“One cannot do without a method to be seeking the truth of things.”
René Descartes, Discours de la méthode (1637).
The introduction of this edited volume explains the intention and scope of the book. It then explains why defence issues tend to raise specific methodological challenges by uncovering two challenges experienced by all the contributors of the book: the insider/outsider dilemma and the choice for quantitative, qualitative or a mix of both methods. Then the introduction will explain the logic underpinning the structure of the book and present the different chapters.
The past three decades have witnessed a signiﬁcant growth in social science research on defence issues. With the rise of global terrorism, the return of the use of armed force in international relations after the Cold War, the growing professionalization and the rising technologization of defence matters, academic research on defence is not only relevant but also indispensable. Indeed, the use of violence, as defence’s core issue, is probably one of the most unpredictable topics in human society (e.g. Soeters et al. 2014). And though numerous works on defence issues have been published in recent decades,1 only a limited number of these are speciﬁcally dedicated to metho- dological questions (see Soeters et al. 2014; Williams et al. 2016; Carreiras et al.
2016). However, in the past few years, some methodological reﬂections have arisen on how to conduct research on the military. Researchers from diﬀerent countries have started to consider method as a research topic per se when it comes to investigating defence issues (see in particular Carreiras and Castro 2011; Soeters et al. 2014; Car- reiras et al. 2016). Boëne proposed for instance a stimulating thinking on methods and theories in military studies (Boëne 2008). In the past decade, ﬁve academic books and handbooks more precisely fuelled this emerging academic literature: one exclu- sively focuses on the use of qualitative methods (Carreiras and Castro 2011), while the others aim at a wider perspective and also question military sociology, reﬂexivity, publishing or even ethics (Soeters et al. 2014; Williams et al. 2016; Carreiras et al.
2016; Caforio and Nuciari 2018). The Routledge Handbook of Research Methods in Military Studies (Soeters et al. 2014) is very rich but focuses mainly on methods on military questions, when researching conﬂict, war and military actors. The project of this book is diﬀerent in that it focuses on defence as a whole, which means also as a public policy ruled by norms, historical, economical and geographical aspects, and reliant on many factors such as public opinion or parliamentary votes. Thus, this edited book puts a speciﬁc focus on conﬂict and war, as explained in the sections below. Last, but not least, another recently published handbook raises some metho- dological challenges but with a very particular focus on international security: the Oxford Handbook of International Security (Gheciu and Wohlforth 2018). As for the French academic sphere, it seems to have taken a little more time as defence studies emerged later and with more diﬃculty in the French academic landscape, as com- pared with the British or American ones (see Holeindre and Vilmer 2015; Holeindre
2015). Yet we can recently observe positive developments in two ways. On the one hand, a special issue of the French journal Les Champs de Mars dedicated to defence researches by social scientists has been published on methodological issues with a focus on interviews in the defence milieu (Lafaye et al. 2015). On the other hand, the Institute for Strategic Studies (IRSEM) located in Paris organized a special doctoral workshop on methodology in strategic studies in June 2019.2 But aside from these recent works, questioning methods in defence research remains quite marginal com- pared to the increasing number of academic publications dedicated to defence issues in the past three decades. And yet this subject is not only interesting for young and senior researchers, but also for students and practitioners, since defence and the military raise the question of the speciﬁc features of this social ﬁeld.
Why publish this volume now?
What does this book aim to bring to the literature on methods while investigating defence issues? The volume intends to complete this emerging literature by addressing a number of topics that have either not been dealt with suﬃciently or even not at all before. If the case of geographical methods, public policy methods, or quantitative methods, for instance, has been much under-investigated in defence studies until then, some of the issues raised here are even a ﬁrst, like secondary analysis in defence stu- dies. In this later case the authors of the chapter dedicated to this topic could not ﬁnd any substantial publications on the subject and propose a reﬂexive analysis of a unique research experience (see Borzillo and Deschaux-Dutard in this volume). The contributors to this edited book, all high-proﬁle French and German scholars, have been chosen not only for their acknowledged specialization in defence studies in their own disciplinary ﬁeld but also for their innovative methodologies and openness to cross-disciplinary research in several cases. Thus this volume aims at adding value to the emerging literature dedicated to methodological questions regarding research on defence issues. It will also give a valuable access in English to a large amount of the literature developed in French and German synthesized for the ﬁrst time in the con- tributions of this volume, and not previously accessible to a wider non-native speak- ing audience.
Yet one could question the timing: why this volume now? The rise in academic interest in defence issues in the aftermath of the terror attacks in France in 2015 and more generally in Europe has been a strong impetus for the development of defence studies in France in particular. The terror attacks in Paris in November 2015 revealed a critical lack of social sciences scientiﬁc resources on defence and security issues, which prompted the French Ministry of Defence to dedicate speciﬁc funding for research in social science on defence topics in the widest sense. Even though doctoral and post- doctoral funding had been introduced since the end of the 1990s,3 the aftermath of the terror attacks witnessed a radical increase in such funding facilities for universities that are independent from the defence institution. In parallel, scholars have also worked at promoting the emergence of defence and war studies in France by witnessing the suc- cess of this ﬁeld in Anglo-Saxon countries where war studies have for long time become an established research ﬁeld in the academia (Holeindre and Vilmer 2015; Holeindre 2015). Yet if research on defence issues is encouraged by the new capital inﬂow released by defence institutions in France but also in some other countries as Germany in the last decade (see for instance Gareis and Klein 2006: 12), the question of how to inves- tigate such topics also increases, as a recent controversy on these funding has shown in the French political science community.4 As the defence sphere is characterized by its social speciﬁcity, it is important to give intense thought to the way it can be investi- gated by social sciences using both quantitative and qualitative epistemologies.
The other important reason why this volume is being published now is the increasing interest of students in defence issues in the past decade. At the University of Grenoble Alpes alone, the only pluridisciplinary master’s degree on defence and international security (existing both in face-to-face and online teaching) welcomes over 400 applica- tions each academic year for only 50 places. The same is true in many universities oﬀering master’s degrees in International Relations, or security and defence issues. Thus the growing number of students engaging in defence studies not only in France but also in other European countries makes it all the more important to give them the tools to address defence issues with solid methods and informed knowledge.
Scope of the book
Yet we need to explain more precisely what we understand under the term “defence studies” in this volume, as it is the common ground for all the contributions. It is important to deﬁne the scope of this book and what makes it diﬀerent from the other existing handbooks. As Galbreath and Deni deﬁne it, defence studies constitutes “a multi-disciplinary ﬁeld examining how agents, predominantly states, prepare for, pre- vent, avoid and/or engage in armed conﬂict” (Galbreath and Deni 2018: 1). Thus defence studies can be considered as a coherent area of study encompassing the way defence policies are set up and evolve over time under a large set of constraints and the action of multiple public and private actors. It is therefore important to distinguish defence studies from security studies, covering almost the totality of international and internal aﬀairs,5 and also from war studies, focusing mainly on the ﬁghting aspects of the military (operations, strategy, tactics but also soldiers’ experience). As Schmitt underlines, the link between defence studies and war studies consists in understanding war in all its aspects as a necessity to build an eﬃcient defence policy able to cope with threats (Schmitt 2018: 18). Therefore defence studies are a natural component of war studies (Schmitt 2018: 26). Here we understand defence studies following the deﬁnition of defence as a policy and a strategic action aiming at preparing for conﬂicts and opposing eﬃciently to threats. We also include a larger sense of defence when con- sidering civil wars in the contribution on databases, for instance, as they constitute the majority of the 21st century’s armed conﬂicts.
The term “defence” has been used in a narrow sense in the military context since the end of the 12th century as the means mobilized by a state to make war (Joana 2017). The signiﬁcation of the term has then evolved towards a much broader meaning from the 19th century and designates two main elements: a speciﬁc domain of state public action (a policy) (Vennesson 2000; Battistella et al. 2012; Joana 2017) and a peculiar type of strategic action (Brown et al. 2004). Broadly speaking defence can be con- sidered as the way to translate foreign policy, and more and more often also security objectives,6 into military means (encompassing ﬁnancial means but also troops, arm procurement and even public opinion support). Defence policies result from the inter- action of a multiplicity of actors: civilian, military and administrative actors (Vennes- son 2000). Therefore, defence studies lies at the intersection between internal and international issues. The scope of the book is to propose epistemological and metho- dological food for thought based on defence as a speciﬁc ﬁeld which not only entails the overall means public authorities dedicate to the defence of their territory, the pro- tection of their citizen through military forces and the support of their interests in international security but also the norms surrounding this ﬁeld of public action and the strategies adopted in order to develop an eﬀective defence. This global understanding of defence studies leads us to adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to methods in defence studies, as defence encompasses not only political and social issues, but also normative and legal, economic, historical and geographic issues. Defence also requires quantiﬁcation, be it for defence spending purposes or to measure the level of public support or the implication of states in defence issues such as military deployment. We then consider defence studies together as studies of a speciﬁc type of policy developed by political authorities within the framework of a political regime, as a speciﬁc type of normative and legal production and as a form of strategic action relying on multiple material and immaterial factors such as geography, history (Part I) but also statistics and data, public opinion and democratic control (Part II). With our deﬁnition of the scope of the book clariﬁed, we can now deal with general methodological questions raised by defence studies and how we conceive of them in this volume.
Why do defence topic raise speciﬁc methodological questions?
Researching defence issues raises a singular question: is the defence ﬁeld a speciﬁc social ﬁeld or not? And if it is, what makes it special?7 We will only outline the main arguments from the debate around the speciﬁc feature of the defence ﬁeld, as this is not the main point of this introduction but it still has some implications in the key debates we will discuss below. On the one hand, the defence ﬁeld has a clearly identiﬁed social function in human societies: defence and the military are consubstantial with state monopoly of violence (Elias 1991; Tilly 1985). Many researchers endorse this concep- tion of defence as a speciﬁc social ﬁeld (Boëne 1990; Bardiès 2011; Soeters et al. 2014), and we subscribe to it. Defence issues are most of the time characterized by techni- cality and secrecy (think about the decision to launch a military intervention, or to develop a new military device as drones for instance). Even if most of the armies of democratic industrialized countries have become professional armies after the Cold War, one cannot aﬃrm that defence and the military are such common professions (Janowitz 1974; Moskos and Wood 1988; Gresle 2005). Their core social characteristic is violence and the implementation of state violence outside the national territory, and even sometimes inside as the increasing use of the military for securing purposes against the terrorist threat has shown for few years in many European countries, with the case of the Sentinelle operation in France for instance. Therefore producing research on defence requires to take this speciﬁcity into account (we will discuss shortly the insider/outsider dilemma for the researcher below). This also implies reﬂexivity (see interesting developments on this issue in Carreiras and Caetano 2016). In the next two sections we will focus on two core debates on methodological issues when researching defence and that all the contributors of this edited book experienced at least once: the insider/outsider dilemma, and the choice for qualitative or quantitative methods.
Uncovering the insider/outsider dilemma
The insider/outsider dilemma is closely linked with the question of accessing the ﬁeld and/or data in defence studies. Most of this volume’s contributors have experienced it, be it for the purposes of interviews, data or archive collection. All of the authors gathered here either had to negotiate their way to access the defence ﬁeld, or became embedded (for a short or longer time) in defence institutions as researchers and thus had to keep a critical distance from the ﬁeld (see Pajon and Martin 2015).
The access to the defence ﬁeld can be diﬃcult for diﬀerent reasons: danger in some cases (like a ﬁeld research during some military operations; see Leonhard et al. 2008), but also frequently mistrust from defence institutions. The researcher often faces a common fear of secrecy-breaking towards external members who do not belong to the defence ﬁeld (see Schmitt 2015 on conﬁdentiality and secrecy issues). Researching the defence ﬁeld, either by interviews, polls, statistics or archives, implies that if he/she wants to collect valid data, the researcher should not be perceived as an “intruder” by defence actors. It is therefore crucial to raise trust not only towards the hierarchy (oﬃcers or unity commander for instance), but also towards the soldiers or administrative actors if needed. In that matter, we experienced in our own researches that some contacts oﬀer “open sesames”: name-dropping can be quite fruitful (Deschaux-Beaume 2012).
Getting along with the hierarchy can be even more crucial when the researcher needs to reach soldiers. If the respondents feel that hierarchy mistrusts the researcher, its introduction in the ﬁeld can be diﬃcult and sometimes even impossible: Pajon uses the expression “managing mistrust” to describe this situation (Pajon 2005). However, being granted trust from the hierarchy does not guarantee that the researcher will be well introduced among troops: he/she can still be seen as a relay of the hierarchy sent to scrutinize the soldiers (Hockey 2016). Thus many researchers contributing to this volume not only had to ask for an authorization to access classiﬁed documents, but also sometimes chose immersion to become a “native”. Mastering the culture and technical language of the defence sphere is not only a way of being trusted but also a way of understanding the ﬁeld behind the technicality surrounding it. To put it simply: the closer one gets mentally, culturally, cognitively, to the defence ﬁeld, the higher the chances to get access, and vice versa. However, this insider strategy raises a connected dilemma: how to publish in the open the results of research if one needs an authoriza- tion from the defence ﬁeld? How to manage the “resurfacing” by making sure the researcher does not only write what the defence institution would like him to say? There again, reﬂexivity on what method is applied and for what research purpose is crucial so as to manage to produce valid research results not necessarily in line with the oﬃcial defence narrative. Therefore, depending on the aim of the research, the question of the access to the defence ﬁeld is directly linked with methodological choices.
Qualitative, quantitative … or both methods?
Is there a method better suited to analyse defence issues with social sciences tools? The choice of method is not only driven by the aim of the enquiry but is also problem- driven in defence studies. We won’t enter the quantitative versus qualitative debate here as it would take us far from our scope (on this question, see Goertz and Mahoney 2006, 2012). We will only outline some implications of research on defence issues both for quantitative or qualitative methods.9
Starting with qualitative methods, though this methodology often meets the insider/ outsider dilemma, it constitutes a very fruitful way of enquiring into the defence ﬁeld.10
Following the idea that “if one wants to know society, one ﬁrst has to know it ﬁrst- hand” (Becker 2007: 44), qualitative methods relying on semi-directed interviews, participant observation, focus groups or the ethnographical methodology provide a stimulating methodology to study defence issues.11 More precisely, in the case of a social science research on defence, qualitative interviews fulﬁl two main objectives: getting ﬁrst-hand information, and having interesting access to the military actors and their representations and practices (Deschaux-Beaume 2011, 2012). The same applies to archives directly gathered from the soldiers for instance (see Lafaye in this volume). The ethnographic method seems to be particularly popular among scholars working on defence, as it oﬀers a unique access to this usually closed ﬁeld (Lafaye et al. 2015; Schmitt 2015). But some also experiment with other techniques, such as focus groups (Haddad in Carreiras and Castro 2011), participant observation (Carreiras and Castro 2011; Schmitt 2015; Hockey 2016), data collection through databases or computing devices (Kauﬀmann in this volume), and of course archives when it is possible (Deschaux-Beaume 2011; Schmitt 2015; Lafaye in this volume).
Concerning quantitative methods,12 they raise the question of accessing enough data and/or respondents (in the case of a wide survey, for instance) so as to build a valid sample. The epistemology and methodological choices implied by quantitative methods will be discussed in Chapter 7, as Kauﬀmann explains the epistemological founding principles of these methods and their implementation in defence studies. The choice for quantitative methods relying on multiple cases or surveys not only necessitates the agreement of the hierarchy but also the eﬀective presence of the respondents. For instance, if one wants to conduct an opinion survey inside a military unit, one chal- lenge is the rapid turnover of the soldiers: as Pajon states, in some cases, about 80% of the unit troops are outside the national territory and sometimes for many months (Pajon 2005). The same problem occurs when the researcher wants to reiterate inter- views with oﬃcers or soldiers several months or even years after the ﬁrst research phase (Settoul 2015). Another related problem is the researcher’s freedom to build his/her own sample when sometimes defence institutions would rather propose “representa- tive” individuals chosen from the inside to prevent any critical judgement to be expressed before external persons (Pajon 2005).
Thus any method can be well suited while researching defence matters as long as the method is problem-driven (Soeters et al. 2014; Deschaux-Dutard 2018). Several con- tributors of this book also tend to mix quantitative and qualitative methods by choos- ing a dominant method (for instance, the qualitative one) and complementing it by a second one: the case is particularly striking in the collection and management of archives by Lafaye (Chapter 3).
The aim of this book is thus to provide the reader with an overview of methods used in diﬀerent social sciences (political science, sociology, history, public law, economics, geography) in order to investigate the defence ﬁeld and analyse defence issues using both qualitative and quantitative tools and in some cases mixing methods from diﬀer- ent disciplinary backgrounds.
Structure of the book
Broadly speaking, defence can be considered as the way to translate foreign policy, and more and more often also security objectives (with the growing implication of military actors in the internal ﬁght against terrorism, as in the framework of the operation Sentinelle in France since 2015), into military means (encompassing ﬁnan- cial means but also troops, arm procurement and even public opinion support). All the contributors have signiﬁcant experience in research on defence topics, which they can draw upon to propose original and synthetic reﬂections on methods in the mul- tiple areas covered by defence studies. The book also addresses the multiplicity of defence studies by covering not only organizational and legal aspects, but also operational and even political topics such as the measurement of public opinion on defence matters or the construction of an international index to scrutinize parlia- mentary votes on military deployment in several Western countries.
Thus this edited volume follows a structured logic. The methods presented here and put to the test by the contributors aim at exploring the diﬀerent elements sur- rounding defence policies. For clarity reasons, the book adopts a classical divide between qualitative and quantitative approaches, which does not mean that one is exclusive of the other, as a researcher investigating defence issues may use both, depending on what he/she aims at demonstrating. We will come back to this idea in the conclusion of this book. Many contributors not only explain the status of defence issues in their own disciplinary ﬁeld but also propose original reﬂexions on the methods used from their disciplinary perspective. Several contributors underline their use of both methodologies, but with a bigger place dedicated to one or the other (see, in particular, the chapters by Lafaye, Cattaruzza, Kauﬀmann and Ostermann et al. in this volume). Most of the contributors also explain how they deal with the digitalization of data, not only when using databases but also when using archives, geographical information or even interviews. The book is composed of six chapters focusing primarily on qualitative methods, and ﬁve chapters more orientated towards quantitative methods.
The structure of the book starts with the physical, normative, political, social and historical dimensions of defence studies. The ﬁrst part deals more precisely with quali- tative methods to uncover these dimensions. The logic underpinning this part is to explore the diﬀerent elements having an impact on defence policies and defence issues, starting with material and objective ones (geography, law, history) to come to the more social and subjective ones implying representations and social practices. Therefore many chapters not only analyse methods from a disciplinary point of view but also need to recall ﬁrst the place of defence issues in some of the disciplines represented in this volume as geography, law or history, so as to better reﬂect on methodological aspects. More precisely in Chapter 1, Amaël Cattaruzza discusses methodological questions raised by the geographical approach to defence issues. Therefore he ﬁrst draws the links between geography and defence studies so as to better show how geo- graphic methods can give us interesting insights to investigate defence topics on the wider sense. He more precisely focuses on the question of data and big data, and how the spatialization of data impacts defence studies. In Chapter 2, Anne-Sophie Traversac focuses on the law methodology when researching defence on the perspective of public law (international, European and national law). She demonstrates how defence studies have started to spread into public law by developing more precisely from the case of French public law and its growing interest for defence issues in the last decade. She also pleads for cross-fertilization of methods between public law and political science to grasp the complexity of defence legal measures. In Chapter 3, Christophe Lafaye proposes an analysis of the emergence of defence and war studies in the French uni- versity system and how the historical discipline found its way in this emerging ﬁeld. He then reﬂects on the use of archives and how to deal with immediate and digitalized archives, advocating the training of social science researchers in computing methods. In Chapter 4, Laurent Borzillo and Delphine Deschaux-Dutard explore an under-investi- gated issue: secondary analysis of qualitative data in defence studies. They propose a reﬂexion on the potentialities and limits of this method in defence studies, as it also raised ethical questions to be addressed by the researcher. Both researchers more pre- cisely focus on the re-use of qualitative interviews in defence studies and formulate propositions to archive this kind of material in a digitalized way. In Chapter 5, Cathe- rine Hoeﬄer addresses the question of method using policy analysis to investigate defence and focuses on some of the key issues pertaining to the links between policy analysis and defence studies. Uncovering among others the question of agenda setting, governance, implementation and eﬀectivity or internationalization of defence public policies, she furthermore advocates for methodological pluralism and underlines some challenges of qualitative methods when researching defence using conceptual and methodological tools from policy analysis. In Chapter 6, Gregor Richter gives a critical overview on empirical sociological methods in defence-related research. He particularly explores the way research questions are generated using sociological analytic tools on defence issues and the challenges of embedded sociological research, the access to the ﬁeld and how to deal with research results.
The second part of the book has been conceived to focus more thoroughly on the use of quantitative methods and statistics to investigate the defence ﬁeld in several social sciences such as political science, sociology or economics. This part logically starts with a general reﬂection about quantitative methods in defence studies before more precisely focusing on some speciﬁc uses of these methods to build and analyse databases and data, create indexes or even opinion surveys on defence topics. This part opens with Chapter 7, in which Mayeul Kauﬀman proposes a general overview of the main cate- gories of quantitative methods applied to defence studies, presenting various examples illustrating their strength and weaknesses. His primary reﬂections about the founding principles of quantitative methods and their epistemological foundations furthers understanding of how useful such methods can be used to investigate defence issues, but also the limits of such methods. In Chapter 8, Kauﬀmann relies on his dual back- ground as defence economist and computer scientist to draw synthetic methodological observations from the use of databases and big data in defence studies, even introdu- cing a state-of-the-art of techniques and technologies so as to make them accessible and fruitful to non-technical readers by providing guidelines for the creation of data- bases on defence issues. In Chapter 9, Julien Malizard follows the reﬂection on the use of quantitative methods by addressing the issue of economic methods in defence stu- dies. He ﬁrst explores the diﬀerent possible economic methods used to investigate the defence topic with a particular focus on the calculation of defence spending, and then addresses the important question of economic data production and its limits, before proposing a critical review of the main topics and methods used in defence economics. In Chapter 10, collectively written by Falk Ostermann and his colleagues from the research project Parliamentary Deployment Vote Database (PDVD),13 the authors analyse and explain the method used to build indexes in defence studies, with a speciﬁc case study on parliamentary votes on military deployment in several countries during the last decade. Last but not least, in Chapter 11, Markus Steinbrecher and Heiko Biehl pursue the exploration of quantitative data by explaining how public opinion surveys on defence issues can be developed and what are their potential and limits to analyse the relationship between defence and public support with a case study focusing on German public opinion. The book ﬁnishes with a Conclusion by Delphine Deschaux-Dutard pleading for more cross-fertilization between the diﬀerent methods and disciplines and relying on examples so as to grasp more in depth the complexity of the defence ﬁeld in the 21st century.
* The editor of this book would like to thank three anonymous reviewers for their fruitful suggestions on an earlier version of this introduction.
1 When typing the key words “defence” and “military” and browsing only in titles, Google
Scholar ﬁnds over 1180 pages of results from 1990, all disciplines included.
(Accessed 24 July 2019).
3 The editor of this volume herself beneﬁted from a doctoral funding from the Ministry of
Defence for her doctoral dissertation in the early 2000s.
zilsel.hypotheses.org/3071 (Consulted on 19 July 2019). This controversy started raising after
the signature of two memoranda of understanding: one between the French National
Research Center (CNRS) and the Ministry of Defence in 2017, and one between the CNRS
and the Direction for Military Intelligence in 2018.
5 See for instance the concept of securitization linking the internal and external levels of
security developed by the Copenhagen school of security studies (Buzan 2008).
6 The growing implication of military actors in the internal ﬁght against terrorism, as in the framework of the operation Sentinelle in France since 2015, participates in this process.
7 A more extensive analysis on this point can be found in Deschaux-Dutard (2018).
8 For more elements on this issue, see Deschaux-Dutard (2018).
9 For more details see Deschaux-Dutard (2018).
10 See also Qualitative Methods in Military Studies (Carreiras and Castro 2011), and the second
part of the Routledge Handbook of Research Methods in Military Studies (Soeters et al.
2014), which come as two very useful complements of this volume as it has been conceived.
11 Samy Cohen incidentally underlines how much more fruitful than archives those interviews
turn out to be in the defence ﬁeld (Cohen 1999: 19).
12 The case of quantitative methods in the study of the military is interestingly investigated in
the third part of the Routledge Handbook of Research Methods in Military Studies (Soeters et
- 2014). For an original perspective on the use of statistics in the study of international
questions (among which armed conﬂicts), see also Kauﬀmann (2008).
13 See the website of the project: http://deploymentvotewatch.eu/ (Accessed 25 July 2019).
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