DOI: 10.1177/0095327x231225449 ISSN: 0095-327X

Professionalized Heroism? Comparing US, UK, and Norwegian War Decorations From the War in Afghanistan

Torunn Laugen Haaland
  • Safety Research
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

This article compares the awarding of the three highest war decorations in Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States for actions undertaken in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2018 to examine contemporary expressions of military heroism. The comparison shows Norway tends to award leadership, and gaining respect from prestigious allies, whereas the United States and the United Kingdom tend to award individual acts of courage, involving great risk to one’s own life. In the case of the United States, these acts were predominantly aimed toward rescuing fellow soldiers, whereas the U.K. cases were aimed toward defeating an enemy. The Norwegian war decoration regime, in which the highest decorations are detached from the traditional military value of sacrifice, illustrates that while professional forces may act heroically, heroism, contrary to war decoration regimes, cannot be professionalized.

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