Consensus is not something that just happens in the foreign policy domain when political actors seemingly agree on a policy. Rather, in this dissertation I demonstrate that actors construct consensus through the framing of policy as they highlight and downplay certain elements. Interestingly, for consensus to emerge, the attraction of political support is not always necessary; sometimes it is enough to not mobilize opposition. In the Swedish context a “foreign policy line” [utrikespolitisk linje] captures the prevailing consensus view and embraces a particular understanding of foreign policy in the national interest, historically conditioned and elevated above party politics. Based on archival records and 55 interviews, this dissertation explores and analyzes the political process in which a domestic foreign policy consensus was constructed for the entry, expansion and exit of the Swedish military contributions to Afghanistan in the early 2000s.
Advocates and opponents frame their preferred policy with the intention of aligning it with a dominating perception of the continuity of Swedish foreign policy to gain wider acceptance. In the case of military contributions to Afghanistan, distancing themselves from sensitive issues such as the US warfare and framing policy so it resembled traditional Swedish foreign policy was a way for advocates to suppress political conflict within the political left and rally support behind the respective government's proposition. Afghanistan was a defining military operation at a pivotal time for Swedish foreign policy. The results therefore have wider implications for our understanding of the domestic politics of Swedish foreign policy, providing an important view of how a general reorientation following the Cold War was managed. In addition to conceptualizing the “foreign policy line” this study contributes theoretically with two frame alignment strategies, which actors employ when faced with an unfavorable context to avoid negative connotations.