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Knowledge production in the securitydevelopment nexus: An ethnographic


reflection
Finn Stepputat
Security Dialogue 2012 43: 439
DOI: 10.1177/0967010612457973
The online version of this article can be found at:
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43510.1177/0967010612457973Security DialogueStepputat: Knowledge production in the securitydevelopment nexus

Special issue on Governing (in)security in the postcolonial world

Knowledge production in the


securitydevelopment nexus: An
ethnographic reflection

Security Dialogue
43(5) 439455
The Author(s) 2012
Reprints and permission: sagepub.
co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0967010612457973
sdi.sagepub.com

Finn Stepputat
Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen, Denmark

Abstract
This article contributes to the analysis of transnationalized forms of security governance in the postcolonial
world by looking into the production of knowledge aimed at increasing coherence between domains of
security and development in Western donor policies. The article takes an ethnographic approach to the
analysis of knowledge production, using the authors personal experience of writing a policy analysis for
a donor government concerning how to further improve the policy of concerted civilmilitary planning
and action. This attempt to study up and analyse upstream practices involved in transnational security
governance shows the degree to which policy-related knowledge production is a negotiated, social process
that involves informal practices and defensive tactics. The policy process seems to be less concerned with
effects on the ground than with the problem of creating unity among the wide range of agents and institutions
involved in the emerging policy field.While such an approach may have potentially destabilizing effects both
for policy narratives and for researchers authority it responds to calls for reflections on the politics of
representation and writing in studies of international relations.

Keywords
ethnography, identity, international security, war, knowledge production, intervention, policy

Introduction
This article contributes to the analysis of transnationalized forms of security governance in the
postcolonial world by looking into the production of knowledge aimed at increasing coherence
between domains of security and development in Western donor policies. The project of coherence has emerged as something like a state discourse across a range of civilian and military
institutions, involving programmatic changes in conceptual frameworks, strategies, practices
and institutional setups. The project targets, in particular, unruly areas of the global south;
these have been used to exemplify and discuss the so-called securitydevelopment nexus.1
Corresponding author:
Finn Stepputat
Email: fst@diis.dk

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Whereas the securitydevelopment nexus is expressed in the endlessly repeated idea that there
will be no security without development and no development without security, there is little clarity or consensus about what the nexus actually means beyond the vague idea that domains of
security and development are being meshed (Stern and jendal, 2010). Accordingly, here I
understand the securitydevelopment nexus as an abstraction with effects that can and should be
analysed in specific empirical and historical contexts (Jensen, 2010), in this case the development of a policy analysis for civilmilitary coherence, commissioned by the Danish government
from a research institute at which I am employed.
For postcolonial studies, greatly inspired by Foucaults ([1976] 1978: 100) analysis of how
power and knowledge are joined together in discourse, the production of knowledge is a key
concern in efforts to show how Western discourses have constructed the (post)colonial world as a
governable object. Thus, the discourse that Said ([1978] 1985: 95) frames as Orientalism is a kind
of Western projection onto and will to govern over the Orient. Said argues that such discourses
have less to do with the regions and people they essentialize, exoticize and objectify than with the
conditions under which the discourses were produced. Similarly, Spivak (1988) warns us that, in
representing the Other, we disavow our own role, as though we were transparent and neutral relays.
On this background, postcolonial scholars privilege turning the analytical gaze upon ourselves
before investigating the Other. As the editors of this issue argue in their introduction, by provincializing the centre from where they write, scholars may see that indeterminacy, provisionality, contingency and the negotiated character of the state are not things that pertain to the postcolony only.
Taking heed of the preoccupations of postcolonial studies and following related calls from
within international relations for bringing a more practice-focused and ethnographic approach into
this field (see, for example, Pouliot, 2008; Vrasti, 2008), this article looks into the dilemmas, practices and dynamics of producing a security-related policy analysis for the Danish government. The
purpose of the analysis was to help the government to further improve an existing policy for
bringing civil and military instruments into a common framework of planning and operation. The
material that I use stems from my own participation as a coordinator of the policy analysis. The
work was not planned as an ethnographic field study as such, so this article is more of an ethnographic afterthought or reflection on the experience I gathered from working at the interface
between research and policymakers in the fields of security and development. Nevertheless, the
article gives an idea of the kinds of insights that an ethnographic approach to policy development
in transnational security governance may generate. First and foremost, the analysis shows the
degree to which knowledge production in this context is a negotiated and social process that may
have more importance in bringing together a policy-interested community across fragmented policy fields than in actually guiding practice on the ground. Second, whereas this last point coincides
with experience from ethnographic studies of development policy, the fact that issues of national
security are involved adds a sense of urgency to the knowledge production involved in policy
development. The same urgency is a factor that inevitably limits ethnographic studies in this particular field owing to the problems of access.
Finally, the analysis provides a window onto how our own professional communities are
engaged in policymaking in transnational security governance. In this way, the analysis can work
as a destabilizing antidote to predominant politics of writing and representation in a context of
international military operations in which anthropologists are called upon to contribute to ongoing
attempts to understand people who are living at the margins of the modern state. The field or the
village of my study is not located among the locals in the postcolony, which is often objectified
as being at the root of problems of development and insecurity. Rather, my field is located in

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meeting rooms in Strandgade in Copenhagen during 20089, when policies for more coherent
approaches to security governance were being developed in interconnected processes in a number
of institutional hubs in the West.
The focus of the analysis is on the interface between researchers and policymakers, but the
study is not meant to antagonize that relationship. Rather, the analysis of the interplay between
different conditions and practices is intended to bring out some of the ambiguities, dilemmas and
paradoxes of knowledge production for policy development. As a senior civil servant from the
Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked me shortly after I had been assigned to the task of writing
the policy analysis: Isnt it nice to work on something that will be put to immediate use? While
implicitly articulating the stereotypes of researchers as producers of somewhat irrelevant, theoretical knowledge and policymakers as engaged in solving immediate political and practical problems,
he also expressed the belief of policymakers that the knowledge of researchers can actually solve
some of these immediate problems for the policymakers.
After a short introduction to the setting of the analysis, I discuss the use of practice-focused and
ethnographic approaches in studies of international relations, and describe the wider field of relations that the policy analysis comprised. In the main section of the article, I provide an account of
the dynamics of negotiating knowledge production in different phases of the policy analysis,
including the terms of reference, the draft reports and the aftermath of the analysis.

The setting: Concerted civilmilitary planning and action 2.0


In 2007, Denmark pulled out its armed forces from Iraq, where they had formed part of the occupation forces of the coalition of the willing in Basra, and stepped up its recent engagement in southern Afghanistan by enlarging the contingent of battle troops in the province of Helmand, one of the
Talibans strongholds. Very soon, the death toll in Helmand had surpassed the total number of
Danish casualties in Iraq, and slowly it dawned upon press, parliament and the general public that
Danish troops were engaged in combat operations, killing people and suffering casualties
themselves.
Meanwhile, confronted with fierce resistance and drawing upon recent US and UK experiences
in Iraq, NATO forces in southern Afghanistan adopted a version of the newly revived counterinsurgency doctrine for their operations.2 The doctrine involved a shift from enemy-centric combat, or
kinetic, operations to operations that focus on winning the hearts and minds of the population
and isolating the insurgents by giving higher strategic priority to development aid, humanitarian
aid and other non-kinetic activities. This represents an organizational problem for the military,
which, in liberal democracies at least, does not have command and control over the organizations
that traditionally manage aid. Hence, the problems of the operations in Afghanistan articulated the
quest for integrating or coordinating the myriad civil, military, private, public, national and international entities involved in international operations. Various parallel concepts were brought into
play, including NATOs comprehensive approach, the UNs integrated missions and the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Developments whole of government approach.
The Danish government had developed an early version of these concepts in the context of the
military operations in Iraq, known as the concerted civilmilitary planning and action policy
(CPA), or samtnkning in Danish, which literally means thinking together.3
In late 2007, the Danish government was re-elected, and its new programme stated that the
Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) would be undertaking an analysis of the concrete
possibilities for further improving the [policy of] concerted civilmilitary planning and action in

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relation to international peace-support operations, based on primarily the experience from the
Danish engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan.4 The inclusion of the analysis in the governments
programme was probably part of efforts to ward off demands for an Iraq inquiry in a new parliamentary situation, but it was definitely also informed by the sense of urgency emerging from the
critical situation in Afghanistan.
The aim of the analysis was to produce a basis for the development of a new policy, unofficially
known as CPA 2.0, to replace the first version, which was very simple and created problems of
decisionmaking because it operated at a low level of charge and prioritization within the Danish
ministries of foreign affairs and defence. The work was also going to feed into the new Defence
Agreement 201014, and, as we later learned, a profound reorganization of the ministry of foreign
affairs.
After some detours, the task landed on my desk in early 2008, and the resulting report was published and presented a long year later.5 For the analysis, DIIS established a team that to some
degree reflected the civil and military fields of analysis, including a political scientist with regional
experience, a major from the Royal Danish Defence Academy seconded to DIIS, and myself with
a background in studies of relief, development, armed conflict and state formation. We established
a reference group of researchers, policymakers and practitioners, including our persons of contact
in the ministries of foreign affairs and defence, who gave comments on draft versions of the reports.
Whereas the task seemingly concerned technical and organizational issues related to the Danish
contributions to international operations, the procedure of the assignment suggested otherwise:
Unlike so many other commissioned policy analyses, the terms of reference for this one had to be
signed off by the governments K-committee, the coordination committee consisting of the most
influential ministers, including the prime minister and the ministers of foreign affairs, defence and
finance. The reason, we assumed, was that the analysis concerned Iraq even though that country
was by then subject to decreasing attention and Afghanistan, which day by day was attracting
more and more critical attention in early 2008. Knowing that the K-committee would be involved
made me nervous, but as I will discuss further below it affected the involved civil servants even
more. However, before getting into the analysis, I will discuss the use of practice-oriented and
ethnographic approaches in studies of international relations.

Practice and ethnography in the securitydevelopment nexus


In response to the representational bias and the linguistic turn in the discipline of international
relations, an increasing number of scholars have pointed to the potentials of studying practice
rather than (only) discourse.6 Drawing on old heroes from cultural sociology such as Bourdieu and
De Certeau, they suggest focusing on skills, tacit knowledge, embodied ways of doing things, and
the minute and iterated aspects of the everyday life of politics and unspectacular forms of resistance. As anthropologists would put it, the practice turn proposes looking into what people do
rather than (only) what they say they are doing. This should not lead scholars to leave out discursive practices from the analysis, as for example Neumann (2002) and Vrasti (2008) rightly argue.
Both discursive and non-discursive practices have performative qualities and effects. The gaps or
inconsistencies between the saying of policy documents and the doing of practice in a given
policy field provide important analytical elements, and even the production of discourse in the
form of policy documents involves non-discursive practices.
Nevertheless, the practice approach presents some methodological problems, in particular when
we are working in the field of security studies. Pouliot (2008) points to the problem of being either

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too close to be able to identify commonsense practices as such or too distant to interpret them.
Accordingly, the researcher has to go to the village to recover the logic of practice in social life
(Pouliot, 2008: 285). In other words, Pouliot suggests taking a more ethnographic approach,
thereby joining scholars in international relations and several other disciplines7 who have recently
turned towards ethnography as a theoretically sophisticated antidote to the excesses of theory and
overdetermined paradigms (Riles, 2006: 1).
Ethnography is usually identified with the method of participant observation, the immersion in
face-to-face encounters in unfamiliar settings where the researcher oscillates between being an
outsider and an insider, an observer and a participant, thus permitting critical reflection of the
taken-for-granted. Participant observation is a process of embodiment in which the researcher
slowly incorporates unfamiliar ways, which enables him/her to manoeuvre in appropriate ways. In
the process of immersion, the researcher becomes an instrument of analysis, as misunderstandings,
awkward moments, conviviality and hardship leave their marks in the form of embarrassment,
conflicts, red ears, exhaustion, and so on. In the classical tradition, ethnography has been associated with studies of poor, exotic, colonized or otherwise underprivileged people. Nevertheless,
ethnographers have also followed the calls of Laura Nader (1969) and postcolonial scholars for
studying up by exploring groups of rich people, decisionmakers and others at the higher echelons
of society, despite the predictable problems of getting access. As Pouliot (2008) notes, access and
participant observation is particularly difficult when studying secretive security communities.
The challenges of globalization and shifting scholarly interest have led to a questioning of the
obsession with the local and face-to-face encounters in ethnography. In response, notions of
multi-sited and non-local ethnography have been introduced, with the focus of analysis moving
from groups to networks and connections (Marcus, 1995). The indiscriminate use of Marcuss
multi-sited fieldwork approach has been criticized for the ethnographic shallowness of the resulting studies and for the implicit pretension of providing a holistic account of complex relations.8
However, the debate has also helped anthropologists to realize that they always construct the ethnographic field somewhat arbitrarily out of an overwhelmingly complex reality; thus, a valid
ethnographic field need not correspond to a spatial entity of any kind, and need not be a holistic
entity out there to be discovered (Cook et al., 2009: 68).
In the same vein, Feldman (2011: 33) suggests a non-local ethnography for studying how certain discourses that are present in multiple locations (without being of any particular location)
mediate relations between ethnographic dots separated in time-space and give them a particular
configuration in an emerging regime, in his case, of European migration control. Studying how
such regimes emerge historically across multiple policy fields evades traditional participant observation. But, the non-local ethnography performed by means of a mixture of methods such as
archival studies, media analysis, observation and interviews would maintain the essence of participant observation in terms of its two key qualities: first, the value of displacement, the removal
from the familiar, as a way of interrogating or problematizing the hegemony of the taken-forgranted of the researcher; and, second, the possibility of knowing the role of contingency by seeing
how chance, contestation, alliance, petty malice, etc. may produce change or continuity at critical
moments (Feldman, 2011: 46).
The ethnographic value of displacement can be related to Vrastis (2008) critique of the selective ways in which ethnography has been incorporated in studies of international relations as either
a data-producing machine, a style of writing or a theoretical sensibility. According to Vrasti, international relations scholars have largely ignored the (destabilizing) insights that critical anthropology has gained from engaging with the politics of knowledge, writing and representation since the

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1980s. I guess Vrasti would endorse Feldmans (2011: 46) notion of displacement that includes
any experience in which discourse the taken-for-granted assumptions that establish norms and
deviation is interrogated, problematised, or, in a word, situated.9 Thus, displacements produce
encounters where unfamiliar practices and discourses of the others stand out, but that also force the
producer of knowledge to reflect on his/her situatedness, the filters and blinders, pre-understandings,
and professional habits that inform the knowledge we produce.
In the remainder of this section, I describe some of the meanings and practices we encountered
through our multiple displacements across the disciplinary, institutional and policy fields that the
new policy is meant to incorporate and structure. With its vast range of actors and processes, the
emerging field of CPA 2.0 has some similarity with the coming together of the European migration
regime that Feldman studied. Our data comprised information on parliamentary decisions, concept
development, organizational structures, communication channels and operational experience gathered in the EU, the UN and NATO; in various ministries within Denmark, the UK and the
Netherlands; Danish, Afghan and international NGOs; embassies; the police; the Danish courts;
the Danish and British armed forces at strategic, operational and tactical levels, including commanders, CIMIC10 officers and development advisers; Afghan ministries in the capital and state
offices at provincial and district levels; and various research institutions. Add to this picture the
number of states contributing to the international forces, plus a number of interested private entities, and the immense complexity and heterogeneity of the field in the making becomes clear.
The endlessly repeated no security without development and no development without security
was the most prominent discursive figure that worked to give a certain orientation to this conglomerate of institutions and processes. However, the notion of samtnkning (CPA) that was supposed
to straddle existing policy fields and provide a solution to the problems of resistance on the ground
had widely differing meanings between and even within institutions. As Shore and Wright (2011)
suggest, policies are not just transmitted and implemented: they are translated into new genres for
every step and every new actor or scale involved, and simultaneously the process generates new
spaces of contestation. An obvious example from the policy process that is the subject of this case
study is the critical position of many humanitarian organizations who are concerned with the militarization of aid and the threats implied for the humanitarian space that should permit relief agencies to operate independently of other forces. But, also in the armed forces we found resistance to
the CPA policy, which evoked fears of humanitarian battalions, green-spotted NGOs and other
images images that indicate that the blurring of the civilmilitary divide threatened ideas of
proper soldiering.
The translation process went beyond the policy of CPA itself. In general, the different professional languages and the acronyms used in the institutions that were supposed to take part in the
process required translation and the gradual construction of a common vocabulary that enabled
communication, a jargon that could work as the discursive glue of the policy community in the
making (Kaufmann, 1997). Thus, policies in development organizations were concepts in the
armed forces. Military employees talk about the tactical level, while development people refer to
the local level. Everyday notions of development policy such as local ownership, sustainability and participation had to be introduced as new concepts in the armed forces (see Thruelsen,
2008), and so on.
At a workshop in Dubai for a group of people from the Danish armed forces and the ministries
who were directly involved in civilmilitary coordination in the operation in Afghanistan, we
learned the basic stock of a common jargon when participants talked about stove-piped procedures that should be joined up, how different institutions could be convinced to buy in to the

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new policy, or the lack of reach-back capacity between the tactical level and the headquarters.
The workshop also served as an occasion for both civilian and military participants to familiarize
themselves with the different acronyms, prominent in development as well as military circles, that
represented particular problems of communication.
Across the conglomerate of institutions, meanings and languages, we noted a convergence in
terms of how increased coherence could be brought about by employing a certain repertoire
almost a set menu of practices known from other processes of organizational coordination:
organizing workshops and conferences across institutional and professional divides; commissioning analyses in which researchers and consultants might come up with recommendations and
new ideas; seconding and posting liaison officers; setting up permanent cross-departmental entities; deploying civil advisers with military entities and military advisers with civilian ones;
preparing joint (civilmilitary) training courses, lessons-learned sessions and exercises; and cultivating hybrid professional subjectivities that straddle separate careers in diplomacy, development and defence.
As we started working, it became clear how we became a small part of the overall CPA endeavour, not only through the final report, but also through our data-gathering and learning activities.
We often noticed that our analysis and the policy process in general had created a buzz among the
people we interviewed. It was clear that the policy involved issues of institutional interests in
regard to resources, status, representation and everyday routines. People saw us as messengers
through whom they could channel positions and propositions to the policymakers. Thus, for
example, we were invited for a briefing in the Defence Command, where they put forth their point
of view in regard to the CPA policy. The briefing left us with a sense that they felt excluded from
the central policy decisions and did not entirely trust the Danish ministry of defence to represent
their views.
In this sense, the analysis involved a policy-interested interpretive community rather than a
narrowly defined, pre-existing policy community (Shore and Wright, 2011: 12). While working
to produce and stabilize knowledge for the report, our position lingered between being participant
insiders (Mosse, 2005), since we formed part of the ongoing process of coordinating civil and
military instruments and to some degree adopted the languages involved, and participant outsiders who were not part of the involved institutions and were regarded with a grain of mistrust.
With my limited experience in doing relatively high-profile policy analysis, I felt somewhat like
a stranger in a strange land. The encounter with the world of military institutions and practices was
obviously new to me personally and resulted in a certain fascination with the new vocabulary and
logics, but I was also struck by the differences between the worlds of researchers and policymakers. However, the observation mode gradually receded as participation in the process got more
intense and missed deadlines, conflicts and stress made their impact felt. In the following, I try to
rescue the observation mode and the implied distance to the commonsensual by revisiting notes,
drafts and communications, as well as a few strong images from the process.

Negotiating knowledge production


The following analysis of knowledge production at the researcher/policymaker interface is divided
into three parts: The negotiation of the terms of reference, the later discussion over draft reports,
and finally some brief observations on the aftermath of the report-writing. The work process started
with an early note from the ministries of foreign affairs and defence that had put together a wish
list from various offices as to what the analysis should look into and what it should make specific

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recommendations on (such as a new concept, new organization, resource needs, budgets, public
diplomacy, etc.). On this basis, we drafted a first version of the terms of reference, which was discussed at a meeting that I will return to below. After another two drafts, a final version of the terms
of reference was signed by the ministers in the governments K-Committee, and we could begin the
actual work. The analysis was expected to be independent, in the sense that we had a free choice of
methods and the reports would be published as DIIS reports, not ministry reports.

The terms of reference


Our first draft of the terms of reference was informed partly by the wishes of the ministries, partly
by the ongoing discussions over the militarization of aid, partly by my own experience from
research in areas of counterinsurgency in Latin America, and partly by the discussions and critical
comments at the Dubai workshop that we had attended. In a preamble, our draft bluntly stated that
humanitarian, security, development and military policy objectives were in conflict, and that this
could produce dilemmas for decisionmakers. In the text, we stated that we would look into whether
the existing policy might have positive effects in some contexts but negative ones in others.
Furthermore, we suggested having field research undertaken in the areas of deployment where the
existing CPA policy had been implemented in order to get an idea about the effects of the policy in
terms of security and development.
The meeting at which the draft terms were discussed was attended by some of the most important governmental stakeholders as far as the analysis was concerned. These included the security
adviser from the prime ministers office, the head of the international office of the defence ministry, and the heads of three offices in the ministry of foreign affairs: the security policy office, the
regional office for Asia and the humanitarian affairs office. Thus, our task straddled not only various ministries but also the traditional divide in the foreign ministry between the sections responsible for the north including security policy and NATO and those responsible for the south,
which mostly managed development cooperation.11 Also present was our person of contact in the
humanitarian office, who managed a cross-departmental CPA committee as well as the CPA 2.0
process. Our institute was represented by the director, the major and me from the research team.
The meeting had a relaxed air of informality about it. No men in suits and ties, and only the
women were wearing jackets. Once the meeting started, however, this relaxed atmosphere soon
gave way to a serious round of scolding. One after the other, the four heads of office put forth their
critique. As one of them remarked, there was a rare case of agreement between the ministries,
mostly generated by the preamble to our draft terms. When they started tearing the preamble apart,
I felt the blood rushing to my head as I realized that I had not viewed the preamble through the eyes
of the ministries. It had survived from a very first, internal round of drafting, and I had relied on
the fact that both our board and our contact in the ministry had had opportunities to comment on
the draft terms when one board member had noted that the preamble did not look like preambles
usually do, thus alluding to the importance of form and convention within the ministries (see also
Neumann, 2005).
Considering the discussions in the literature as well as the disagreements and uneven interests
in the policy that we picked up from the interviews later on in the process, the preambles somewhat clumsy suggestion that the policies that were being brought into a coherent policy framework
could be in conflict was not totally off-target. After all, the whole coherence discourse assumes that
current policies and practices lack in coherence. The idea that the conflicting polices might
create dilemmas for decisionmakers was not well received either. The dilemmas survived another

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round of drafting, but we eventually took them out because we sensed from written comments that
the possibility of having to deal with dilemmas was not something that the civil servants were
eager to expose their ministers to. In all likelihood, we thought, the dilemmas would show up in the
analysis anyway.
The other point that generated a united front of criticism from the ministerial offices represented at the meeting was the suggestion that the policy could have positive effects in some contexts and negative ones in others. But, according to the ministries, it was not the concerted
planning and action concept as such that gave problems in the theatres of operation, but rather the
involvement of so many different actors in, for example, the case of Afghanistan. In fact, as later
comments also suggested, it was hard for the civil servants to accept that a concerted approach, if
done the right way, could have negative effects at all. In this regard, CPA the thinking
together (samtnkning) is in the family of development buzzwords that include cooperation,
partnership, participation, community and others with warmly persuasive qualities that are
hard to disagree with, to use the phrase from Raymond Williams (1976). Such abstract notions
can bridge epistemic (and policy) communities even though there may be much disagreement
about what they mean when spelled out in practice (see Cornwall, 2007). But, as the negative
connotations of policies of coherence among humanitarian agencies and some military quarters
suggest, no one can fully manage the meaning of such concepts. This is particularly so when the
concepts cut across the civil/military divide that marks one of the foundational distinctions of the
idea of the modern, liberal-democratic state.
In regard to the negative effects, we changed the wording to unintended effects, even though
the ministries were not happy with having us looking into the possible effects at all. Much later in
the process, a civil servant who read the final terms of reference was struck by the fact that the
word effects had survived the negotiations. The fact that effects stayed in suggests that the ministries wanted to emphasize the independence of the report, as I will discuss later.
At the first meeting, the draft terms were heavily criticized for being too focused at the locallevel effects and for looking too much like the terms of reference for a traditional aid evaluation.
The ministries wanted the approach to be much more forward looking and to focus on the strategiclevel interactions between the myriad national and international actors involved. Accordingly, the
title of the commissioned study should not be An Analysis of the Experience with Concerted
Planning and Action in Iraq and Afghanistan, as we had written in the first draft, influenced by the
Dubai workshop and current discussions that focused very much on the local-level dynamics.
Rather, the title should be An Analysis of the Possibilities for Further Strengthening the CPA,
which was closer to the original wording of the assignment as well as the political intention of having a forward looking analysis rather than a backward-looking discussion of the Danish engagement in Iraq.
In this respect, the position of the ministries could be taken to support Chandlers (2007: 370)
claim that policymakers desire for coherence is related to a lack of belief that policy can be
defended on the basis of policy outcomes on the ground. Whereas the ministry representatives
frustration with the incoherence between the numerous participants involved at the strategic level
of the Afghanistan operation was very real, we also noted a feeling of saturation in regard to the
repetitive discussions of the threatened humanitarian space in areas of military deployment and
whether or not the projects on the ground resulted in reconstruction, development and security at
the district level.
Beyond the united position of the ministries against the idea of conflicting policies and a focus
on possible (negative) effects of the CPA, the meeting and subsequent comments also exposed

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more particularistic interests and positions. The defence side, for example, complained about unintelligible language and the use of development jargon inherent in concepts such as local or national
ownership.
More seriously, the ministry of defence did not want us to deal with issues of protection of
the population, since this might be understood to mean that the army had an obligation to provide soldiers for the protection of schoolteachers and the general population. In Afghanistan in
2008, the burning of schools and harassment of schoolchildren and teachers was a problem that
was generally not mentioned in discussions of the policy. For my own part, the issue of protection of the population was a central point emerging from my extended fieldwork activities in
areas of counterinsurgency operations in Latin America, where it was obvious that any involvement with government projects by ordinary citizens was inherently dangerous as long as the
insurgents were active. Whereas US General David Petraeuss recent counterinsurgency field
manual (FM 3/24) argued for the importance of protecting the population instead of (just) killing the enemy, a more juridical interpretation of the Danish armys responsibility to provide
soldiers for protection had implications for its limited resources and possibilities of engaging
in combat.
Finally, and related to the protection issue, the defence ministry insisted that the question of
resources was dealt with in the analysis as a central point, both in terms of civilian personnel
posted in the areas of operation and in terms of soldiers or others (such as the never-mentioned
private security companies a political no-go issue in Denmark) who could provide close protection and logistical support for the civilian advisers. As we learned along the way, the armed
forces were crying for more civilian involvement, arguing that development and reconstruction
was not the domain of the army but that the armed forces had to engage in these tasks as long as
the foreign ministry did not provide (sufficient) people with this expertise. When an area was
cleared, it was necessary to hold it and build in order to show the population that the government was a better provider than the other party to the conflict. Therefore, all available means
should be used to convince Danish NGOs and civil servants to work in the areas of military
deployment and join the efforts of the military. In fact, a very vocal proponent of the CPA policy
marketed in early 2008 the suggestion that the employment contracts of civil servants people
with experience in public administration, banking, transport, health, etc. should include a paragraph that allowed the government to deploy them abroad, even involuntarily if necessary, as
had been the case with the military since the early 1990s (Veicherts, 2008). In a sense, he was
proposing a globally extended version of total defence as imagined during the Cold War.
In the end, after several revisions, the terms of reference were signed in the governments
K-committee. While we had changed a good deal of wording, we had kept the effects in the terms
of reference, and despite ongoing ministerial budget cuts that also affected the budget for our
analysis, we managed to keep in a budget line for undertaking empirical studies in the areas of military deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. As things turned out, these studies were never carried out,
as Basra was engulfed by factional violence at the time of planning and Helmand had become so
affected by polarization and violence that not even experienced researchers from the region who
had carried out independent research in 2007 would consider taking on the assignment. Thus, the
analysis turned into what I did not want it to be from the outset: namely, an analysis of the internal
structures and processes of the Danish contribution with no empirical data regarding what the
doing does in the areas of operation. In this regard, the analysis ended up reinforcing the disjuncture between policymaking and the needs and practices on the ground that Chandler (2007: 375,
381) observes.

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At arms length? Work in progress


This section looks into dynamics that characterized the research/policymaker interface as draft
reports and tentative conclusions began to emerge. The main issue is the difference in perceptions
of independent research and how limited awareness of the different pressures and conditions of
work were sometimes reflected in clashing practices.
In a chapter on the anthropology of the state, Norwegian international relations researcher Iver
Neumann (2005) writes about his year-long fieldwork in Norways ministry of foreign affairs. In
contrast to his earlier work on practice in international relations (Neumann, 2002), which Vrasti
(2008) criticized for its lack of attention to the politics of writing, the situatedness of Neumanns
fieldwork experience comes out more clearly in this piece. While writing speeches for the ministry
and observing the differences between his own expectations and practices of writing and those of
the ministry, Neumann discovered that inclusiveness and the unity of the ministry were among the
most important values for ministerial employees. Draft speeches were circulated to all possible
stakeholders to ensure that they were behind the speech and that the speech lived up to conventions
of form and tradition. To his surprise, Neumann found that both the analytical content of the
speeches and considerations related to which audience the ministerial speech acts were targeting
were far less important than the values of avoiding internal conflicts and reproducing the unity and
identity of the ministry.
Neumanns observation is useful for a consideration of the practices and discourses articulated
in the CPA policy process. However, against Neumann, our experience was that both the analytical content and the potential audiences were given considerable attention in the ministries owing
to the stakes involved qua the military involvement. There are several reasons why the military
engagement involves higher stakes and has more potential resonance in the domestic domain than
a diplomatic speech or issues of development and humanitarian aid would have if they were not
related to military operations. For one thing, military operations usually involve a much larger
number of national citizens. As a representative of the Dutch armed forces remarked, the armed
forces deploy thousands of soldiers and manage hundreds of tons of goods, while the ministry of
foreign affairs is represented in the area of operation by a civil servant with a briefcase.12 Apart
from the numbers, the major difference lies in the importance of the traditional characteristic of
sovereignty, the right of death or the right to take life and to let live (Foucault, 2003). Most
notably, this involves the risk of the deaths of the deployed soldiers, but, as is evident in
Afghanistan, the issue of collateral damage is also of great importance for the legitimacy of an
international operation.
In the case of the intervention in Afghanistan, the legitimacy of the intervention, in the domestic
domain at least, was primarily discussed in terms of whether the investment of (Danish) lives,
money and prestige was worthwhile in the eyes of the electorate. For this purpose, reconstruction
and development were systematically presented by ministers and other politicians as the very raison dtre of the Danish military and civilian presence in Afghanistan. In a nutshell, the possibility
of securing Afghan girls access to basic education was what legitimated the sacrifice of lives and
the investment of funds.13 In a curious reversal of the securitization argument, the government held
that the military provision of security was rolled out in order to enable development for the
Afghan population. But, since development agencies could not provide development without military presence and protection, the civil and military operators had to work together. This explained
the need for a concept for civilmilitary cooperation such as the CPA.
On this background, it was no surprise that the first question on journalists minds when they
heard about the report was whether the government told us what to write. Well aware of this

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suspicion, the ministries were keen to keep our work at arms length and to keep the report as an
independent piece of research. For us, the work was only independent in the sense that we had
freedom of methods and that we would be writing and publishing the conclusions, but since we had
not formulated the research question, we could not regard the work as independent research. This
was a disappointment for the ministries, since they clearly made an effort to refrain from interfering too much with the research. Had it been a consultancy report we would have rewritten half of
it, as one civil servant put it jokingly.
In particular, I had problems accepting the question of how to further strengthen the CPA
policy, since it implied that the current policy was working well and thereby in principle at least
foreclosed one possible conclusion. In the ministries, I never found understanding for this fundamental researchers discomfort. The further strengthening was taken as a very natural and straightforward formulation, which of course relates very well to the forward looking perspective and the
strong reaction of the ministries in regard to our clumsy attempt to open up the question of whether
the CPA policy was a good idea at all and in all contexts. The assumption that the policy was necessary and good constituted the basis of the (sometimes fragile) unity of the ministries in the critical
situation that was emerging in Afghanistan. How the policy was to be improved was much more
open for discussion and disagreement, as already noted.
As the draft reports developed, we received comments from the reference group, including the
involved ministries. Significantly, the comments from the two ministries were not joined up, but
were not that different from each other. The comments engaged very seriously in a discussion of
whether the reports gave sufficient evidence for its conclusions and recommendations, and whether
we had the facts right. Whether their objections were right or not is not the issue here, but the
ensuing dynamic could be interpreted as evidence of a defensive tactic or logic of practice. This
would either foreclose criticism through reference to missing or wrong facts, or provide a basis for
the ministry to distance itself from the criticism by relegating the ground for criticism to a situation
in the past. A lengthy discussion of the cut-off point of the study suggests the importance of establishing a clear before and after if such a tactic is to work. This is at least how I perceived the
interaction.
A last aspect of the interaction concerns the issue of recognition of the working conditions and
of the work carried out by the civil servants under duress and severe time constraints. It is possible
to express a considerable amount of criticism if the tone of a report is managed carefully: 80% is
a question of wording, as one civil servant put it after we received a severe round of scolding in
response to some harsh sentences in one of the draft reports. This is common knowledge for consultants who are used to working for the ministries.
But, in other ways, too, researchers are expected to respect the particular conditions of work
in a government ministry, where everything revolves around the minister. This became very
clear when a team member had given an interview not about the report but about the situation in
Afghanistan. The interview accidentally enabled the journalist to deduce one of the more controversial suggestions of our report that building schools for girls may not be the most appropriate
thing to do in an operation that aims at facilitating political stabilization under high levels of
conflict. This critique went right to the heart of the explanation that politicians had given to the
population as to why Danish soldiers had to give their lives in Helmand. The interview hit the
front page of a Sunday paper, which caused journalists from the rest of the news media to put
questions to ministers who were completely unprepared for such a development. What the ministries thought about this was clearly communicated to our director the following Monday
morning.

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The aftermath
Contrary to what might be expected from the above, the report somehow managed to stay out of
the limelight of the press when it finally was released in connection with the public seminar at
which we presented its findings.14 Our commentators from the military and the NGOs found the
report very balanced, the ministry of foreign affairs was happy with the constructive mood of the
seminar, but, otherwise, nothing. The ongoing reorganization of the ministry of foreign affairs
incorporated proposals from the report, but the ministry would probably have made the same
changes even without the report to legitimize them. There were some misgivings from the defence
ministry when they discovered that the hours they had spent commenting on the report had been of
little avail since only few of their comments were reflected in the final version. In general, I have
the sense that the conclusions and recommendations were not really what the ministries were looking for at the time, and two years later they commissioned the drafting of a new concept for a
more comprehensive approach to international operations, this time guided directly by the ministries. However, this latter process stalled before reaching its conclusion, suggesting that there were
still unresolved differences between central policymakers.
Considering the aftermath of the report, the obvious question would be: What did the report then
do apart, of course, from teaching me some necessary lessons regarding the conditions and logics
that structure the work of policymakers? If we, in line with a practice approach, look at the policy
process and its performative effects instead of studying the documents themselves, the process of
writing the report may have done quite a lot. The buzz and activities around the report contributed
to discussions within and between institutions, and thereby to keeping the ball of the CPA policy
rolling. The process gave objective existence to something that can hardly be regarded as a policy
field if we consider the extremely heterogeneous character of the institutions, actors, ideas and
practices involved in the Danish engagement in international military operations. As Mosse (2005)
suggests, drawing upon Latour, policies are important not for what they say but for who they bring
together and enrol in the policy process. The qualification of the final report as being balanced
indicates that the form given to the policy analysis was socially appropriate in the sense that a
broad range of actors could identify with, or at least accept, the analysis and recommendations put
forward (Mosse, 2011: 11). My own conflict averseness surely contributed to a wording of the final
report that made room for compromise between various institutional and ideological differences.
Furthermore, both the process and the document contributed to stabilizing a policy discourse by
clarifying interpretations of key concepts and fitting them into a common framework, rationalizing
practices, translating local or emic concepts, and adding to the construction of a common jargon
across pre-existing epistemic communities. Finally, the process provided channels of communication for institutional actors who felt marginalized from the decisionmaking in the existing setup,
such as the Defence Command or the people who were deployed in Afghanistan.

Conclusion
In keeping with the postcolonial studies perspective laid out in the introduction, this article has
looked into the production of knowledge that feeds into Western state discourses of policy coherence in transnationalized security governance. However, the analysis has not focused on how powerful cultural assumptions about the unruly postcolony are built into power/knowledge complexes.
Rather, it has looked at the importance of various social practices involved in the process of developing a new policy, emphasizing the negotiated and social nature of knowledge production, of
what is considered relevant and important knowledge by agents of policymaking.

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When the present analysis is juxtaposed with that of Neumann or with ethnographies of development policy, it is notable that policymaking in the field of security governance is associated with a
distinct sense of urgency, as indicated by the involvement of the highest levels of the government.
Nevertheless, the high stakes involved in terms of life and death and the legitimacy of the Danish
involvement in combat operations did not result in the direct intervention in the writing that journalists expected. The ministries put great efforts into keeping the research independent and had high
expectations as to its results, but perceptions of independence differed and engrained practices intervened in the relationship, such as certain defensive tactics, issues of professional pride, and the
caution and urgency produced by the involvement of the highest levels of government.
Echoing arguments of postcolonial studies, the analysis presented here suggests that the crafting
of policies of coherence may have less to do with the needs and problems on the ground than with
the constitution of a joint identity or at least a joint purpose and language of the wide range of
actors involved in the emerging field of securitydevelopment policy. Thus, a policy of coherence
is good and cannot be wrong: it is just a matter of getting it right. Of course, this might just be a
trait of this particular process, in which a fragile consensus between different ministries was not to
be disturbed, but it coincides with Mosses (2005) conclusions on the making and effects of participatory development policies. According to Mosse, donors are more preoccupied with whether
policy models legitimize and mobilize practical and political support than whether they are implementable. This means that a donors knowledge of development is overly model-based or deductive, and allows little understanding of contingencies and instrumentalities, or open-ended learning
(Mosse, 2005: 2323). This would also contribute to explaining the contradictions we sensed
between, on the one hand, the somewhat open-ended, inductive approach of the researchers and,
on the other hand, the expectations of policymakers who are used to a more deductive approach in
which they take their point of departure in the possible conclusions as given by the political majority in the parliament.
Mosses point is that policies, being the results of certain policymaking practices, cannot do the
work of ordering practice on the ground through their implementation: Policy is an end rather
than a cause; a result, often a fragile one, of social processes (Mosse, 2005: 231). But, whereas
policy therefore may be unimplementable, it is absolutely central to what happens in arenas of
development (Mosse, 2005: 20) in ways similar to the outcomes of the CPA 2.0 policy process that
I mentioned above. This conclusion brings into play the argument that Chandler (2007) develops
for policymaking in the field of the securitydevelopment nexus: the policies of coherence are not
responding to the needs on the ground and are increasingly developed in isolation from practice,
which generates a disjuncture between policy and practice (Chandler, 2007: 374). Whereas
Chandler and Mosse coincide on this issue, Chandler regards the resulting policies as having only
a symbolic function in terms of allowing states to make self-referential statements in the international arena, while Mosses (and my) interpretation points to the social efficacy of policymaking in
terms of enrolling different social actors in a policy community and positioning policy as being
above, and guiding, practice.
As Vrasti (2008: 300) suggests in the vein of postcolonial studies, ethnography may help to read
and write global politics differently by taking our own practices of knowledge production as the
object of research. Ethnography promises to contribute to a critical approach to security planning
and policymaking as a negotiated social process to be scrutinized as it develops in different localities of the world, including in the offices of donor governments and research institutions. Whereas
such an approach has been adapted in critical studies of development, it is, as Vrasti and Pouliot
point out, not common in international relations and in security studies in particular. Apart from the
obvious problems of access, the use of a reflexive ethnographic approach threatens to destabilize

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representations of security governance that implicitly posit hierarchies between rational, cosmopolitan policymakers and observers, on the one hand, and not quite rational, pre- or non-political
locals in the postcolony, on the other. As the editors of this special issue note in their introduction,
the postcolonial state is negotiated in the sense that it depends on the translation and agency of
intermediaries and non-state agents. But, on the background of the present analysis of knowledge
production in a donor government, we may put forward the banal point that policy discourse is
similarly a highly negotiated process.
However, writing ethnography of ones own professional community amplifies the dilemmas of
the politics of writing and representation with which Vrasti wants international relations scholars
to engage. Ethnographic work presents policy processes in the light of experience, including experience with how policymaking relies on defensive tactics and informal practices that usually go
undocumented (Mosse, 2005: xxi; 2011). In this way, ethnography localizes and situates both
policymakers and researchers in the processes of negotiating knowledge production, which not
only affects policy narratives but also the authority of the researchers themselves. In this sense,
ethnography is an interested interpretation that coexists with other knowledge practices.
Funding
This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit
sectors.

Notes
1 See, for example, Chandler (2007); Buur et al. (2007); Duffield (2010).
2 See FM3-24/MCWP3-33.5, which is not a doctrine proper but a field manual designed to fill a doctrinal gap. Available at: http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm3-24.pdf (accessed 17 May 2012).
3 See http://www.fmn.dk/SiteCollectionDocuments/FMN/Forsvarsforlig%202005%202009/Samt%C3%
A6nkning.pdf (accessed 18 July 2012).
4 From Mulighedernes samfund: Regeringsgrundlag [The opportunity society: The negotiated basis for
the government coalition], November 2007 (authors translation). Available at: http://www.stm.dk/publikationer/Regeringsgrundlag2007/index.htm (accessed 18 July 2012).
5 The report(s) can be downloaded from http://www.diis.dk/sw68118.asp (accessed 16 July 2012).
6 See, for example, Schatzki et al. (2001); Neumann (2002); Pouliot (2008); Adler and Pouliot (2011).
7 For overviews, see Vrasti (2008); Schatz (2009).
8 See Falzon (2009) for an overview of critiques of Marcus.
9 Feldman here leans on Haraways (1988) notion of situated knowledge.
10 In military doctrines, CIMIC is the civilmilitary cooperation that serves to protect the forces themselves through engagement with civilian populations and institutions.
11 Denmark has a minister of development but no longer a separate ministry for development.
12 Interview, The Hague, June 2008.
13 It was only when Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in 2009 became the secretary-general of NATO
that the discourse shifted towards (internal) security as the main justification of the operation.
14 Possible reasons include that security journalists were present at the annual two-day intelligence service
seminar, that the release took place on a Friday and not a Thursday, that the press releases were not catchy
enough, that hard copies to the parliament were delayed, etc.

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Finn Stepputat is a Senior Researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies in Copenhagen, where
he works on issues of violent conflict, forced migration, securitydevelopment and state-formation, mainly
but not exclusively in Latin America. His publications include the co-edited volumes States of Imagination:
Ethnographic Explorations of the Postcolonial State (Duke University Press, 2001); Sovereign Bodies:
Citizens, Migrants, and States in the Postcolonial World (Princeton University Press, 2005); Fragile States
and Insecure People? (Palgrave, 2007); and The SecurityDevelopment Nexus: Expressions of Sovereignty
and Securitization in Southern Africa (HCSR Publications, 2007).

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