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date: 13 June 2024

The United Kingdom: Increasingly Fractious Civil–Military Relationslocked

The United Kingdom: Increasingly Fractious Civil–Military Relationslocked

  • Andrew M. DormanAndrew M. DormanProfessor of International Security, King's College London


Civil–military relations in the United Kingdom have traditionally not been a major issue. This is partly a reflection of its history. The U.K. mainland has not been invaded since 1066. Since the civil war in the 17th century and the union of Scotland with England at the beginning of the 18th century, there has not been a need to maintain significant land forces at home. The Royal Navy has provided the first and main line of defense. The civil war in many ways set the tone for subsequent civil–military relations. Most powers related to the armed forces have been retained under the royal prerogative, effectively in the hands of the prime minister, but Parliament has retained a degree of oversight and controls the purse strings.

However, beneath this veneer there are increasing tensions between the military and political authorities as the former have sought an increasing role in policymaking, particularly in terms of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, the armed forces themselves have struggled to come to terms with adapting to the society from which they are drawn. Since the 1990s they have had to give ground on the issues of gender and sexuality, and they are increasingly criticized for their lack of diversification—an issue that they have sought to mask by recruiting from the Commonwealth.


  • History and Politics
  • World Politics

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