Worst Opinion of the Week: 'Bring Back National Service'

A new government-backed report says conscription might help drum an appreciation of futile war back into the British public. Would an informative pamphlet and a showing of 'Dunkirk' in 4D not suffice?
by NEO
Calls to bring back national service UK
Photo: Bob Foster
Welcome to Worst Hot Take of the Week – a column in which @MULLET_FAN_NEO crowns the wildest hot take of the week.

Story: Britain's armed forces face an "existential crisis" as a "communication gap" grows between the military and the public.
Reasonable take: Perhaps the lack of enthusiasm towards the British armed forces stems from systematic issues, such as governments entering illegal wars that were not backed by the public, or older generations hoarding homes, jobs and prospects to the point where the young feel they have nothing to live for or "defend", rather than a lack of interest or understanding.
Brain rot: Let's talk about bringing back national service! Again!


As the heady fuels that once powered Britain – holiday countdowns, pissed-up kebabs and football – burn off into the now-repairing ether, it's becoming clear with each passing viral challenge and public gesture that our country is running solely on the fumes of "respect". What's more, our plans to live a free and normal existence one day again may be scuppered by this week's news that a government-commissioned report has recommended that Britain should consider bringing back national service after some 60 years.

Every time this debate comes up – which it does, at least three times a year, usually via some columnist with an author illustration depicting their massive forehead – it initially sounds like the premise for a shelved Channel 5 show about "teaching youngsters respect… the old school way!" However, it is actually a very real proposition.

The study's author – military historian and professor Sir Hew Strachan, from the University of St Andrews – raised concerns that there is a "communication gap" between the military and the public that can "undermine the development of strategy and potential for the coherent use of military force". Bringing back national service, he suggests, would help boost the public's knowledge of "defence".

Ah, the coherent military forces we all hope our formative years are helpful in forging. It'll be a real shame if the youngsters of today won't be able to recall a undeveloped adulthood of being daddy dommed by a drill sergeant from Swindon for not rolling up a sleeping bag "military style" before being frog-marched around the scorching Brecon Beacons without any breakfast.


In the report, submitted to the Ministry of Defence, Strachan argued that there is a "widespread perception" that the British public are now dubious over the benefits of warfare after the "uncertain outcomes" of Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result, the government "hesitates to deploy armed forces" and the British publish remain uninformed, potentially creating a situation where the military "cannot be used" and "ultimately have no purpose" as they become "no more than an expensive adornment of the state".

This, he says, threatens the armed forces with an "existential crisis". Not over the countless killings, but the absence of a "mature public engagement" between the military and the public, which could harm "national resilience".

The study concluded that Britain still "luxuriates in a sense of its own continuity and self-identity", which isn't entirely wrong. But it also talked of how "well intentioned efforts of organisations like Help for Heroes" have characterised returning soldiers from wars as "victims, not victors, who have suffered in wars of 'choice', not wars of necessity". If only these short-sighted charities for veterans abandoned by the state could realise they're impeding future pointless wars against Britain's biggest foe: the civilians of any country east of Europe.

This seems to suggest warmongers are worried that their sociopathic skirmishes are falling further out of favour with Joe Public, and their only response to the general opposition to futile wars is turning everyone into an Ant Middleton-type dead-eyed sniper. But I cannot help but feel it seems rather excessive, not to mention expensive, to drum appreciation of war into the British public by giving us firsthand experiences of close-quarter-combat in Burundi, when an informative pamphlet and a showing of Dunkirk in 4D would probably suffice?

What I'm absolutely certain of is that if you don't fall into the category of having to do national service yourself, you definitely shouldn't get to have an opinion on it. What the fuck is with the older British generations and their never-ending, misty-eyed stiffy for servitude, fantasising about the youngster of today being "taught a lesson"? It is truly grating how any jingoist scheme always seems to be noddingly approved by a middle-aged dickhead who got to spend their teens fannying around listening to The Jam and playing conkers, and thinks their 15 years as a game master at the local paint-balling place counts as a form of "service".

Where are our publicly funded reports recommending we "bring back nationalised pubs", or "bring back Mars Delight"? It's always "bring back dying in combat", or some other waffle from a bygone era. If we are serious about building a "national unity" it would be a lot easier to start by creating a country that wasn’t so grotesquely unfair, imbalanced and divided. But what do I know?