Every year, young men and women around the world reach the age when they become eligible for service in their respective militaries. Some of them are required to join the military and serve for a short period upon graduation from secondary school. In the United States, mandatory military service is only required in the case of a national crisis, since it is generally believed that our volunteer force is good enough on its own. If the US did enforce mandatory service requirements for everyone, the country would end up being a better place.
This statement is drawn from the excerpt given and it forms the core of the argument of this paper. Mandatory military service is a political versus social or humanitarian debate that up to now is experienced majorly in the first world countries. Mandatory military service was a program directed at young boys and girls who are freshly out of high school. The young teenagers and adults are meant to join the military and serve their country for a period of about one to three years. Mandatory military service in the United States can be traced back to the 19th century during the Revolutionary War, where young able-bodied men with the ages varying from 18 to 45 were required to join the army depending on the crisis of the era. They were recruited during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the Vietnam War (Insights).
The process by which men were mandated to join the military is also known as conscription (Vinen). Up to recent times women were not conscripted and very few countries believe in the conscription of women. Other countries that have employed the mandatory rule include Australia, South Korea, North Korea and Norway.
Just as every other controversial bill passed into history, this one did not come without protest and raising questions over its significance in the modern day age. One of the ways to understand and form opinion about the concept of mandatory military service is by looking at the advantages and disadvantages involved.
Cons of mandatory military service in the United States
The United States prides itself as a country that upholds the basic freedom rights of all its citizens. Making them join the military out of their own free will contradicts this freedom granted to citizens. The citizens should voluntarily offer to join military as a sign of patriotism and for the love of the cause, but not by force. The government should instead find ways of appealing to the citizens to join the military as opposed to using the conscription method.
Mandatory military service contradicts the essence of the word service. To serve means to provide assistance to others. To serve the country means to be willing to lay down all aspects of your life including the life itself to serve the greater good of the country. In Hunters book on dictatorship, (Hunter) people do not respond well to being compelled to act and see it as a form of oppression. Human beings are highly unlikely to give their best performance when acting out of command rather than of out of their own free will.
Joining this compulsory program diverts individual attentions from what they want to pursue in life. Individual dreams and desires are put on hold in order to serve the nation. Most students leave high school with dreams of pursuing careers or hobbies of their interest. For a country like the United States a surprisingly huge number enroll to join the army. Between the period of 2014 and 2015 almost 5,000 people enrolled to join the army (Thesaurus). This is already a huge number that the government should choose to work with and train effectively as opposed to compulsory recruitment of people whose lives will be put on hold for the sake of serving in the army.
The bigger an army is the more it is likely to be perceived as strong. However controversy is raised over the issue of quantity of the soldiers versus quality in performance. Increasing the number of people in an army by means of constriction creates a higher chance of having a weakened army. This is because the non- permanent recruited members only undergo basic training. Warfare is an art that needs highly trained people and having partially trained people only increases the possibility of more people getting killed in battle or the downfall of an army as a whole. There is no room for weakness in the military and an army is only as strong as their weakest link.
In order to sustain the training program the government needs to have enough space, equipment, machinery and food amongst other things. Military training takes between 3 to 4 months and the recruits undergo physical training, field exercise and obstacle training. There is extra training for people branching into the Navy or Air force and the yearly cost of training is estimated at not less than 5 million dollars. Approximately 15 million students graduate from high school on a yearly basis and if we subtract the number of women and those who do not qualify for constriction the number evens out to 5 million men. Assuming the government trains 5,000 new recruits every year, the cost of training 5 million people increases by 1000%. For an economy struggling with inflation this cost is certainly not necessary for people who will only serve the military on a temporary basis. The financial resources can be put to better economical use in the country.
When sent off for hostile missions soldiers are faced with several health and physical risks. They face the dangers of getting infected with diseases like tuberculosis, pneumonia, asthma and staying in unhygienic conditions. Other than physical conditions they also suffer from psychological and emotional stress (McMoran, Moran and Baron). No amount of counselling prepares soldiers to undergo the psychological changes they do while serving in the army. Even though they are trained to prepare for such effects a larger percentage still get Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In the United States approximately 22 veteran soldiers commit suicide everyday yet this figure only accounts for 40% of the states in the United States. (CNN). 30% of veterans engaged admit to having given thought about suicide and a good number turn into raging alcoholics and drug addicts. It is clear that exposing the young people who are not well trained to the psychological effects of war can create permanent damage and this would be disastrous considering how young they are and how long they have to live in a traumatized state. Although it does not mean that it is any better for the veteran soldiers to go through trauma of that kind, they are better trained than the young conscripts.
Even with the mentioned disadvantaged a number of countries still believe in the significance of having mandatory military service. Examples of countries include South and North Korea, Israel, Australia and Norway. Germany passed a bill in 2010 to put an end to conscription however still retaining the rights to reintroduce it if need arises. Majority are European countries with Africa being the least with only one actively involved country which is Egypt. In the modern day of reduced physical warfare, countries that still enforce the conscription law must see some benefit from it. Further insight as to how conscription works in these countries will highlight on its advantages.
Mandatory military service in Norway
Conscription in Norway has existed since the 20th century. Previously men were the only ones subjected to conscription till recently. The Norwegian parliament passed a bill that will see the extension of conscription to females in Norway. 95% of the parliament voted in support of female conscription terming it as a matter of gender equality. The Norwegian government believes that all people have equal rights, freedom and obligations regardless of their sexuality. In this new bill all women aged between 19 and 44 years will be required to serve at least 19 months in the Norwegian armed forces. The Norwegian government also believes that their major aim of conscription is not to get numbers but to improve on the quality of soldiers. They hope to find out the best and convince then to stay after the end of the program. Most of the citizens view this as a major step towards establishing equal rights. Norway is the first country in the world to introduce a gender-neutral conscription program (Embassy).
Mandatory military service in Africa
In Egypt all men between 18 and 30 years of age have to serve in the army. It has been enforced in their laws from as early as 1840 and their National Conscription Law passed in 1948. The latest amendment was done in 1988. Men in Egypt are required to serve in the army for a period of 1 to 3 years. The duration of service depends on an individuals educational background and culture. After service the men are also placed under a 9 year reserve obligation. This means that they can get called anytime to serve in the army even after conscription and are free from the service only after 9 years.
In the case of students conscription can be postponed until they finish school, before turning 25 years of age or when a citizen is unable to travel without getting a permit from the Ministry of Defense. Certain exemptions are also made for citizens who have no male siblings. If one is an only child in a family then they are exempted as well. Men over 30 years of age cannot be conscripted, as they are considered unfit for service. People who hold dual citizenship are also exempted from mandatory military service. An exemption is also made for men who are the sole bread winners of their families. Other than for the reasons mentioned all Egyptians with Egyptian nationalities have to be enlisted for conscription.
In South Africa conscription was applied in the 1990s to the whites during their apartheid regime struggles. The fight towards South Africa gaining freedom did not go down without bloodshed. Being minority in number, the white people had to join the army to fight for their lives. End of this war brought about the end of conscription.
Mandatory military service in North Korea
North Korea can be said to be among the countries that have a stringent constriction program. Constriction occurs twice a year as the governments target is to create a one million-man army (Sonneborn). All men in North Korea are required to join the army at the age of 18 and serve for 13 years. Recent amendment changed the number from 13 to 10 and women voluntarily serving to serve for 7 years as opposed to 10. The North Korean government wants to make amendments in law in order to make it compulsory for women to serve in the army. If the bill is passed they will serve up to when they turn 23 years of age.
Mandatory military service in South Korea
The conscription law in South Korea was enacted in 1965 and it is only applicable to men of 18 to 35 years of age. A bill was passed in 2010 that included women in the military. They are however not conscripted but allowed to enroll for training as reserve officers (Williams). It is quite interesting to note that an exemption is made only to Olympic Games medal winners and specifically gold medal winners in the Asian Games. However this exemption does not guarantee total exemption from participation as the athletes are still required to undergo basic one month military training.
Advantages of mandatory military service in the United States
In a generation plagued by lifestyles diseases like obesity and diabetes, having the conscription program can be useful in making the young people active in order to avoid such diseases. In th...
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