Monday, 28 September 2009


The English language is a wonderful tool. The derivation of the term “entitlement” is an example. The "titled" part of it intrigues me.

One of the dictionary benefits of the term is –

the right to guaranteed benefits under a government program, as Social Security or unemployment compensation

Connecting with many of my fellow section members a few weeks ago has alerted me to the fact that I am one of only a couple of these blokes who is still working and hasn’t been forced on to some form of benefit as a result of operational service. In my mind this indicates two things – one is that I’ve been very lucky – the other is that it provides sad evidence of one of the often-overlooked outcomes of war.

The statistics in relation to Vietnam Veterans are no different from those out of conflicts ranging from World War One, through World War Two, Korea, and more recently, Timor Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Recent publicity about the children of a partner of an Afghanistan casualty has only reinforced the notion that when it’s all over, any compensation has to be fought for.

I completely fail to understand the mindset of many conservative commentators who advocate military adventure as the first, last and only solution to international disagreement, or in the current context, international terrorism. This reptilian brain reaction continues to hold sway with those who believe that you can destroy an idea by killing those who support it. I would have thought that the Vietnam experience might have focused some attention on this enduring myth, but it seems to have gone through to the keeper.

At least many in the military have begun to see that protection of the people and the provision of basic security is the first step to a successful counter-insurgency, and the term “victory” as applied to these conflicts continues to be used by the commentators rather than the commanders. The commanders have heard of Maslow’s hierarchy.

Apparently the commentators haven't.

But back to “entitlement”.

The word conjures up images of Lords and Ladies, royalty, and a whole heap of concepts that went out with button-up boots. It belongs to the monarchy, wigs on judges and executive car parks.

As an avowed republican, I’d like to see the term relegated to the dustbin of history.

The more accurate term is “compensation”. It’s about time two reforms were organized –

Compensation for war veterans of all conflicts should be brought into line with the benefits that accrue to ex-politicians, and the term “entitlement” should be removed from all reference to service pensions.

And perhaps, a secret ballot of all registered veterans should be held before we commit to any new conflict. That would be interesting.

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...