Whats the problem?
Failing to inform
We believe that armed forces recruitment practices in the UK are largely unethical. The military fails to properly inform potential recruits of the risks, difficulties and legal obligations of an armed forces career. Research has shown that it targets vulnerable social groups, including young people under 18 and people from poorer backgrounds.
Selling the idea
Many activities that the armed forces make available to young people capitalise on their impressionability by presenting a glamorous view of armed forces life without the risks, legal obligations and ethical issues involved.
Fun....and 'self discovery powered by the army'
The langauge and tools used are often those that young people are drawn towards - toys, computer games and military hardware and full use is made of ideas of steady employmjent, getting an education, having experiences that other young people do not have, and 'self discovery powered by the army'.
The most restrictive employment contracts
Whilst some are satisfied with their choice of joining the armed forces, others are dissatisfied and may have no legal right to leave for several years. After an initial period, young people are not free to leave until they are 22 years old. Those under 18 have a right to discharge themselves but with a 3 month notice period. Notice periods are generally long and those who have left must remain in the reserves.
Significant and lasting risks
In addition to the risk of death or serious injury, many suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental problems on return and experience other difficulties once back in civilian life, including harmful drinking and addiction, relationship breakdown, and a greater risk of suicide for young men.
Supporting the armed forces or supporting the war?
There is concern that some government initiatives, such as Armed Forces Day, seek to manufacture a climate of uncritical national pride in the armed forces in order to garner public support for foreign policy.
The need for critical debate
Unqualified support of the military and foreign policy stigmatises legitimate concerns about how young people are recruited for the armed forces within our communities, and limits debate on alternatives to war.
Widespread critical awareness of the risks and legal obligations of an armed forces career is essential if young people are to make an informed, responsible choice about enlistment.
Ethical concerns to military service and objecting on the grounds of conscience
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 does not adequately address these concerns during recruitment and for serving personnel.
Active service and exposure to warfare can radically alter a person’s values and beliefs and lead to the development of an objection to further service. Although the armed forces recognise the right of serving personnel to be discharged if they develop a conscientious objection, this right is not set out clearly in legislation, is not mentioned in the terms of service, the process of declaring an objection on moral grounds is very opaque and many, perhaps most, forces personnel are unaware of it.
The system for registering a conscientious objection needs to be far easier to access and the different types of conscientious objection need to be fully recognised.