horror, the Horror Etc. podcast has an episode devoted to Nordic Horror films.  It’s a lot of fun and I recommend subscribing very highly.

 

Butter!

As you may have heard, the Norwegians are experiencing an existential crisis.  They are running out of butter.

Scandinavia and the World describes this travesty from a Scandinavian perspective.

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So, while you’re enjoying your holidays with friends and family take a moment to remember those less fortunate than yourself.  While you’re sharing your gifts and gorging yourself on fatty foods while thousands of poor, poor Norwegians are suffering in a butter free hell hole, take a moment and ask yourself…do you really know what Christmas means?

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Vikings in Afghanistan

This continues my ongoing review of Hynek and Marton’s book on state-building in Afghanistan.

PRT Meymaneh Insignia

Image via Wikipedia

Norway (by Kristian Berg Harpviken) occupies the next chapter of the book.  Just as I recommended that you read the Australian chapter after the Dutch since they took over the Uruzgan PRT from them, it seems the Norwegians chapter would be well read right after that of the Germans.  After all, the Norwegians took over the PRT Meymaneh from the British but the Germans were in control of RC-North.

As with many of the coalition nations in Afghanistan, cooperation with the United States was a key motivator.  The Norwegians pulled out their modest contribution to the Iraq war in 2005 and felt obligated to demonstrate themselves to be good allies and so determined to increase their presence in Afghanistan.

It’s not clear what lessons Norway has gained from its time in Afghanistan.  As Harpviken states:

With the possible exception of Special Forces, though, Norway has not developed any clear niche capacity.

Further, while most nations have decided that unity of effort is an important  component to counterinsurgency and state-building (even if it isn’t practiced in reality), the Norwegians have clearly separated their military and civilian efforts.  Military commanders had no authority over the allocation of aid money and, presumably, little say in prioritization of aid projects.  Some of this is part of how Norway sees its role in statebuilding missions generally.

By implication, this also meant that the PRT was a security-focused entity which, in the absence of civilian authority over aid allocation, could not pursue a ‘whole of government’ ambition.

And, similar to what happened to the Germans, 2006 was not a particularly good year.  If you remember, the Danish cartoon scandal was rocking the Islamic world and Afghans (like Americans) apparently didn’t see much difference between Danes and Norwegians and so started a riot in Maymana.  Things apparently got quite bad and the PRT moved it’s base from the center of town to the outskirts.

Now, I have no idea how secure their old facility was and it could have been a total death trap (like the British base in Kabul during the insurrection of 1841-1842) but, in any case, the outcome still played into the insurgents’ hands.  The Norwegians left the city, putting even more space between them and the population.  Again and again (and usually in 2006) we’ve seen the insurgents conduct an attack and the response is usually to hunker down and focus on force protection, giving the insurgents a great deal more freedom and undermining the credibility of the coalition forces in the eyes of the local population.

And so Norway is kind of left in this weird twilight zone where they try to cram the realities of Afghanistan into their doctrine of how stabilization operations should work.  They can probably be seen as a ‘Goldilocks’ partner, doing neither much overall harm or good to the mission.

Finally, this probably won’t make much sense if you haven’t had a chance to read the book but it’d be nice if the editors took a couple of the figures they used in their introduction (the alliance dependence/threat balancing matrix and integrated model of coalition of decision making) and placed the nations spotlighted in the book on them to give the reader a quick impression of the range of motivations and priorities.

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The Breivik video

Ok, I’m not going to be reading the Breivik manifesto.  At 1500+ pages it’d seriously cut into my other reading and, quite frankly, if I’m gonna commit to something like that there better at least be the possiblity of enlightenment at the end.*  Fortunately, one thing you can say about Breivik is that he did think some things through.  Knowing that very, very few people would read his opus he created a 15 minute (thank you Mr. Warhol) YouTube video which (I assume) presents the jist of what he’s trying to say.  So, that I will review.

My first impression of the video is that it could be made at Fox News.  That’s not hyperbole either….check this out and tell me you couldn’t imagine it coming out of the mouth of Beck**, Hannity or others.

“…Marxists were allowed to infiltrate school institutions and media companies since Europe never had any politicians of the McCarthy caliber.”

Need we revisit the days (way, way back in 2009) when there was a media storm about Obama ‘indoctrinating’ our children with Socialism?  And that, of course, is just another manifestation of the longer argument that schools and universities are hotbeds of secular,politically correct, multiculturalism that teaches our children to hate America.

Breivik makes explicit what just about everyone with a voice in the modern conservative movement wants to keep implicit because bringing it out in the open makes it sound utterly goofy.

“…the Marxists would now influence the labour movements, most universities, media and publishing companies, feminist movements, sexual emancipation movements, environmental movements, anti-discrimination movements, human rights movements and other relating NGOs.”

It’s unclear what these ‘movements’ would look like under some ideology acceptable to the right.  University science departments offering degrees in creationism?  Anti-discrimination movements that demand homosexuals get ‘cured’?

Then we go on a typical anti-UN rant.  Really.  Never has such a toothless organization generated so much heat.  And what does he fear?

“…if our European regimes transferred sovereignty to the UN tomorrow; the Muslim dictatorships could ‘democratically’ dismantle our border controls, completely flood our countries with Muslims and implement Sharia law in Europe within 48 hours.”

One really doesn’t know where to begin with gibberish like this other than to say it looks an awful lot like emails my father occasionally sends me that all start with ‘Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw Read this and pass it along to all patriotic Americans!!!’

The Breivik world is broken down into two camps.  The cultural Marxist/Muslim/Globalization camp and the conservative/nationalist one.  In all fairness, the American cultural system insists on viewing things through similar lenses and can’t handle alternatives.  Remember that guy who flew his plane into the IRS building?  In the wake of the incident there was a brief flurry of discussion about whether he was a right wing nutjob or a left wing looney.  His ideology fit neither camp well and so he quickly faded from discussion.  It may be that we (I’m using the term very generally here) simply aren’t capable of understanding events or ideas that don’t fit within our binary constructs.

The fear of Islamization of the West is interesting and seems based on (at least) the following assumptions:

  1. The Islamic world is united in purpose
  2. The Islamic world is stronger in terms of will than the West
  3. Strength of will ultimately determines success or failure

With that, it’s surprising how much this ideology buys the Islamist propaganda that the West is a decaying, corrupt society, collapsing of its own weight.

And what’s all this talk of martyrdom?  I mean, c’mon.  That hasn’t been part of our tradition (if it ever really was) for a very, very long time.  Our tradition, (to paraphrase George C. Scott’s version of Patton) has been much more of the ‘We win not by dying for our country but by getting the other sonofabitch to die for his’ variety.

Is he trying to present us with a 21st century, right-wing version of the Communist Manifesto?  Maybe.  But Marx (like him or not) had some intellectual heft behind his work that Breivik simply doesn’t have.  Finding and posting ideologically pleasing cartoons may make you feel better but it ain’t no ‘Das Kapital’.  Who knows, though.  Maybe this’ll be the next ‘Mein Kampf‘…

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*I had actually typed “…if I’m gonna commit to something like that it better blow me away.” and then realized what an unfortunate choice of words that was.

**In fact, I was so struck by the ‘Beckian’ tone of the text that I thought Beck’s comments equating the victims (members of a youth political group) to Hitler Youth interesting and (perhaps) a slip about just how much the modern conservative movement shares Breivik’s worldview.  Now, I’m not saying every right wing nutjob wants to slaughter people.  I’m just saying that there isn’t too much distance between the ideas expressed in Breivik’s video and what you see and hear from some U.S. conservative media outlets