Home / Robert Farley / Maybe the White Walkers?

Maybe the White Walkers?


It’s not quite accurate to say that bureaucrats will do anything to protect budgets, as the relationship between turf, autonomy, resources, and organizational behavior is complex. Nevertheless, as a general first guess it’s usually not wrong to believe that bureaucrats will significantly stretch reality in order to defend their access to resources. Senior military officers (bureaucrats in uniform) will consequently say and do all manner of things in order to protect budgets; dramatically withdrawing an aircraft carrier from deployment, making dire warnings about the impact of mild cuts to the biggest defense budget in the history of the world, etc. In general, it’s best not to get too irritated about such things, because it is, after all, part of the job of a bureaucrat to protect his or her organization. In that vein, and to remind us that resource-driven threat inflation is not a peculiarly American phenomenon, I offer this:

Military experts said Sweden was probably unable to defend itself on its own in the event of an invasion, in a report published Thursday, saying the armed forces lacked necessary resources.

“Can We Defend Ourselves For a Week?” the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences asked in the title of its report.

Sweden is not a member of NATO and has a policy of military non-alliance, though it does participate in the Alliance’s Partnership for Peace program.

The report echoed comments made by Sweden’s chief of the armed forces, Sverker Goeranson, in the media in early January, when he said the Scandinavian country would be able to hold off an attack for only “about a week” following repeated cuts to the defense budget. Goeranson has been on sick leave for exhaustion since making his remarks.

The academy’s study, conducted in 2011 and 2012, supported his analysis of the situation.

“We think the military does not have a credible ability to defend all of Sweden … In the event of a possible attack against Sweden, we would always need help from abroad,” it wrote. “We think that the authorities should rapidly carry out a study on the conditions and possibilities of obtaining such assistance so that any potential crisis in the Baltic region can quickly be resolved, thereby avoiding any act of war from being undertaken.”

If you’re wondering “who is planning to invade Sweden?”, let me remind you that the Finns are never, ever to be trusted.

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  • wjts

    Laugh all you want, but even now the Elector of Saxony is marshaling his forces and conspiring with the Brandenburgian Hohenzollerns to wrest Livionia away from its rightful Swedish monarch.

    • Alan Tomlinson

      You would be fucking hard-pressed to find a Hohenzollern in Brandenburg today. Other parts of Germany, yes; Brandenburg, I don’t think so.


      Alan Tomlinson

      • I dunno, they still have property in Brandenburg, at least:

        Hohenzollern castle is still privately owned. Two-thirds of the castle belongs to the Brandenburg-Prussian line of the Hohenzollern, while one-third is owned by the Swabian line of the family. Since 1954, the castle has also been used by the Princess Kira of Prussia Foundation to provide a summer camp for needy children from Berlin. Hohenzollern castle has over 300,000 visitors per year, making it one of the most visited castles in Germany.[4]

        • John

          Hohenzollern Castle is in Baden-Württemberg in southwest Germany. The Hohenzollern properties in Brandenburg would have been seized by the Communists after World War II.

          • burritoboy

            True, but some properties were returned to their pre-Communist owners. I don’t have any specifics about the Hohenzollerns, however.

    • expatchad

      Is there a recognized treatment for this condition?

    • Warren Terra

      What about the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas? They’ve got one of the biggest militaries in Europe, and their younger son is supposed to be something of a hothead and isn’t currently set to inherit anything of importance.

      • Lurker

        Yep. And their family has shown, over times, a tendency to make swift coup-type attacks where you first invade with a small army and then utilise the internal dissension to snatch the throne. Examples include two Williams, one of them a bastard, another a husband of a certain Mary.

        • Halloween Jack

          That’s so unfair. Harry just wants to get naked with his buddies at the occasional wild party, or maybe put on a Nazi uniform. Just an average lad, really.

    • John

      Man, I love a good seventeenth century diplomacy joke. Well played.

      • rea

        Mostly 18th Century, actually . . .

        • John

          Right, although the original comment was a bit of a mishmash between the Great Northern War and earlier northern wars (Sweden fought Brandenburg most prominently in the 1670s).

          What the Great Northern War ought to show the Swedes is that a Danish-Polish-Russian alliance to strip them of their outlying territories is a terrifyingly real possibility.

          • rea

            Or alternatively, that invading Russia is a bad idea. Although neither Napoleon nor Hitler learned that lesson from the experience of Charles XII, so why should the present Swedish government?

    • rea

      Don’t worry-a Swedish Turkish alliance will solve these problems . . .

      • Vogon Pundit

        Now I’m thinking of the old Diplomacy board– wasn’t Russia/England the killer pair ?

  • I am thinking this is a good opportunity for Africa to get an easy European colony to exploit as reparations. Sweden sound a lot easier to conquer than northern Mali. I already have several projects in mind for Swedish forced labor. ;-)

    • If only you could get Italy kicked out of NATO.

      • rea

        I understand the EU is planning to sell Greeks for debt, so the market for Swedes may be somewhat depressed.

        • herr doktor bimler

          Come now. They’re quite cheerful during the summer months.

        • Beware Greeks bearing grift.

          • Jay C

            Shouldn’t that be “Beware of Greeks AS gifts”??

        • Trading for Turkey and future draft picks, as I have long maintained.

    • Karate Bearfighter

      I already have several projects in mind for Swedish forced labor.

      It’s no good; they can’t put together Ikea furniture, either.

      • bph

        I had assumed he had in mind an army of ABBA cover bands.

        • Bill Murray

          refighting Waterloo?

          • rea

            Or Poltava . . .

        • herr doktor bimler

          Can you hear the war-drums?

        • Hogan

          The winner takes it all.

  • Marek

    I’m pretty sure I have this board game.

  • Patrick

    Speaking of ‘overly dramatic’, from the Seattle Times a few weeks back:

    “Seafair’s Blue Angels air show would be among the casualties of an estimated $4 billion in automatic budget cuts that are scheduled to hit the Navy on March 1, according to a Navy planning document.”

    Hmm, I wonder who pointed them to that line item in the planning document, or if a local paper just digs through those all the time? And I wonder how much the fuel/operations for an air show are going to save out of that $4b. Well, I’m sure this has nothing to do with a hostage taking PR strategy for keeping the Navy budget up.


    • Dave

      “Titanic sinks. Local man saved.” Classic, innit?

  • witless chum

    Svalbard, obviously.

    • Njorl

      People live there?

      What is their tourist slogan, “Come for the cold. Stay for the bleakness!”

      • herr doktor bimler

        Miners mainly.

        • wjts

          And super-intelligent talking bears.

          • Davis X. Machina

            Armored super-intelligent talking bears. How cool is that?

            • Njorl

              Not as cool as cybernetically-enhanced, armored, super-intelligent, talking bears … armed with miniguns!

              • Bears are not nimble, and can easily be taken out with an ion cannon.

                • So, not the AT-AT walkers either?

                • Or as we Scandahoovians call them, “reindeer”

              • expatchad

                Not as cool as cybernetically cryogenically-enhanced, armored, super-intelligent, talking bears … armed with miniguns!


      • cpinva

        stay for the lutefisk.

        • efgoldman

          stay for the lutefisk.

          Obviously the Swedes’ secret weapon. Didn’t Napoleon say something about an army living on its stomach? If he didn’t he should have.

          • Bill Murray

            Lutefisk is the dwarf bread of Scandinavia. You smell it and you’re not hungry anymore. It’s like magic

  • Winchester

    Maybe some muzzies?

  • rea

    A little googling shows that the Swedish army is roughly twice the size of its Finnish counterpart.

    • Malaclypse

      Yes, but the Finnish Army is composed of Finns.

      • Yes, the Winter War was impressive. But defense is usually easier than offense, and I’d be surprised if the modern Swedes had quite as many vehicles that can’t operate in extreme cold as the Soviets were distressed to discover they had.

        • I dunno. Ever actually *drive* a Saab?

          • They have one small model that runs via burning wood pellets and the heat drives a Stirling engine which provides electrical power, I don’t know if there’s a military model available.

            • Warren Terra

              There’s a “they have one small model that runs” joke in here someplace …

          • rea

            I don’t want to hear your darn Saab stories . . .

        • Warren Terra

          I’ve always assumed that someplace in Sweden is the legendary female Volvo, a mighty beast of a vehicle indeed.

          (it’s a belief based on every Volvo I’ve seen having a male symbol on its hood).

          • Kid, if you need help finding her Volvo, Valentine’s Day is not for you.

            • BKNinCanadia


          • Vance Maverick

            I’m afraid to guess what its name might be.

      • herr doktor bimler

        Sadly, Sweden and Finland both allow women in combat roles, so we will not learn how much that has degraded their armies’ performance.

        • Jay C

          Even sadder, we’re also unlikely to learn if womens’ inclusion has improved their armies’ performance, either…

      • expatchad

        Uhm, dorsal or ventral?

    • herr doktor bimler

      Hey, it’s not really an invasion; they’re just trying to adjust the borders slightly and restore Finland’s access to the Arctic Ocean.

      • Njorl

        They’d have to go through Norway for that.

        • Don’t tell the Sami that.

          • Njorl

            The Sami have little to fear. If you’ve been following the thread on the battle of Hoth, you will be interested to learn that the Sami have developed a prototype AT-AT.

            • I had been. I missed that.

              And now I can’t stop laughing.

            • herr doktor bimler

              I cannot imagine Baba Yaga following any military doctrine or discipline.

              • herr doktor bimler

                Also too, Baba Yaga can be defeated by a Firebird.

                • efgoldman

                  Also too, Baba Yaga can be defeated by a Firebird.

                  Hah! Fooled me! I was looking for a link to either Stravinsky or a Pontiac.

              • burritoboy

                Didn’t Baba Yaga get shot in the head by Hellboy, or was I just hallucinating that?

      • cpinva

        i understand the beaches there are lovely this time of year.

        “Hey, it’s not really an invasion; they’re just trying to adjust the borders slightly and restore Finland’s access to the Arctic Ocean.”

        • Keaaukane

          That makes me pine for the fjords…

          • Slartibartfast

            I have always thought they give a “baroque” feel to a continent.

          • efgoldman

            That makes me pine for the fjords…

            Are you singin’ in the bleedin’ choir invisible?

    • witless chum

      Allegedly, during the 30 Years War, the Catholic Church instituted a special prayer to be said seeking deliverance from the terrible Finns, who made up part of the Swedish Army. Gustavus Adolphus pretty much formed Nordic Voltron.

      • jdkbrown

        I’m going to start lobbying Gustavus Adolphus College to change their mascot to the Nordic Voltrons.

    • John

      I’d assume that, to the extent that there’s any logical comparison to a plausible real world foe going on here, that the planners are looking at the Russians as the potential threat. Certainly Russia has been Sweden’s primary potential enemy for a very long time, including during the Cold War.

  • herr doktor bimler

    We Danish revanchists do not recognise the skulduggerish Swedish annexation of Skåne.

  • RhZ

    No one noticed the spam at the end of that older post?

    • I, too, was puzzled by that. Presumably selling bomber jackets over the internet fits into LGM’s long term plan for world conquest somewhere, but damned if I can find it.

      • Halloween Jack

        Well, you know, they’re always talking about the airplanes…

    • Anon21

      I’ve seen this before on one of their older posts. Some “harmless” SEO for a pittance, or has their website been hacked to some obscure purpose?

  • cpinva

    just wore his ass right out, did it?

    “Goeranson has been on sick leave for exhaustion since making his remarks.”

    i’m guessing next will be an announcement, that he’s retiring, “to spend more time with his family.”

    • Pestilence

      gardening leave, in british parlance

      • There’s the Golden Handshake, where you get a teacher to retire by giving them some sort of lump sum payout if they will NEVER TEACH AGAIN. It’s mainly done at community colleges and the like.

    • efgoldman

      i’m guessing next will be an announcement, that he’s retiring

      Or in biz-speak, “to pursue other opportunities.”

      • Bill Murray

        or to spend the remainder of his life in quiet contemplation and prayer

  • CJColucci

    I recall someone running in a Danish election in the early-mid-1970’s who proposed replacing the entire military establishment with an answering machine that said “We surrender” in Russian. Made sense to me, but he didn’t win.

    And as an Italo-Finnish American, I’m keeping track of the ethnic jokes. Just saying….

    • Gus

      It’s funny you should mention that. I grew up in Northern Minnesota, and we had “Finnlander” jokes like the rest of the country had Polack jokes. The rest of Minnesota has Ole and Lena jokes, but we had Eino and Toivo jokes.

      • expatchad

        Polack is not a joke. Just his artwork.

      • CJColucci

        My favorite Finnish joke:

        Mikko came over to Uurpo’s house one early summer morning bearing several bottles of schnapps. They sat out on the porch with the first bottle at around 9:00 and started drinking in silence.
        Around 10:30, Mikko said: “I’m going to get another bottle Uurpo.”
        They continued drinking, and, at around noon, Mikko got uop and said: “Another bottle.”
        So it went roughly every ninety minutes until the sun began to set. Mikko turned to Uurpo and said: “This has been a nice day, hasn’t it, Uurpo?”
        “Damn it, Mikko,” Uurpo snarled, “are we drinking or talking?”

        • I’ve got to dig up and link (if I can, it’s a really old website) of the tales of an American ex-pat working in Helsinki.

          The tale goes something like “My co-worker would come in at 9, plop his hat on his desk, say ‘Huomentaa’ and never say another word to me until ‘hyvaa iltaa’.”

          • Heh! I thought I had posted it at my blog. I don’t have a link to the original email, but….

  • sam

    Any world leader planning to invade Sweden receives a “visit” from Lisbeth Salander, who is real.

    • Dave

      No, she’s some dead Swedish guy’s no. 1 top masturbation-fantasy. Which tells you a lot about what you have to do to get your rocks off in that kind of weather.

  • Finns are never, ever to be trusted.

    That’s IT, Farley! Lutefisk at twelve paces!¹

    ¹ Of course, I’ll only take six. And I’ll be carrying a grenade launcher.

    • MAJeff

      You win already. I wouldn’t get within 12 miles, much less 12 paces, of that stuff.

      • sparks

        I’ve had plenty of dishes with baccala and even I find lutefisk quite unpalatable.

    • Pestilence

      Dont forget Farley’s motto, Walk softly and carry a Big Battleship

      • Carrying lutefisk, I laugh at battleships.

  • Medrawt

    The Swedish military experts may be exaggerating for effect, but I feel like there’s kind of an interesting question here.

    I was born in the United States, in 1982. My life has been living in a nation that is vastly more powerful than its immediate neighbors, with which it is a close ally, protected by two oceans, in the world’s dominant economic and military power. The extreme version of overselling what our military needs to be capable of is something like “fight major land wars in two different foreign theaters simultaneously,” and I think that’s ridiculous. But “being prepared to successfully defend against an assault [however unlikely] from the world’s [other] premiere military powers” is both semi-rational (given that they’re our peers and therefore, in some unhappy future, our potential enemies) and, thanks to our geographic and resource advantages, fairly plausible.

    But what is a plausible defensive goal for Sweden, assuming it’s of a mindset that “we don’t want to get in a fight but we want to be ready if it happens” (which itself, might just be a ridiculous thing to think in the current political climate, but whatever). Should they aim for being able to repel an invasion from Norway or Finland? What about Russia? What about the EU? What’s the point at which it would make sense for them to shrug and say “yeah, [x] could roll into our capital and overthrow our government if they wanted to, but get ready for the wintry insurgency”?

    • Anon21

      Given the overall geopolitical situation of Europe, I think their best bet would be to have a cheap, token military incapable of defending them against any external threat, and to assume (pretty safely) that the EU would not allow Finland or Russia to invade them.

      • The most reasonable discussion I’ve seen grow out of this is a proposal for a Nordic version of NATO, where the Baltic nations would sign cross-defense pacts. Any nation large enough to cross swords with that would have long before attracted either Russian or American attention.

      • Bill Murray

        or signs along the borer saying

        “Even Hitler didn’t invade us!”

    • Well, the proposal is to add….drumroll please….$700 million to the current annual expenditure of $6.1 billion (US equivalents, please note). So a twelve percent increase.

      Not surprisingly, the new coalition Swedish government is a center-right coalition. Some of this, perhaps most, is a military-industrial complex sham, to be sure.

      The nuance of this report is that the Swedes are fully capable of defending against what they call a localized attack, but that multipronged assaults on the nation would be indefensible.

      Could we just give them a few planes out of our reserves and be done with it?

    • Lurker

      In practice, Sweden and Finland have not had military contingency planning for a war against each other since early 1920s. Sweden did have, in late 1930s, a contigency plan which involved moving the bulk of the Swedish Army to Finland, but that assumed a Russian attack to Finland and Sweden, with subsequent common defence under the League of Nations.

      For Sweden, the threat scenario they seem to find likely (e.g. Swedish defence blogger Cornucopia) is an attack against Baltic countries by Russia, which is well within the realm of possibility. To perform a swift occupation of the three Baltic countries and to deter NATO counteraction afterwards, the Russians would need air superiority over Baltic. To get this, they would need to occupy Gotland, the largest island of the Baltic sea.

      By basing SAMs in Gotland, they would be able to prevent NATO freedom of action in the Baltic sea and to blackmail Sweden to remain neutral. After that, liberating Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia would require at least an army of 500,000 troops and a corresponding air component.

      As a result, NATO would need to decide between a full-scale air-land war (meaning total mobilization and a risk of nuclear escalation) and acquiescense. As far as I can tell, you Americans are not really so eager to commit 200,000 troops and 300 air planes for a land war in Europe, just for the sake of the Baltic states.

      • Another lurker

        Really? Russia attacking the Baltic states? With armed forces? And taking out Gotland as part of the scheme? If this is the most likely threat scenario, and you want me to cough up money to protect us from this, I have a nice tower of steel, conveniently located in Paris, to sell you.

        On a more serious note, Sweden has always fought the Russians to the last Finn, so no news here. Sweden’s armed forces consist of a seriously bloated air force (due to the fact that we design and build the damned planes ourselves), an actually sensible littoral navy, and a minuscule army corps (the size of a battalion, if my memory serves me right) for international action. There is mandatory national service for men, which is put on hold for now, and de facto replaced with voluntary service. I’d say that half of the budget is subsidies to the military-industrial complex (which is mostly aviation in Sweden), and the other half is a bribe to the ‘military interest’ (which is what our center-right prime minister explicitly calls them). There is no popular support for a bigger defense budget (see most likely threat scenario above to understand why), and everybody knows it. All of this is basically jockeying for position by the small parties in the ruling coalition, who all face the possibility of being eliminated from the parliament in the next election, and self-serving bullshit spread by the military-industrial complex.

    • Lurker

      but get ready for the wintry insurgency

      No sensible defence planner really wants to propose this option. While an insurgency warfare may be effective if combined with outside material, political and diplomatic support, it is catastrophic to the population. Even a short insurgency takes years to succeed, most people killed by both sides are your own civilians and an enormous amount of infrastructure is destroyed. Worst of all, almost all your social institutions either lose their legitimacy or are destroyed by the insurgents or the occupier.

      In almost any case, accepting occupation after losing a conventional war is a better choice than insurgency. The only exception is the case where the enemy has a clear aim to commit genocide against you.

  • Maybe the AT-AT walkers? The Scott Walkers?

  • You scoff at the threat of the White Walkers, but can you imagine the domestic political freakout if Mance Rayder’s army of wildlings was marching on Stockholm?

  • Warren Terra

    I can’t believe the thread has made it this far without singing along to Finland.

    • cpinva

      it was the lutefisk comment, i apologize.

      “I can’t believe the thread has made it this far without singing along to Finland.”

    • We….try not to speak of this.

  • Pseudonym

    If Sweden can’t even defend itself, what was the point of its wielding all those socialist death panels?

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