A Case for Strategic Culture as Discursive Practices: Reconstituting New Labour’s decision to intervene in Sierra Leone, 1997-2000.

by Roel M. van der Velde

Institution: Aberystwyth University
Year: 2013
Record ID: 1399272
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2160/12008


The concept of strategic culture promises to offer causal, non-materialist explanations of state behaviour, but it adheres to incommensurable explanatory modes of investigation. Outdated mechanistic concepts of strategic culture still inform many descriptions concerning the use of force. Offering a discursive alternative to contextual strategic culture, this article defends a version of practice theory. It intends to empirically show its superiority over contextual understandings of culture, as well as the limits involved. In doing so, it describes a movement away from congealed structure to social structures, and from discourse towards optimal agency in discursive practices, involving doctrine and civil military relations. This movement can be seen as a wider development within debates on culture. It is argued here that an oppositional view of structure and agency will be unproductive. Strategic culture can be operationalized when defined as the discursive interplay between grand strategy as a discourse and relevant strategic practices. Applied to the British military intervention of Sierra Leone in 2000, the model shows that practices crucially affected hesitant political decision-making, and changed strategic assumptions on the unilateral use of force.