Saturday 30 June 2018 is Armed Forces Day. This showcases hundreds of events across the UK. The purpose, we are told, is to offer everyday people the “chance to show your support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community”. But a new report exposes the dark reality behind Armed Forces Day and the ‘British values’ that they are linked to.
Warrior Nation: War, militarisation and British democracy, published by ForcesWatch, details a “militarisation offensive” launched against the British public by the military, political and media establishments. Warrior Nation argues that events like Armed Forces Day are part and parcel of a creeping militarism and militarisation of British society, designed to suppress dissent and ensure long-term support for war.
The report finds that engineering widespread support for military action among the British public has not been very successful. But militarism has nonetheless had an incredibly corrosive effect upon social norms and liberties. Attempting to create a society that accepts a state of permanent war, the establishment has sought to suppress multiculturalism, freedom of speech, and the right to dissent.
Militarism and militarisation
Militarism, as defined by ForcesWatch, includes the spread of military ‘values’ across society in order to create [pdf, p13] “a more permissive culture for the use of force”. This can include glorifying war, with or without glorifying the violence.
The report lists “twelve core tenets” that militarism embeds into British society. These include [pdf, p14]:
- That armed force is the ultimate resolver of tensions;
- That human nature is prone to conflict;
- That having enemies is a natural condition;
- That military superiority is a source of national pride;
- That those who do not support military actions are unpatriotic;
- That those who do not support military actions are anti-soldier;
- That for a state to engage in armed conflicts is to serve the will of God.
Everyday members of the public are now being encouraged to salute members of the military and even photograph themselves doing it.
The ‘militarisation offensive’ of 2006
The militarisation offensive began in 2006, as public support for Britain’s military involvement in Afghanistan continued to drop:
British Support for the War in Afghanistan, 2002-2010
The four objectives of the militarisation offensive were [pdf, p7]:
- Transform public support for the troops and the military institution into support for the war in Afghanistan. This would demonstrate the ‘political will’ necessary to defeat the enemy in a ‘long war’ that might last a generation.
- Replace multiculturalism with a conservative, assimilationist ‘British’ and ‘Christian’ nationalism that would fortify the nation in the ideological war against ‘Islamism’.
- The militarisation of education and civilian society would raise the prestige and power of the military, and this would help to ease the Army’s perennial recruitment problems.
- The military would gain increased power in their relations with politicians. Enhanced influence over defence policy would lead to growing military expenditure.
Armed Forces Day is part of this military offensive, says Warrior Nation.
Fabricating ‘moral panic’
The British Armed Forces have historically had strong favourability, the report says. But this rarely translated into support for Britain’s wars, as the graph above shows. In order to remedy this, ‘moral panic’ was engineered.
False and distorted stories began to circulate about public abuse or neglect directed towards military personnel. One story allegedly involved injured soldiers being abused at a public pool. This led to a national outrage, including statements from former military chiefs. A subsequent police investigation found [pdf, p28] that the media reports were “not correct”. The incident came seven weeks after the ‘Help for Heroes’ military charity was established.
Another example of fabricating ‘moral panic’ was the story of allegedly ‘poor turnout’ for a military parade in Abingdon. The Daily Mail contrasted that with a massive homecoming in Colchester in 2008. However, Warrior Nation explains [pdf, p26] that the local station commander was displeased with the Daily Mail article. Colonel David Kelly had explicitly asked for a ‘low key’ event “because some of his soldiers were still serving in Iraq and the funeral of one soldier was being held on the day of the parade”.
The invention of tradition
Veterans’ Day began in 2006, and its name changed in 2009 to Armed Forces Day.
The ‘Military Covenant’ was invented in 2000, the report says. And until 2006, there was practically no reference to it in the UK press whatsoever:
Mentions of the term ‘Military Covenant’ in UK Newsstand Database 2000-2016
Losing popular support at home is the single biggest danger to our chances of success in our current operations
Since 2006 the military have broken constitutional convention and made public attacks on politicians, leading to the most severe tensions in political-military relations since the Second World War
The most infamous example of this is when an unnamed senior serving general reportedly told the Sunday Times that the British Army:
could stage mutiny under Corbyn
Mutiny would apparently occur should a future prime minister Corbyn seek to draw down troop numbers, pull out of NATO, or scrap the billion-pound Trident nuclear weapons system.
Since 2006, multiculturalism has been blamed for weakening so-called ‘British values’ and the ‘resolve of the nation’. And some see military schools as being capable of promoting assimilation by eradicating cultural difference, the report says.
The report notes [pdf, p50] that, before becoming prime minister, Conservative Party leader David Cameron:
echoed General Dannatt in attacking multiculturalism and advocating a more assertive, ‘muscular’, assimilationist and conservative British Christian nationalism. The stronger defence of ‘British (conservative) values’ at home would help to defeat Jihadis in the domestic ‘war of ideas’…
The ‘Military Covenant’ also became a vehicle for the military and the Conservative party to attack the Labour government.
Militarism and the danger to British democracy
Irrespective of where one stands on any given conflict, valourising the military and its ethos can lead nowhere good. Placing either soldiers or the armed forces beyond critique is dangerous. It is important to remember that the military is an authoritarian institution, which does not value dissent.
If events like Armed Forces Day continue to be celebrated uncritically, then the ability to challenge state policy may one day become a thing of the past.
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