Ulf Nilson column for Nordstjernan, 04.02.2011

Maybe you haven't noticed, but Sweden is going to war. As this is being written, eight JAS Gripen—the mainstay of the Swedish Air Force—are on their way to Libya.…
But, wait a sec! What is it the Swedish attackers are supposed to do? Let's start with what they are not supposed to do.
First, they are not supposed to attack people on the ground, so Gaddafi's soldiers go free, whatever they do.
Same goes for the tanks, since, after all, inside the tanks are soldiers who are not to be harmed even if they fight for Gaddafi.
Neither is one supposed to attack buildings holding supplies—there could be people in them.
So, what is left? Well the Gripens will be allowed to fight Gaddafi's air force. Trouble is, that air force is already eliminated, courtesy of the Americans.
What remains for the brave Swedes is to fly across the sea from Italy, show themselves over the desert and, I guess, force the fear of God into the Gaddafi guys. It will cost a pretty penny and is not totally without danger. On the other hand, well, training and war games is not without dangers either, so as far as the Libyan operation is concerned the only thing certain is that Sweden gets to show that it has an air force. And that the plains can fly.…
I admit this is sarcastic. But the Swedish participation (if that is the word) is not intended to help stop Gaddafi forces from murdering civilians. It is to demonstrate that Sweden is indeed on the side of the angels. Hey, we're in it. We participate. We're one with the civilized world (including, hm, the Americans) and are UN members of the best kind.
(Besides, pilots and mechanics get some training and no heavy lifting is required of us. The risk for casualties is low, if not nonexistent.)
The Libyan operation perfectly illustrates the Swedish concept of neutrality. It can be summarized as “go with the winner, but not too fast.” In WWII, the Germans were allowed to transfer troops through Sweden to Finland and Norway, but less and less as the allied gained the upper hand. In the Cold War the airports were remade to accommodate U.S. and British planes—but in secret. The Swedish Air Force was integrated in the Western powers' battle plans and a headquarter was to be established in Britain. In other words Sweden was not neutral at all, only absolutely determined not to be found out. The fact that most Swedes, like myself, knew perfectly well about the arrangements was most likely well known to the authorities, but media—always very cautious in Sweden—said nothing. We all knew that the enemy, the only possible enemy, was the Soviet union, but why talk about it. And why pay the price of becoming a member of NATO when we could have (and indeed had) all the advantages without actually taking the step.
So the myth of clean, neutral and impartial Sweden prevailed and made many Swedes feel a good deal superior to the committed countries around us. The fact that we got a free ride and became known as hypocrites did not register.
And now, same again. We are against evil in the personification of Gaddafi. We even show it—a little, perfectly safe bit.…