ForcesWatch challenges the ethics of military recruitment and questions the climate of uncritical national pride in the armed forces

ForcesWatch comment

01/07/2014

On Thursday 26 June 2014, we launched our new short documentary film 'Engage: the military and young people', at Friends House in London. A packed and diverse audience watched the film, which was very well-received. Speakers included Ben Griffin, founder of Veterans for Peace UK, Sam Hepworth from Headliners (the youth journalists charity who made the film) and some of the young filmmakers, and Owen Everett, Education Campaign worker at ForcesWatch.

28/06/2014

Letter to The Times (see all signatories below)

On this day 100 years ago, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo in an action that led to the First World War. Unchecked militarism in Europe was also a major factor. 

Today is also Armed Forces Day, one of the clearest indications of the re-militarisation of British society. Established in 2009 to increase public support for the forces, there are over 200 public events, many billed as 'family fun days'. This week also saw Uniform to Work Day promoting the reserve forces and 'Camo Day' in schools. 

Behind this PR offensive is a raft of policy that is embedding 'public support' for the military within our civilian institutions - from the promotion of 'military ethos' in schools, to the Armed Forces Community Covenant and Corporate Covenant that aim to enlist every local authority and major business to support the armed forces and aid recruitment. 

Over 453 UK service personnel have died in Afghanistan; 34 were just 18 or 19 years old. Thousands more have to cope with long-term physical and mental problems. With so many military casualties - not to mention uncounted numbers of civilians deaths - and new security threats that waging war has created, surely it is time to reflect on the longer-term impact of our military culture and to ask what steps we might take to prevent war itself. 

28/06/2014


This article was originally published on openDemocracy

Armed Forces Day represents a major shift in military-civil relations over the last 6 or 7 years that has seen the embedding of the military in civilian institutions in a way never seen before. What will be the impact on how we, as a society, view and accept military activities and military approaches? How will the promotion of the military affect young people as the next generation of 'future soldiers'?

our projects

ForcesWatch has been working with others to raise concerns, including the recruitment of 16 and 17 year olds into the armed forces, the lack of recognition of conscientious objection and restrictive and unclear terms of service.  

28 October 2013: The Last Ambush? Aspects of mental health in the British armed forces
This ForcesWatch report, shows that post-war mental health problems are most common in young soldiers from disadvantaged backgrounds; also in veterans who left the forces in the last decade. It draws on over 150 sources, including 41 British military mental health studies, as well as testimony from veterans. It calls for the policy of recruiting from age 16 to be reviewed so that the greatest burden of risk is not left to the youngest, most vulnerable recruits to shoulder. See more

August 2013: Young age at Army enlistment is associated with greater war zone risks: An analysis of British Army fatalities in Afghanistan
This paper, published by ForcesWatch and Child Soldiers International, indicates that the risk of fatality in Afghanistan for British Army recruits aged 16 who have completed training has been twice as high as it has for those enlisting at 18 or above. This increased risk reflects the disproportionately high number of 16 year olds who join front-line Infantry roles. This is mainly the result of recruitment policies which drive the youngest recruits into the Army’s most dangerous roles. See more

April 2013: One Step Forward: The case for
e
nding recruitment of minors by the British armed forces

This report published by Child Soldiers International and ForcesWatch outlines the numerous ethical and legal concerns related to the recruitment of under-18s, including the disproportionately high level of risk they face and long-term consequences for their employability, as well as detailing how much more it costs than recruiting only adults. See more

The armed forces visit thousands of UK schools each year, offering presentation teams, free resources such as lessons plans and military-led activities and other activities that lead to recruitment. The Department for Education are further integrating military-led activities into Britain's education system as 'military skills and ethos' are presented as a solution to educational problems. Should the armed forces by given access to children within schools and colleges? Is the military's agenda and the development of a 'military ethos' appropriate within education?

ForcesWatch briefings

Questioning the presence of armed forces in schools: a ForcesWatch briefing for parents, students and teachers concerned with military activities in their school. Download

Military activity in UK schools, updated May 2013 Download  

Expanding the Cadets and 'Military Ethos' in UK Schools Download 

 

ForcesWatch observe and respond to ways in which the military is being promoted as a normal part of everyday life. We believe that uncritical support for the armed forces stifles concerns about how young people are recruited and limits debate on alternatives to war.

Militarisation in everyday life in the UK
An event in October 2013 which brought together academics, writers, activists and campaigners who are researching, writing, campaigning on the implications of militarisation of UK society. See more here including background reading and films of presentations.

Watch our new film - Engage: the military and young people

Why does the military have a 'youth engagement' policy and why is the government promoting 'military ethos' within education? What is the impact of military activities taking place in schools? ForcesWatch have been working with the charity Headliners and a group of young people in London to produce this short film which explores these questions and gives teenagers the opportunity to voice their reaction to the military’s interest in their lives.

Watch the film and see more info here

Sign the petition to raise the age of recruitment in 2014

We call on the UK Government to stop its policy of allowing 15 year olds to apply and 16 and 17 year olds to be recruited into the Armed Forces.
sign petition   download paper version   
sign here if not in the UK

your questions

whats the problem with military recruitment?

ForcesWatch believes that armed forces recruitment practices in the UK are largely unethical. The military are reaching out to children and young people using sophisticated strategies to interest and involve them in military activities which do not deal adequately with the risks of an armed forces career but tend to glamorise and sanitise war. The military also fail to adequately inform young people of the legal obligations of an armed forces career.

See here for more.

what are your other concerns?

Taking an active part in conflict involves serious ethical questions regarding the justification of killing and the political purposes of military action. The armed forces fail to adequately address these concerns during recruitment and for serving personnel.

The more government and national initiatives which are created to show support for the armed forces, the more difficult it will become for individuals and society to reflect on the ethics of conflict and peaceful alternatives. See here for more

what should I think about before I join up?

There are ethical questions and questions about why you really want to join up and about what risks you face and what happens if you decide you want to leave. There are some very useful independent sources of advice about your legal situation as a member of the armed forces and other issues. We also have a selection of materials looking at some aspects of what it is like to serve. See here for more.

what can I do about military recruitment activity in my school or community?

The military make visits to many schools and colleges and are also active at local events. If you are unhappy about the presence of the military in your community, here are some ideas of how to address it and some materials to use. See here for more.

what have other people said about their experiences?

Very often the most useful insights into what it is like to be involved in anything is to hear directly from other people about what they have experienced. Here are some accounts of both what it is like to serve in the armed forces and what it is like to challenge the presence of the military in a community. See here for more.

how do you respond to those who don't agree with you?

We don't expect everyone to agree with us but we think there is significant cause for concern about military recruitment practices and about the way that a climate of uncritical national pride in the armed forces is being fostered which makes debate about the activities of the armed forces difficult to question. We think there should be more room for that debate. See more here.

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Raise the age to join the army to 18
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Before You Sign Up

British army: one young recruit's story

A 4 part investigation of 'the soldier myth' - talking to soldiers about recruitment, training, fighting and coming home

The Grey Line, a photographic project on American and British soldiers who spoke out against the invasion of Iraq.

Public support for raising the army recruitment age

In an April 2013 poll, 70% of respondents who expressed a view thought the minimum army recruitment age should be at least 18. See more

latest news

29/06/2014 Herald Scotland

THERE are hook the duck stalls, fairground rides and countless ice-cream vans. But these are not the most popular attractions with the thousands of small children who descended on Stirling yesterday for Armed Forces Day. They seemed to prefer handling the high-velocity sniper rifle, getting to grips with an 81mm mortar or staring down the sights of a Starstreak II missile launcher, with its operator on hand to boast of its "multi-target capability" and 7km range.

27/06/2014 The Guardian

Giles Fraser asks if the commitment for 100 new cadet force units in state schools by 2015 the best way to mark the start of the first world war?

27/06/2014 British Forces News

BFBS ForcesWatch film

Earlier this week the Government pledged £1 million to expanding cadet forces in state secondary schools. But that Is being challenged by a new film called Engage. It has been commissioned by Forces Watch, a group which challenges the ethics of military recruitment.

27/06/2014 Ekklesia

“The stirring music, smart uniforms and synchronised marching that characterise Armed Forces Day are a glossy front behind which sits a deliberate strategy to manipulate the public,”

24/06/2014 The Morning Star

"Machine guns and other weapons were presented to the children as playthings"

23/06/2014 ForcesWatch press release

A week after the government pledged a further £1 million for more cadet forces in state secondary schools, a new film is launched which shows that many young people are critical of the promotion of military activities in their schools.

15/06/2014

Bursary scheme will allocate money paid in fines by British banks caught up in the Libor rate-fixing scandal to state schools to help them offer thousands more children the chance to join military cadet forces.

03/06/2014 Open Democracy

Child Soldiers International: We now face the prospect of 16 year old girls joining the army in combat roles.