Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Recognition and respect

. A recent study, led by Labour MP Quentin Davies, looking into ways to improve relations between the military and the public produced 40 recommendations.

The move to end discrimination against officers wearing uniform will probably prove relatively uncontroversial as will proposals for a new public holiday and plans for local authorities to organise 'welcome home' parades. It is undoubtedly true that the armed forces do a difficult job that most of us could not comprehend doing and that this job deserves recognition whatever you may think of the actual tasks the government of the day asks them to perform.

However, the plan to push for further cadet involvement in public schools and push more students to be involved in them is to my mind where the line should be drawn. Davis is quoted on ePolitix telling Radio 4's Today programme that;

"We are looking at the whole area of the contact between the military and civilian life. If you ask me if the military became a caste unto themselves, cut off from society, would that be a good thing either for them or for the general public, I would say it would be a very bad thing."

Of course, the military becoming a 'caste' would be a bad thing but there are good reasons why military and civilian life remain separate in a democratic society. Furthermore, it is hard to avoid the concern that these attempts to 'popularise' the armed forces are not in fact an attempt to win support for government policy especially with regard to Iraq. Much is made of instilling 'discipline' into 'youth' but I don't see a quiescent obedience to government policy when it is so blindingly wrong as being a helpful tool to possess when it comes to being an active citizen in a modern democracy. It is hard not to see this proposal as being yet another example of this governments social authoritarianism and something that should be resolutely opposed.

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