Politics in Minutes (2016)

Armed forces and intelligence services

The armed forces form the most powerful, if not the most influential, of state institutions. Although publicly funded and under the control of the government through its department of defence, members of the forces often pledge their loyalty to their country or its head of state. And while their role is generally defined as defensive, they can also be deployed as an invading force by governments with expansionist ambitions or as the enforcers of an oppressive regime. Under more benign regimes, however, they often act simply as a deterrent force and also play a part in international relations, offering military assistance to allies, or contribute men and resources to international groups such as United Nations peace-keeping forces. In times of crisis, military forces are sometimes deployed to support the emergency services or, more controversially, to maintain public order. Complementing the armed forces are the intelligence services, whose role is primarily defensive, but increasingly with the rise of terrorism is directed at surveillance in the interests of national security.