The military and society

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Vasco, Nov 21, 2005.

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  1. I started a small hare in the recent thread about a parachuting acident at Weston on the Green. It sems a bit inappropriate to pursue it in that thread, so I thought I'd start a new one.

    My concern is the extent to which the armed forces are losing their traditional distinct identity within society. Here are some examples:

    * Loss of crown immunity

    * Disappearance of military hospitals

    * Erosion of the system of military discipline (not, as yet, of discipline itself)

    * Contractorisation

    * Influence of civilian agencies such as the Health and Safety Executive

    When I started wearing khaki, more years ago than I care to remember, military service put you in a distinct and separate category - it was not just another job. Commitment to military service was widely recognised as something special. There was an unspoken - and probably largely unformed - understanding that the military virtues were important for the nation and that inculcating them required military people to do things differently.

    That, it seems to me, has been eroded. Military service is now seen as just another job, just another public service to be provided at minimum cost and subjected to the same rules as all other public services. Centuries of tradition and experience are being thrown away in favour of performance targets and management fashions.

    Now, please note, I am most definitely not suggesting that the military services should be a law unto themselves. The supremacy of the civil power is a vital aspect of the way this country works. And there should be proper checks and balances to prevent abuse and to detect and punish it should it occur. However, I feel that our armed forces should be independent, self-sufficient organisations, suffering a minimum of civil administrative and political influence.

    So, military systems for such things as boards of enquiry should be at least as good as their civilian equivalents but separate from them. The highest standards of health and safety should be maintained, but consonant with the demands of military service. Military accounting should be transparent and effective, but not involve civilian auditors. Military instrument flying and air traffic ratings should be valid for civilian appointments. And so on.

    I supose the essence of what I am saying is that military service makes us different and we should be treated differently. The danger, I suppose, is that the difference might boil down to being treated worse, as was so often the case in the past. Attend any presentation by the Services Pensions Society to see what I mean.

    What do you all think?
  2. If the military were a manufacturer seeking tominimise waste and obtain the highest quality (the "Quality revolution" then every effort should be made after an incident to see what could be done to prevent a re-occurance.

    One of the problems with military boards of enquiry is that very often they ARE used to provide convenient findings - e.g. the Chinnok Crash. Its easier to find the pilot responsible than look at the reliability oif equipment.

    I have seen a similar incident in the 1980s after amn M109 Fired a short round. The issue was determined to be a "Bad Ram - the round not seated firmly in the chamber prior to firing. BATUS SIG was concerned that the process for checking depth of ram was a stick with a white line on it and felt this was an inherently innacurate method for judging the depth of ram. For the CRA of the relevant unit the solution was administraively eas. Error by No1 + severe Repremand. Administratively easy, but nothing to help reduce the risk of future incidents. Is this why the armed forces have had high industrial injury rates and regard freindly fire as an occupational risk rather than an unacceptable error?

    Of course, one big thing that gets in the way of both civilian and military investigations when people are hurt. The charge of legalliability => every incentive to argue that the institution isn't responsble. Add political costs and pressure and its probably fair to say the soldier gets a rougher deal.
  3. As another coffin-dodger, I fully understand Vasco's point. Being a soldier WAS different both for those inside and those outside.
    However, I cannot see things changing. The present government has no understanding of the demands and requirements of service life. The general public also lack this insight - and, worse still, have little interest outside their own selfish environment. There is no indication that a change of government will make any difference in official attitudes. It would be seen as the Army challenging arrangements that are seen as satisfactory by the majority. Don't even mention any sort of trade union or federation such as the police have. In passing, I am sure the police, fire service and others have veterens who echo our concerns.
    I think 'those days' are past - as far gone as riding on horseback rescuing damsels in distress with long blonde hair. I am sustained by knowledge that I had the best of times - I was there when we got bedside mats and bedside lamps for God's sake. The Army life is gone with so many other things of my youth - to hell in a bucket!
  4. There are circumstances in which the armed forces are not subject to the strictures of the civilian world. During operations and conflict generally, the armed forces are exempt from many rules and regulations, that would otherwise remove their ability to fight and win. Otherwise, we are required to toe the line, with the rest of society.

    Loss of Crown Immunity:

    Why should, for example, a sapper, installing electrical wiring in a building, have fewer rights and duties than a civilian doing the same job?

    Disappearance of Military Hospitals:

    Why does an armed force, with a population no larger than that of a large town, need more than one general hospital?

    Erosion of the System of Military Discipline:

    Has it been eroded or improved? The introduction of AGI 67 (ie swift, minor punishments for minor indiscipline) is hardly an erosion of discipline. Allowing a commanding officer the power summarily to drop a murder charge could, on the other hand, lead to an erosion of discipline (or, at least, the perception thereof).

    Influence of civilian agencies such as the Health and Safety Executive:

    This is similar to the Crown immunity debate. If, in the ordinary course of our duties, health and safety can be improved, why shouldn't it be? The biggest killer in today's armed forces is not enemy action, but the rather less chivalric (and far less random) road traffic accident.


    Sometimes appropriate, sometimes not. In the modern world, almost inevitable.

    I think a pretty reasonable balance has been struck between operational effectiveness and the imposition of 'real world' restrictions on what we do. The occasional absurdity will inevitably hit the headlines.
  5. msr

    msr LE

    Nostalgia, it ain't what it used to be...

    I think the main problem is the the fact that too many people now put their annual appraisal before their men.