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Army misses recruitment targets as young people reject militarism

British army recruits in training

Army misses recruitment targets as young people reject militarism

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) has welcomed the news that the British army is still failing to meet its recruitment targets.

The army's "2020 Strategy", adopted in 2015, included an aim to have 82,000 regular troops and 30,100 reserves, by March 2019. However, latest statistics show the army has fewer than 80,000 regular troops and around 27,000 reserves. 

The PPU said it is a sign that young people are increasingly aware of the failure of war to solve the world's problems.

Peace Pledge Union spokesperson Symon Hill said: 

"Army recruitment is aimed at people in their teens and early twenties. These are people who have grown up during the horrific wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. They have seen armed forces fail repeatedly to meet their stated aims, contributing to avoidable death and destruction while not bringing the democracy and stability that their supporters promise. This generation has good reason to reject the naive belief that deep-seated problems can be solved with bombs. They have seen politicians fail to really tackle the problems of climate change, poverty and terrorism, none of which can be overcome by thousands of men with guns."

The army has come up with increasingly desperate recruitment initiatives in recent years, from posters that patronise millennials to demonstrably inaccurate claims about the military being LGBT-friendly. None of these have solved the army's recruitment problem.

The PPU said that many young people can see clearly what the generals and politicians won't admit: that war cannot solve the world's problems. Independently minded young people rightly see that obedience to orders is not a practice to be admired but an assault on human dignity.

The PPU expressed disappointment that the Labour Party had called on the government to use other methods for meeting army recruitment targets. They urged opposition politicians to call on the government to spend the “defence” budget on tackling underlying causes of insecurity, such as poverty and climate change, rather than demanding yet more military recruitment.

The Peace Pledge Union is the British section of War Resisters' International, which unites people challenging war, militarism and miltiary recruitment around the world.