The report also recommends the increased us of drones to reduce casualties
Repatriation ceremonies for the remains of dead soldiers should have a lower profile in order to make war more palatable to the British public, according to a report for the Ministry of Defence.
It examines how to sway ‘casualty averse’ public opinion, a situation commonly known as ‘body bag syndrome’, and was published by the MoD’s strategy formulation unit.
The document suggests that the MoD should ‘reduce the profile of the repatriation ceremonies’ where coffins carrying deceased soldiers are brought back to UK bases such as RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.
It discusses ways to ‘reduce public sensitivity’ and methods of explaining that ‘risks are knowingly and willingly undertaken’ by armed forces personnel.
Suggestions included making greater use of the SAS and other special forces, as well as mercenaries, because it claims losses sustained by the elite soldiers and hired guns do not have the same impact on the public and press.
‘Neither the media nor the public in the west appear to identify with contractors in the way that they do with their military personnel. Thus casualties from within the contractorised force are more acceptable in pursuit of military ends than those from among our own forces.’
It added: ‘The public appear to have a more robust attitude to SF [special forces] losses.’
Reassurances are made in the paper that the British public may not be as ‘risk-averse’ as they appear, and suggests this is ‘based on recent, post-2000 experience’.
‘Historically, once the public are convinced that they have a stake in the conflict they are prepared to endorse military risks and will accept casualties as the necessary consequence of the use of military force,’ it says.
The report adds: ‘The public have become better informed and our opponents more sophisticated in the exploitation of the sources of information with the net result that convincing the nation of the need to run military risks has become more difficult but no less essential.’