St Andrews Professor Sir Hew Strachan has co-written a study with Ruth Harris concluding that Britain should be “open to a debate on national service”.
The study, which was published by the military think tank the Rand Corporation, was written on the subject of the utility of military force and public understanding of it in modern Britain.
Drawing on comparisons to other European countries, the paper noted that “Britain has established a near-universal and almost impermeable consensus against even discussing national service.”
However, not to discuss national service “limits the debate” on ways to increase the public’s understanding of the utility of military force.
The study also noted that the armed forces were threatened with an “existential crisis” given a widespread perception that the British public at large doubts the utility of military force.
In order to correct this, the paper claimed that “Britain will require a mature debate about defence” that includes the public and the armed forces. Only then can a “mature attitude” on the use of armed force arise.
The study further concluded that greater transparency was needed regarding the wars that Britain was capable of fighting. “Britain cannot fight a major war on its own”, Professor Strachan and Ruth Harris concluded. “The public needs to understand that.”
Further, the study called for greater coherence in communications and creating a connection between the public and the armed forces.
The study examined why the Chief Medical Officer was able to “speak to the BBC about epidemiology”, while the government was reluctant to allow “the Chief of the Defence Staff was unable to speak about strategy, or a commanding officer to explain why someone in his or her unit was killed.”
Professor Strachan and Ruth Harris’s paper was written to address trends in a way that goes beyond “quick solutions”.
Their recommendations therefore sought to change the terms of a debate that “the public is reluctant to condone, and finds it hard to understand, the utility of force.”
Professor Sir Hew Strachan’s and Ruth Harris’s paper can be read here: