By Joseph Willits
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In a Parliamentary debate on Armed Forces Personnel yesterday, Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey rather poignantly assessed the state of the military now, compared with the First and Second World Wars.
Harvey paid his respects to those killed in military combat. "Remembrance" he said, "is not a political occasion" but "about recognising that the real price of war… is a human price—a price paid not just by those who have died but by their families and by all those who have returned wounded, physically or mentally".
The armed forces today, he said "are different in many ways from those who fought on the Somme or at El Alamein", and that conscription then, was a "reflection of the existential threat facing the country at that time". Harvey stated that public awareness of the military had "declined" and was not "woven deeply into the fabric of the nation" as it once was. He suggested two reasons for the said decline; the numbers of those "who fought in the world wars or undertook national service" has dwindled, and service downgrades "since the end of the cold war." Harvey was careful to emphasise a decline in perception and awareness of the armed forces, rather than respect for them. "The people of Royal Wootton Bassett [who] chose to mark the return of the fallen is surely testament to that", he said.
A rather interesting question was posed by Julian Brazier MP (Canterbury). Brazier asked Harvey if the challenge of military awareness "will increase markedly once the Afghanistan operation is over as people see less of the armed forces on their television sets".
"The fighting role in Afghanistan is due to end by 2015 and I suppose that might constitute some risk that the public awareness of the daily and regular actions of the armed forces may diminish."
Some might argue that the rest Harvey's response hinted at possible military action elsewhere, with perhaps the potential of future deployment:
"In an increasingly uncertain and dangerous world, I fear it is unlikely to be the case that our armed forces will disappear into a period of invisibility or inactivity".
Tobias Ellwood MP (Bournemouth East) suggested that a "growing distance between a younger generation and a generation who made the huge sacrifices" for today's freedoms, has meant that a "small but naive group among the younger generation" have chosen "to desecrate, damage and rob war memorials". This wider issue actually resulting in criminality, as discussed by Andrew Bridgen MP on ConservativeHome today, suggests that amongst other things, a decline in awareness is being expressed through theft and destruction.
Muslims Against Crusades, the group responsible for poppy burning outside the Royal Albert Hall last Remembrance Day, were yesterday banned. The group had intended to hold a "Hell for Heroes" demonstration, again outside the Royal Albert Hall, today.
> Lord Ashcroft on Comment today: Today, Remembrance Day, let us recall the bravery of the fallen