November 22, 2008

Obligatory Military Service
Pite┼čti, Romania

I'm not against serving in military, but I'm dead set against forcing citizens into mandatory terms of service.

 (2008 -05-21)      No armed forces      No conscription      Plan to abolish conscription within 3 years      Conscription      No information

For those that didn't know, this practice is still in play in more countries than it should be (a sampling can be found on Wikipedia), and until recently Romania (2006), Bulgaria (2007), Hungary (2004), and a whole bunch of other regional countries in these parts had such a thing.

Here in Romania I've been told (by Romanians) that military service was at many times seen as a rite of passage for teenage boys, who would return as men. Rural communities would hold celebrations for a boy leaving for his service, sometimes riding on a train or leaving the village itself for the first time in his life, and rejoicing again upon his return a year later.

Initially, I thought that governments might've had laws in place like this to boost the exposure of military service to the populous, knowing that some percentage of the conscripts would decide to make a career out of it, but apparently this isn't the case.

Professionals, Not Conscripts

Military conscription is predicated on the assumption that nations have rights that supersede those of the individual. A country's armed forces should be comprised of professional soldiers, not conscripts. It takes time and money to train a soldier, and to require the mandatory enlistment of someone for six, twelve, or even eighteen months is going to be a waste on the part of the individual, the government, or both.

Romanian conscripts

Conscription creates numbers, but not quality. Conscripts become the slave labor, low-cost work force of the armed forces. They dig the building foundations, wash the dishes and polish the brass. And if the government does invest the money into giving the conscript specialist training, and the conscript leaves (which nearly all of them do), that's effectively money wasted. Where's the motivation to do more than feed, introduce them to a rifle, and them and keep them busy?

It can be argued that in a cost-to-benefit ratio, conscription during peace time is not worthwhile. Months or years of service amongst the most fit subtracts from the productivity of the economy; add to this the cost of training them, and in some countries paying them. Compared to these extensive costs, some would argue there is very little benefit, if there ever were war conscription and basic training could be completed quickly, and in most countries where conscription is compulsory there is little threat of war in any case.

I've read that conscription may inspire camaraderie, unifying a people: all able-bodied males together as a union have had the same experience and are soldiers, and that may create unity and a national spirit. I've also read that a nation whose citizens have a direct, vested interest in the military (such as friends or family serving) would be less prone to rushing into war.

But in the words of Einstein and Gandhi's Anti-Conscription Manifesto, "The State which thinks itself entitled to force its citizens to go to war will never pay proper regard to the value and happiness of their lives in peace."

Comments:

The United States

Bob L

January 17th, 2009

I've heard various arguments for and against this both from citizens and military personnel. Other variations include requiring some sort of civil service, maybe with the military being worth more or paying better or something than the military. Most military people don't like the idea of a draft or anything but a volunteer military. As you say, poor quality soldiers make a poor quality military.

I am not sure where I stand on the issue. I believe that the Government should not be able to force it's citizens do do things like this, but then, people owe the rest of the citizenship something, I guess, maybe.

One argument I have heard that makes some sense goes along with what you said, they go away boys and come back men (women). Most of us are pretty immature after high-school and not really ready to go to college or into the workforce. A couple years with a bit of forced discipline would help most of us. Of course, some come back more screwed up than when they left. I have never seen a country do obligatory service in any manner that makes sense to me.

Bob L

Note: Comments are open to everyone. To reduce spam and reward regular contributors, only submissions from first-time commenters and/or those containing hyperlinks are moderated, and will appear after approval. Hateful or off-topic remarks are subject to pruning. Your e-mail address will never be publicly disclosed or abused.