A psychological rift in the perception of war

BBC Radio 4’s Analysis programme has a fascinating edition on how the public’s psychological perception of war is changing and how this is having an effect on the armed forces.

It’s drawn from a UK perspective and its bookended by a bit of political stuff but the main part is full of interesting observations on how our understanding of acceptable soldiering is changing.

For example, medals for bravery are increasingly given for soldiers who rescue their wounded comrades under fire, rather than for killing the enemy as they used to be, despite the fact that killing the enemy remains a necessary part of a soldier’s job.

The core point of the programme is to explore the how the public and the military view of conflict is diverging and what effect this has on the operations of the armed forces.

Difficulties in adjusting back to civilian life are known to contribute to mental health problems in soldiers and I wondered how much the growing sense of ‘not being understood’ contributes to this but could find no research which directly tackled the issue.

Link to Analysis ‘Defence: no stomach for the fight?’
mp3 of podcast of the programme.
Link to text of script.

4 thoughts on “A psychological rift in the perception of war”

  1. Not to be mean but this is a Western bourgeois bias. Freudian psychology was used by the Nazis when Germans weren’t supporting the war — ironically, obviously since Freud had to flee. But this media reporting on psychology of war is disingenuous because the newest development of war is that more civilians are killed than soldiers. I mean the sanctions on Iraq were a form of warfare that killed at least 1.5 million people — mainly kids and old people — and this went unreported in the West. Afghanistan is no different with the starvation there a byproduct — a tool of the war. So to say that soldiers now get metals for helping other soldiers rather than killing people — I mean it’s not even a war in Iraq. Just like Vietnam – these are genocidal acts — not warfare. Also more soldiers now commit suicide after returning then die in warfare.

  2. I would think that killing the enemy remains is taking things just a little too far and is possibly a sign of existing mental illness…

  3. Dunno about the UK, but in the U.S., I suspect an all-voluntary and “co-ed” army, now primarily made up of the “less afluent”, may be changing the traditional military in many ways we haven’t even realized yet.

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