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The State, the People and the Armed Forces – a Genealogical Outline of the Legitimacy of the Armed Forces in Norway


The Norwegian armed forces in the early 21st century is in a phase of rapid change and transition. International missions are about to become its main task, whereas traditional domestic territorial defence is becoming less and less relevant. Is this transition purely a technical adjustment to a new security environment, or does it also entail more fundamental changes in the relationship between the armed forces, the state and the population? Could the military risk to lose its popular legitimacy? To grasp the current changes, it is important to understand the foundations of the relationship between the military, the state and the people. As well as how these relations have evolved over time. This is certainly not the first time in history the armed forces are facing fundamental changes. This article seeks to shed light on some of these developments in Norway over the last centuries. The evolvement of the conscript system will be used to illustrate some of these developments. I will argue that the Norwegian authorities to date have been reluctant in addressing the changes, applying what can be described as ‘yesterday’s explanations’ when legitimising military operations of today. If this trend of ignorance continues, the danger of a popular back-lash increases.


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  • Sikkerhetspolitikk
  • Europa