Obligatory Military Service
I'm not against serving in military, but I'm dead set against forcing citizens into mandatory terms of service.
(2008 -05-21)[update] 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.
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."