Mandatory military service has been an issue which has been debated and practiced for hundreds of years. Currently, there are several countries such as Brazil, Demark, Germany, Russia, Israel, Turkey, and Singapore which have mandatory service for men at a young age, while countries such as Israel make both men and women serve a term in the armed forces (Williams). Although countries such as Israel, who are at a perpetual war with tightened border defense, may benefit from conscription, there are many disadvantages to mandatory service which other countries experience.
The United States has had a history of conscription during times of war or times of crises. The first conscription act in 1863 called for men 20 to 45 to serve. With the ability to buy your way out of service, many people felt that this was unfair to the poor causing riots to occur in New York (Freeman). Again, the US drafted citizens during WWI allowing for exemptions to people who were in critical domestic positions, disabled, or had dependent families (Should US Draft). In 1940 the Selective Training and Service Act was passed, making it the first peacetime draft in preparation for the potential involvement into WWII. This Act lead the way for the much criticized daft into the Vietnam War, which lead to the final termination of the military draft in 1973 (Should US Draft).
Canada has also had a history of conscription during wartime involvement with equal dissatisfaction by the general public. Prime Mister Borden placed a high emphases on Canadian involvement in the war effort since be believed that it would bring unity to the country, and would show the world (mainly Britain), that Canada was more than just a colony, but a major contender in the global community. This however, did not come true since he was unable to win the support of the opposition leadership, the gap between rich and poor commitment and reward was prevalent, and the French community did not support dying overseas (Conscription for Wartime Service).
During the Cold War, Russia was a country which required large numbers of conscripts for the purpose of defense. Currently, Russia is having difficulty maintaining the level of conscription, stated by one general that only 11 percent of able men do their service. Most used one of the 22 exemptions such as illness or education to excuse themselves from their duties. To compound the issue, Russia’s military has experience a high level of desertion due to harsh physiological and living conditions (Agence France-Presse).
Sweden has also raised issues with their conscription, questioning on whether women should be required to have a mandatory service similar to what the men are required to do. Although their goals in mandatory service is based on building an effective and egalitarian defense force, the reality of budget cutbacks has prevented more than two thirds of eligible candidates to be called up for service (Associated Press).
One of the strictest countries for mandatory service may be Israel which requires all males at the age of 18 to serve the Israel Defense Force (IDF) for 3 years, and all women to serve for 2 years. Despite the current requirements, and the 60% acceptance of conscription by the general youth, it is estimated that only 50% of those required will actually serve any military service (NYS in Israel). Although there has been an exemption for young Israelis with particular religions affiliation in the past with no major quarrel in the political area, recent years have lead to public criticism and lawmakers questioning the current position on the issue (NYS in Israel)
Due to the severe involvement of military in the lives of almost every family, Israel’s culture, political and economic structure has been built around military service. It has become an important test to personal and group acceptance, as well as a gateway to personal transformation. Because of this, as the involvement of youth in the military decrease, the institute for social behavior disappears, and needs to be replaced with an alternative social structure (NYS in Israel). This shows that not only has conscription become a necessity for defense, but also a necessity for social and economic beliefs.
In 2003, Democratic Representative Charles Rangel proposed a bill for mandatory service for the United States, based on a different social aspect to conscription. It was his belief that families, and Congress in particular, took war too lightly. Having mandatory service for all youth would make the country take a harder look at military options and be more likely to look for diplomatic solutions (Rangel Calls for Service).
Further arguments for mandatory service believe that there has been a growing lack of respect among youth, as well as a decrease in overall academic capabilities with the increase of crime and substance abuse. It is believed that the discipline, honor, and value system built within the military, along with the need for respect for the chain of command, would make a better society as a whole if conscription existed (Williams).
Williams also argues that conscription would create a society that is better fit and mentally strong (Williams). This idea brings up the concern of the current health level of the general public. With such high levels of obesity and related health issues, would such conditions make a person exempt from mandatory service, or would basics training endanger their lives?
Studies have shown that there is a relationship between obesity and poverty, stating that food that are higher is fats, sugar, or starch are typically cheaper than their healthier alternatives (Degginger). If this is the case, then as history has shown there is a fundamental flaw in conscription where one class (typically the rich) are exempt from service, while another class are expected to enlist.
This trend has always caused social criticism as it did with the riots in New York and the protests among the French communities in Canada. The fundamental difference in this scenery however, is that it would be the poor who would be most likely exempt do to health concerns, while the rich with their lower obesity rates, would be expected to serve in the military.
Economically, mandatory service is more costly than an all-voluntary military. In 1968, Richard Nixon formed the Gates Commission to examine the shift to voluntary service after pressure from the unpopular draft for the Vietnam War. The Commission found that the opportunity costs of a draft is higher on society as a whole then the opportunity costs of labor under a voluntary military system, decreasing output. As people who would make higher incomes in civilian jobs be forced into lower paying military jobs, society loses as a whole (Should US Draft).
As history and current issues have shown, mandatory service creates a system which separates two aspects of society, manly economical. This separation has not gone unnoticed by the general public and usually leads to public outcry and politic pressure placed on governments. As Israel has shown us, a successful conscription program does not go without consequences; a society where its social and economic background become reliant on the military and war. Although there are some advantages to the personal development of a fraction of individuals through military service, the cost for society as a whole may be too great to consider mandatory military service for our youth.
Associated Press. Sweden Considers Mandatory Military Service For Women. News-Star.com 27 June 2003. Retrieved 27 November 2006 <http://www.news-star.com/stories/062703/New_8.shtml>
Agence France-Presse. Only 11 Percent of Russian Men Enter Mandatory Military Service:General. Space Daily. 06 December 2002. Retrieved 27 November 2006 <http://www.spacedaily.com/2002/021206145741.ooyw2y54.html>
Conscription for Wartime Services. Center for Canadian Studies. 2001. Retrieved 27 November 2006 <http://www.mta.ca/faculty/arts/canadian_studies/english/about/study_guide/debates/conscription.html>
Degginger, Craig. USDA Study to Address Obesity and Poverty. University of Washington 22 June 2004. Retrieved 27 November 2006
Freeman, Johanne. Timeline of the Civil War. Library of Congress 27 November 2006. Retrieved 27 November 2006 <http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/cwphtml/tl1863.html>
NYS in Israel. Carmel Institute For Social Studies. 27 November 2006. Retrieved 27 November 2006 < http://www.carmelinstitute.org.il/YouthService/nysinisrael.htm>
Rangel Calls for Mandatory Military Service. CNN.com 30 December 2002. Retrieved 27 November 2006 <http://archives.cnn.com/2002/ALLPOLITICS/12/29/mandatory.military/index.html>
Should the US Reinstitute a Military Draft. South-Western. 2003. Retrieved 27 November 2006 <http://www.swlearning.com/economics/policy_debates/draft.html>
Williams, Armstrong. Mandatory Military Service Would Benefit the U.S. NewsMax.com 19 June 2006. Retrieved 27 November 2006 <http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2006/6/18/162837.shtml>