The utility of military force and public understanding in today's Britain

Hew Strachan, Ruth Harris

Research output: Book/ReportBook


The presence of a communication gap between the government and the public on matters of defence policy can undermine the development of strategy and potential for the coherent use of military force. The Global Strategic Partnership (GSP) was therefore commissioned by the UK's Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) to challenge the traditional relationships between the UK's military, government and people, explore the relevance of the construct for the 21st Century, and the implications of this evolving relationship for the nature of the utility of force. The British government perceives the public as reluctant to support the cost of defence and unpersuaded of the utility of military force. Yet the formation of effective strategy in a democracy requires conversations both between the government and its civil service and armed forces, and between the government and its electorate. These two conversations are often conducted in different registers, undermining the coherence of national strategy. Moreover, the public is not a monolith, but a community that includes opinion formers, spouses of service personnel, and former armed forces personnel, all of them groups whose members engage with the use of force as do those in government. To generate a mature attitude to the use of armed force and, if necessary, to the utility of war itself, Britain will require a mature debate about defence—one that trusts and engages the public, allows the armed forces to participate in the discussion, and in which the government enables and enhances the structures to permit those conversations.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherRAND Corporation
Number of pages43
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020

Publication series

NameResearch reports


Dive into the research topics of 'The utility of military force and public understanding in today's Britain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this