The Troubles of Sweden
Maintaining internal order is much more of a challenge than it seems and once control is lost, it’s very difficult to regain.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
The Kingdom of Sweden has long been regarded as the envy of the cosmopolitan class. A social democracy, it has universal healthcare, free college, it’s safe (or was, as you’ll see), clean, prosperous, all amounting to one of the highest standards of living in the developed world. Best of all, it’s all these things and progressive. Culturally and politically, Sweden is one of the most left-wing countries in the world, without a doubt one of the best places to live if you’re a feminist or a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Few other countries have institutionalized leftism the way Sweden has for decades.
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So you might be surprised to learn the social democratic paradise is actually not a very tranquil place these days. I have to say, this news shocked even me:
So far this year there have been 134 bomb attacks in Sweden, up from 90 in all of 2022. At the same time, the number of shootings remains very high compared with other European states: 289 so far this year and 391 in 2022, in a country of 10 million people.
What’s going on in Sweden? On Thursday, September 28, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson delivered an address to the nation, explaining the stakes and underscoring the severity of the situation:
It is a difficult time for Sweden.
Yesterday evening – a perfectly normal evening – a 25 year-old woman went to bed and never woke up. She was killed in an explosion in Uppsala this morning. My thoughts go out to her and her family.
A week ago, a 70 year-old blind man went to a pub in Sandviken to meet his friends. He never came home – he was shot dead. My thoughts also go out to him and his family.
And my thoughts go out to the young man in Uppsala who was murdered in a stairwell early one morning two weeks ago, on his way to work in home-help service.
My thoughts also go out to the three children – aged 13, 14 and 14 – found executed in woods outside Stockholm. Their parents have been forced to live every parent’s worst nightmare.
More and more children and innocent bystanders are falling victim to this serious violence. I cannot overemphasise the seriousness of the situation. Sweden has never seen anything like it before. No other country in Europe is seeing anything like it.
What’s happening in Sweden is crime-induced low-intensity conflict. Not an external military attack, but an internal threat. It’s become so bad the country’s top leadership has had to directly intervene. Perhaps it proves something I’ve said during my time on Substack: crime is a national security matter. Maintaining internal order is much more of a challenge than it seems and once control is lost, it’s very difficult to regain. Our obsession with external threats like China and Russia are really a luxury - the fact is, we are threatened more by those within our borders than by those beyond them.
I found it interesting the Prime Minister says “No other country in Europe is seeing anything like it.” Over the summer, we saw France ablaze in what can only be described as an insurrection. Other countries throughout Europe are dealing with escalating levels of crime, even if their numbers remain below that of Sweden’s. There’s a tone-deafness to what Kristersson said, but I also believe he was attempting to sell the severity of the situation to anyone whose minds weren’t made up.
It was this part of the prime minister’s address, however, which drew the most attention, at least internationally:
I have summoned the National Police Commissioner and the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces to meet with me tomorrow to see how the Swedish Armed Forces might assist the Swedish Police Authority in the efforts to stop criminal gangs.
It’s important to note that no decision has been made to directly involve the Swedish Armed Forces in combating crime. However, if the prime minister’s address to the nation is any indication, the sense of urgency is real. It’s worth noting Kristersson is a member of the Moderate Party and, as the name suggests, hasn’t been confused for some right-wing populist. I’m sure there are those out there who’ll try to say so, but concern about crime isn’t “right-wing” issue in Sweden, not anymore.
In the run-up to the 2022 elections, crime was cited as the top issue of concern for voters. Though the outcome wasn’t earth-shattering, the elections resulted in the rising prominence of the right-wing nationalist party Sweden Democrats, fitting in with a broader rightward shift that appears to be unfolding across Europe. But it isn’t just the right-wing that’s become alert to the reality of crime and what it’s doing to Sweden.
Mikael Ekvall, a far-left politician, was recently attacked and had this to say in reaction:
There’s an old saying: a conservative is a liberal who got mugged by reality. Doesn’t always happen, of course, as some people cling steadfastly to their fantasies about how the world is and ought to be. Still, some people manage to see reason once they stare into the abyss and the abyss stares back.
I’m no expert on how bombs sound but we already have had two bomb attacks in this part of the city this year, so the odds were that this was number three.
The second, in March, knocked a whole row of wooden terraced houses off their foundations behind my son’s secondary school. Six people were detained in the wake of that attack.
This bomb was even closer to home.
From the photos posted on Swedish news sites, I could see the building that had been targeted was an apartment block on my route to the local shop. There were no immediate reports of arrests in the case.
I could see residents walking over broken glass and evacuated to a nearby primary school. Three people were taken to hospital.
What started as internal conflict between rival drug gangs has spun into a spiral of revenge attacks as gang members — often frustrated in their attempts to kill each other — have begun bombing the homes of each other’s families.
These family members — parents, siblings, cousins — live all over Stockholm and across Sweden’s central southeast region, giving the attacks a seemingly random feel.
Sound familiar? It might. It sounds a lot like The Troubles of Northern Ireland, the armed sectarian conflict that roiled the country from the late 1960s to 1998. It was marked by assassinations, bombings, kidnappings, and general low-level violence that nonetheless racked up a significant body count over span of four decades, was no less savage, and deeply consequential for Britain, with its ultimate conclusion still in doubt almost a quarter-century after the conflict ended.
What’s happening in Sweden, however, isn’t sectarian violence. It’s crime. There’s a banality to the problem which, at least in theory, ought to make for a simple fix. But Sweden cannot seem to agree on what needs to be done. Why that is is beyond my capacity to answer or even speculate on, but being a developed country and among the most progressive, I’m sure the reason is similar to why the United States has a difficult time dealing with crime: decadence and a total severance with reality. All throughout the West, societies have internalized the belief that crime is a failure on the part of society in the most literal manner. This leads to the logical conclusion that punishing criminals is a moral affront and, if you’re going to punish anyone, it ought to be society, since it’s most responsible for creating crime in the first place.
Again, I can’t say for certain this is what the Swedes believe. But despite their worship of diversity, there’s conformity across the board when it comes to how progressives think about the issues of crime and, as you’ll see, immigration and race.
Bombings in Sweden aren’t a new phenomenon, though it has certainly intensified in recent times. Gun ownership has historically not been prevalent, though that seems to be changing for the criminal class. Still, explosives remain the weapon of choice for criminals. Explosives are obviously illegal, but it is still possible to construct such devices using household items and with an understanding of chemistry.
Who is behind these bombings? Yes, they are criminals, but are they Swedes? The country doesn’t maintain racial statistics on crime (not officially, anyway), but during a similarly deadly wave of bombings in 2019, Linda H. Straaf, head of intelligence at Sweden’s National Operations Department, said:
“They have grown up in Sweden and they are from socio-economically weak groups, socio-economically weak areas, and many are perhaps second- or third-generation immigrants,” she says.
Ideological debates about immigration have intensified since Sweden took in the highest number of asylum seekers per capita in the EU during the migrant crisis of 2015. But Ms Straaf says it is “not correct” to suggest new arrivals are typically involved in gang networks.
See what I mean about progressives thinking alike? Granted, I don’t know Ms. Straaf’s political views, but my point is that people who represent progressive regimes all peddle the same rhetoric. Their economic class takes first billing and when race or ethnicity comes into play, they are regarded as immigrants, with the caveat that not all migrants are criminals and should never be perceived as such.
By doing so, however, certain Swedes are trying to have it both ways. On one hand, they don’t want their country to be viewed as violent, yet on the other, they must find a way to indict all of the country for the violence that does exist so as to not specifically indict immigrants or non-ethnic Swedes. It doesn’t make sense, but I think a lesson I’ve taught on this blog is that when you have control, you can tell whatever story you’d like, no matter how little sense it makes.
Prime Minister Kristersson, who again has never been regarded as hostile to immigration, seemed to attempt to shift the national narrative on immigration during his address to the nation [bold mine]:
The fact is, many of us saw it coming and gave warning. Serious organised crime has been emerging for more than a decade. Over a ten-year period, gun violence has increased threefold.
Political naivety and cluelessness have brought us to this point. Irresponsible immigration policy and failed integration have brought us to this point. Exclusion and parallel societies feed the criminal gangs, providing space for them to ruthlessly recruit children and train future killers.
Swedish legislation is not designed for gang wars and child soldiers. But we are now changing that.
The Government is overhauling migration policy. These are tough and difficult decisions. But they are necessary, and we are already seeing results. While immigration to Europe is increasing, immigration to Sweden is decreasing.
Not so long ago, Sweden tried leading the way on immigration, inviting large numbers from the Third World, be it economic migrants or refugees. Could this be a moment of second thoughts?
When this sort of thing happens in your paradise, you can’t help but second-guess your decisions:
Whether Swedes like it or not, immigration is part of the discussion.
Back to the Politico piece:
The government has yet to bring to justice Sweden’s most high-profile gang leader, Rawa Majid, who continues to operate with seeming impunity from Turkey, where he was recently granted citizenship.
A clash between Majid and a former ally called Ismail Abdo is believed to be behind much of the recent violence in Stockholm.
Rawa Majid is the head of a criminal network in Sweden called Foxtrot and isn’t a native Swede. Ethnically Kurdish, he was born in Iran, though raised in Sweden after his parents took advantage of Sweden’s permissiveness and moved there. It’s highly unlikely ethnic Swedes or even non-Middle Easterners are populating the ranks of Foxtrot. It’s also highly unlikely the prime minister brought immigration into the discussion if it had absolutely nothing to do with the problem. It’d be politically risky for him to do so, especially in a country like Sweden.
What else ought we know about it? Commentator Malcom Kyeyune is a native of Sweden and he recently addressed events in his home country in Compact Magazine. I have to admit, I’m not the biggest Kyeyune fan; he’s a “doomer” and often has little to offer beyond making some of the bleakest predictions imaginable and wishing readers, “good luck!” But he does live in Sweden, so he’s in a position to provide informed commentary on matters in his home country.
In Sweden, there is a saying that roughly translates as: “In this country, we only have room for one opinion at a time.” Sweden often deals with political and social anxieties over unresolved problems by turning its collective attention temporarily to a single issue, which is framed as a Manichaean struggle between light and darkness. The gloomy mood that has overtaken the country amid surging gang violence is the latest product of Swedish groupthink.
Understanding Swedish culture is important. What Kyeyune’s saying isn’t that Swedes all think alike, but rather that they tend to focus on one issue at a time and they do so in one way. I think all countries are like this to an extent, America included. However, the Swedes take it to an extreme. After all, Sweden, along with the Nordic countries in general, tend to be more homogeneous and have achieved a level of consensus Americans or even the British can only dream about. It’s much easier to have social democracy and a robust welfare system when you’re not squabbling over the little things. The fact that the country’s top political leader is not only addressing crime, but getting the military involved in the discussion, shows how much room they have with which to confront problems. It might’ve been possible at one time, but today, an American president addressing crime would be toxic, which is why it’s become an issue our leaders tend to stay away from.
The reversal is understandable. Sweden’s gun-homicide rate is 2½ times the European average. Per-capita gun homicides are 30 times higher in Stockholm than in London. The homicide rate in Sweden shot to 1.4 per 100,000 inhabitants, from 0.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, right around the peak of the migrant crisis in 2015. Since then, it has hovered between 1.08 and 1.2 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.
Even so, Sweden’s homicide rate remains below that of neighboring Finland, which Swedes often idealize as a reasonable country that has avoided immigration-driven cataclysm. In fact, for most of the past decade, Finland has recorded a homicide rate between 1.5 and 1.6 per 100,000 inhabitants. What is more, the fact that murders in Sweden are heavily concentrated within immigrant communities means that ethnic Swedes are far less likely to be murdered than the average implies, or than many seem to believe.
Sweden, when compared to the U.S., is a bit like France. You’re less likely to be killed, but the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime in general is just as high, maybe higher. I once remarked that Swedes often regard the U.S. as a backwards country due to our lack of social safety net and prevalence of violence due in large part to easy access to guns. Yet Sweden’s crime index is on-par with the U.S. Sure, it’s nice not having to worry about being killed, but living in an overall violent country isn’t any flex, either.
An Algerian migrant, 26-year-old Mohammed Amana, could not accept that his Swedish girlfriend had broken up with him. On May 25th of this year, he used a ladder to climb into the apartment where she was staying and attacked her with a stone and a knife. The attack was filmed by the ex-girlfriend's friend who was also in the residence.
The woman who had broken up with Mohammed Amana was temporarily staying with a male friend. Amana located her and attacked her with a kitchen knife, as recently reported by Samnytt.
The friend of the ex-girlfriend can be heard saying: “He stabbed me with a knife, he stabbed me with a knife, a large kitchen knife.”
Mohammed Amana was sentenced to two years in prison and is to be deported with a ten-year ban on returning to Sweden. This is not the first time he has been sentenced to deportation, but the earlier deportation was never carried out. Instead, Mohammed Amana has remained in the country and committed several new crimes, for which he has been sentenced in recent years. It remains to be seen whether the new deportation will be carried out.
I don’t know what Sweden’s self-defense environment is like, but in America, there’s at least a recognition that barging uninvited into someone’s house is crossing a red line. If Sweden’s self-defense environment is less permissive than even that of anarcho-tyrannical America, then I’m not sure how safe people are in Sweden. America may be a violent country, but I personally feel safe. Not because I know the government will protect me - I think I’ve long since established they won’t - but because I know I can protect myself in my own home if nowhere else and the law, up to a point, will back me up on it.
But I digress. Going back to Kyeyune’s piece, he concludes by injecting perspective into the equation [bold mine]:
So how did so many in Sweden and beyond come to view a homicide rate of 1.2 per 100,000 as a harbinger of societal collapse? Sweden, like America, is ethnically segregated. Gun violence in black neighborhoods in Chicago doesn’t pose much of a practical threat to the safety of white families in the suburbs. When those white families start imagining the gangbanger’s next bullet is coming for them, something else is almost certainly going on. A further Swedish peculiarity: Even self-proclaimed racists and anti-immigrant hard-liners have been joining in the mournful chorus. Why is it a problem for them that immigrants are killing each other off?
Compact Magazine is subscription-only, so I’m going to stop sharing anything more from Kyeyune’s piece to avoid running afoul of any issues that may arise from doing so. I’ll say that he concludes on the point that Sweden is a country with a myriad of crises and the crime problem is just one of them, though hardly the most important among them. Crime in Sweden, like in the U.S., is a racial and geographic phenomenon. How concerned should you be depends on where you live and whom you associate with. Kyeyune thinks most Swedes don’t need to worry about crime too much - not yet, anyway - and the current “panic,” as he calls it, is symptomatic of greater anxieties, saying, “concerns about violence reflect a broader sense that the social contract is fraying as a middle-class life becomes less accessible.”
It’s a valuable perspective, one I hope everyone will consider. However, concerns about one’s safety take precedence for a reason and, regardless of why the sudden “panic” over crime is happening, I think Swedes have a good reason to feel concerned about the security situation in their country.
As Charlie Duxbury said in Politico:
The upswell of violence has been so intense, widespread and chaotically executed — inexperienced teenage boys are often recruited to carry out the attacks — that there is a growing sense here that no one is safe from it.
But as I’ve said before, a land of consensus isn’t the same as everyone agreeing on everything. As I’ve also said before, some people will continue living by lies even past the point of expiration.
From a BBC article I quoted earlier:
“If it was targeted then to be honest it makes us feel safer, because then the attack was not aimed to harm the public,” says Ms Bradshaw, hoping it was not a random attack.
As long as they weren’t trying to kill me, it’s okay. Maybe something’s getting lost in translation, but it takes a special kind of delusion to “feel safer” just because you weren’t the intended target. Imagine living in a dangerous neighborhood where criminals wage war against each other daily and feeling safe because the criminals are targeting only each other. That’s where her thinking logically leads. Later in the piece, she spouts the conventional line about how crime is about income and status and less about immigration, again underscoring the need for so many leftists and progressives in general to indict the whole of society for crime, thereby arguing against any focused and scaled approaches to dealing with the problem. At some point, you can’t help but conclude these people don’t want to fix the problem, or don’t see a problem at all.
Which brings us back home. What lessons does Sweden hold for the U.S.?
First, as long as crime happens in other places and to other people, a certain level of plausible deniability is possible. Sure, there’s a difference between worrying less about a threat because it’s simply not on your radar versus outright denying the existence of said threat, but my point is that people have a hierarchy of concerns. The further away a problem is, the less of a worry it’s going to be. No, this isn’t always the case - we have people out there more worried about what’s going on in Ukraine than they are about what’s happening in their own neighborhoods - but people don’t make sense 100% of the time. Even then, I doubt anyone worried about Ukraine have made a single lifestyle adjustment to accommodate that concern.
Second, going forward, our leaders are likely to not make any drastic changes to policy, even as the situation deteriorates. I often make the point that Europe is much further along the timeline than the U.S. or even Canada is. Yet they can’t let go of childish things and make the difficult choices necessary to fix obvious and simple problems because they have convinced themselves these problems either cannot be solved or it’d be a moral crime to do so.
Whatever it is, anyone expecting a national “awakening” on crime similar to the way we awakened ourselves to race and sexuality is certain to be disappointed. The decadence runs deep, and so does the rot. There’s a lot of ruin in a civilization and countries like Sweden and France, who’ve been dealing with these problems for much longer and to a more severe degree, are proof of that.
Third, the military, as it exists in much of the West, is ill-prepared to deal with this problem. They may not even be any kind of solution to this problem. While the French Armed Forces have long since taken up the task of patrolling the streets in response to the wave of Islamist extremism during the mid-2010s, the Swedish Armed Forces has no experience in this type of mission. The U.S. Armed Forces have participated in restoring domestic order, but this has almost always been in support of law enforcement and have rarely, with a few exceptions, taken the lead when it comes to upholding the rule of law.
So far, the Swedish military doesn’t appear set to intervene. But if they did, the Swedes should manage their expectations, according to political economist and Swedish native Sven R. Larson.
Many Swedes will meet their prime minister’s announcement with nods of approval. They will sigh with relief and assume that this will solve the problem. Unfortunately, it is almost certain that they will be disappointed, primarily because the Swedish military has no significant resources to add to the fight against organized crime. As of 2020, the Swedish military had 15,200 troops, including both sailors and army soldiers.
The army, which would be the presumptive source of any assistance that the military could provide against organized crime, has two full and one ‘reduced’ brigade. As mentioned, these numbers are three years old, and assorted statements by the military suggest that they are actively trying to double their forces to four full brigades. Nevertheless, even with four full brigades at their disposal, the Swedish army would only be able to put 20,000 men into law enforcement operations.
Meanwhile, they would have to completely give up any pretense of being ready to defend the country against foreign enemies. They would also have to walk away from joint exercises and operations with other countries.
As you read this, there are fires popping up all over the world. American leadership, for generations now, have established the military is an instrument of foreign, not domestic, policy. For the military to be re-oriented towards maintaining domestic stability or even to defend our southern border from the invasion well underway would require a wholesale change in U.S. policy that doesn’t appear forthcoming. You’re probably tired of hearing it, but the country’s past and present national security leadership at the time said so loud and clear at the mere possibility raised by President Donald Trump that the active-duty military may need to restore order during the 2020 George Floyd riots: the military has no role to play in maintaing order and upholding the rule of law. It’s take a truly cataclysmic series of events before they shift away from this cut-and-dried position they’ve beholden themselves to.
Nor is the U.S. military up to the task, either. Despite having well over a million active-duty servicemembers, with over a million more National Guardsmen and Reservists, to maintain order in a country the size and population of the U.S. is still impossible with these numbers, even factoring in law enforcement personnel. The math simply doesn’t work out. Again, troops used to maintain order at home are troops which cannot be used to protect the country from foreign threats.
For perspective, Larson explains:
This is happening in a country with 10 million residents. For American reference, Sweden is the size of Ohio. It is easy to imagine the law-enforcement response if criminal gangs in Ohio blew up cars, buildings, and people 3-4 times per week, month after month—year after year.
An area the size of Ohio with its population would require a major concentration of military force alone. Given the struggles America endured in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, there’s no reason to believe a domestic insurgency or insurrection would go any better. Coupled with the fact the military would be held to more serious limitations on use of force and the amount of firepower they’re permitted to bring to bear, it becomes clear that the military doesn’t really have answers to the crime problem.
It’s my belief that the military will have to get involved in the war against crime at some point, however, if only out of sheer necessity. If it does, I wouldn’t expect anything more than what we saw during the tumultuous 1960s or the response to the 1992 Los Angeles riots. These deployments are likely to become more frequent and, at worst, you could see the military having to deploy to multiple cities and metropolitan areas at once. Aside from this, I don’t see the military playing a major role in the day-to-day battle against crime, even as I see it playing a frontline role in quelling the waves of unrest certain to be in our future.
Returning once more to Prime Minister Kristersson’s speech, I was struck by this statement [bold mine]:
We will learn from other countries. Last week, I met the Mayor of New York City to see what they do. Camera surveillance. Facial recognition. Weapon detectors. Sweden must also try these methods.
Sweden is further along on the timeline than the U.S., yet they also seem slower to accept reality in some cases, to the point the U.S. has things to teach Sweden. I don’t know if that means the U.S. is actually better-equipped than Sweden to deal with the tumult to come, but at the very it least, it underscores how different the two countries are from one another.
Still, calling in the military is often a sign of a regime that is losing control of the situation and employing a state's last resort for asserting its monopoly of force, as Sven Larson put it. In that sense, maybe our leaders not calling on the big guns isn’t the worst thing in the world. Yet our leaders refusing to acknowledge the seriousness of the moment cannot be accepted, either.
As the stable and prosperous West becomes increasingly less so, these discussions will become more prevalent with time. It’s just another thing we can see from here. For now, America’s crime situation is more about predatory sociopaths and thieves running wild, enabled by an anarcho-tyrannical regime. But it’s worth it to keep an eye on Sweden. Regardless of what kind of character the violence takes, if left unchecked, it’ll end up spilling over and there will be fewer and fewer places to run to.
What are your thoughts? What do you think will become of Sweden? Does it hold any lessons for the U.S.? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Max Remington writes about armed conflict and prepping. Follow him on Twitter at @AgentMax90.
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