In his lecture, Lieutenant-General Simon Mayall discussed the reasons why the extent and the depth of civilian support for the armed forces has been one of the great constant elements in British history. Recent military interventions, notably in the Middle East, have been contentious in terms of public opinion, and the perception of heroism, especially since the First World War, is often sceptical. Bureaucratic tinkering with the regimental structures which underline the association between the localities and the army has been an intermittent fact of service life and the arts of war, which are an aspect of the search for peace, have been transformed almost beyond recognition in the decades since the Queen's accession. But the compact between the British population and those who are called upon to defend their security seems as unshakeable now as it has ever been.

“Napoleon said ‘I may lose a battle but I should never lose a minute’—we lost six years in Afghanistan—in a part of the world where we didn’t, frankly, need to be.”

Army leaders have eschewed political campaigning and some, as in General Mayall's case, have been able to communicate their vision to the British public with clarity and conviction.

Prosperity and progress—in both the cultural and the material spheres of life—are inconceivable without the maintenance of security and the readiness to use force in order to defend the values that are integral to a free society.

General Mayall's elegant prose, acute insights and range of historical knowledge illuminated these connections in an inspirational manner and his lecture is a major contribution to the study of Britain's recent military and political history. This was the last for four lectures in the Legatum Institute’s Promise of Freedom series, which seeks to explore the vital role liberty has played in British and American cultural and social thought.

The discussion was hosted by Hywel Williams, Senior Advisor at the Legatum Institute.

About the Promise of Freedom Series
The Promise of Freedom is a series of lectures and events exploring the vital role liberty has played in British and American cultural and social thought. The Promise of Freedom marks the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Her Majesty the Queen. The series also features events with Grey Gowrie, poet, former Cabinet Minister and company Chairman, Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, Dame Harriet Walter, British actress, and Lieutenant-General Simon Mayall, Senior Advisor Middle East, Ministry of Defence.

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