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Overstretched and over there

Britain's armed forces are still formidable in battle, but undermanning and public indifference point to an institution under strain. It is too soon to declare the military covenant broken, but repair work is certainly needed

By James Fergusson   October 2008

Until two years ago, when the army’s senior soldier, chief of the general staff Richard Dannatt, popularised the phrase in a now famous interview in the Daily Mail, most people had never heard of the “military covenant.” Considering that the military covenant does not, technically speaking, exist, this is forgivable. The legal definition of a covenant is a sealed, written contract. Yet apart from an oblique reference or two in army doctrine, the military covenant does not exist in writing, and has no basis in law. Despite this, since 2006 an important national debate about the military’s role in society…

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