Mandatory conscription refers to the compulsory recruitment and induction of people into the armed forces. The conscript gives involuntary labor to the military service of his country. The government whereby able-bodied and medically fit people are recruited authorizes conscription. Conscription is colloquially known as draft: Most governments use conscription when voluntary enrolment fails to meet the needs.
Conscription is known to have been there in during the reign of Hammurabi the king of Babylon (1702-1750 BC). During those times, those who were recruited were trained to serve in the army during times of war. In the absence of war, the conscripts performed other duties such as construction of temples. “Ilkum” was the name given to conscription in the Babylonian empire (Postgate 242).
Brief History of Conscription
Modern conscription traces its origin from France at the time of the French Revolution. Napoleon Bonaparte introduced it in his empire where people were recruited to fight in military wars. It was the responsibility of the conscripts to defend the French Republic against European monarchies. This system of recruiting army was later adopted by other nations of the world such as United States, and European nations. The United States of America employed the first conscription during the civil war where majority of the people were volunteers. Later a constriction act was passed in 1917 to increase the army in the First World War (Bushnell, et al., Para 3).
Mandatory conscription is one of the best forms of service that a citizen can render to his nation. This practice is beneficial to a nation and the individual. However, many might argue that it is a form of slavery and age discrimination, the interests of a society is more important than the interests of an individual are. Just as our bodies are made up of many organs, a nation is made up of many individuals. At times, an ailing organ may be amputated /sacrificed to save the whole body. If that is the case, what is wrong with an individual sacrificing his interest for the sake of his country’s interest?
Why Mandatory Conscription?
To begin with, mandatory enrollment of 18 year old is of great significance to the nation as it benefit from the services rendered by its youths. Johnsen (1945, p. 176) he military gets some of the best youth with potential and talents. Some of these youths would have ended elsewhere other than in the military where they provide defense for the country. This increases the number of the military officers in the army. In the process, many youths who had no slightest idea of their gifting and ability discover their potential in physical activities hence the military training during conscription just helps them to sharpen such skills.
Conscription benefits a nation in times of war. This is based on the fact that with conscription, a greater percentage of the population receives military training consequently making them more armed in case of upheavals. This enhances the security of a country, as there is a ready army all the time. Drawing from the observations of Rank and File (1866, p. 401), the army draws people from all regions and backgrounds giving them opportunities to interact in the absence of their social, economic, and political backgrounds. All conscripts are exposed to same trainings, experiencing same challenges. For them to sail through the trainings successfully, they have to learn virtues of cohesive co-existence. These values do not only increase national unity, but they also enable them to later work in whichever region of the nation, coexisting at ease with all people of diverse cultural orientations.
The recruited youth can be mobilized to participate in other government projects in the country, thus assisting in the development of the country. Most of the youthful generations are packed with potential but have neither discovered it nor stirred it. The military training during conscriptions does not only help them discover these potentials, but they also allow them to realize them consequently becoming resourceful people to their immediate neighborhood and to the larger society.
Compulsory conscription is a cure for many social evils in the society. This is because the recruited youth will not have time to idle around; rather they will be involved in meaningful activities. This ensures that they have no time to engage in social ills, which are not only destructive of their lives, but also harmful to the larger society (Williams, Para. 2). This reduces cases of juvenile delinquency in the country.
Through conscription, talents are discovered among the enrollees. This early discovery of talents very important as it prepares one for a lifetime career. Conscripts with talents, which fit the requirements of the army, are recruited in the army profession to serve their country. This ensures full exploitation of talents. There is a tendency of many youthful generations to seek the white-collar jobs that do not involve immense physical activities. If the youth are not exposed to such trainings, they are likely to be inclined to office work and never discover that they may have fitted in the army even better.
Prospective men are subjected to hardships during the training. In some countries, endurance to the hardships is used as a rite of passage from boyhood to manhood. Those who finish the training earn the respect of their fellow men and have the right to be called men. This promotes the culture of a country and a sense of pride for the citizens (NEW, Para. 11).
Conscription inspires the spirit of camaraderie and peaceful coexistence amongst the conscripts and the citizens of a nation (Johnsen 223). This is because they have interacted together and have all endured hardships during the training. This is a unifying factor since conscription is done without discrimination except in special cases related to health. Hence, they learn to live together in love and harmony. When a nation is united, it can achieve more and will be able to defend itself from the enemies.
Important skills are taught during military training. Some of these skills are necessary for survival especially in times of calamities. Some of the skills taught include how to survive in the wilderness, swimming, first aid and other life skills (McCartney 132). These skills are very vital especially for self-defense and survival. The conscripts are also taught other technical skills, which are applicable in life. Those who opt to leave the army after the conscription period is over might use some of the skills and build a career for themselves. This reduces the unemployment challenge in the country. Hence, the country enjoys economic stability.
“No nation can exist without discipline.” (Montgomery 166). The conscripts are also taught good manners during training period. This ensures that every generation is disciplined. This discipline is essential for the youth if they have to coexist peacefully with other members of the society. For instance, the youth learns how to observe the rules of the country such as traffic rules. In the army, most duties performed require teamwork and therefore discipline is very vital for success. This discipline enables the youth to mature up as respectable members of the society.
Conscripts may become more patriotic to their nation by serving it. A patriot not only loves his country, but he also serve and support it in times of need. When people serve their country, they become proud of it and have positive feelings about it. This gives them a sense of purpose promoted by a common role as citizens (Levine, Para. 1). Patriotism arouses the spirit of love and brotherhood amongst the citizens. This is very important for a healthy nation.
Mandatory military service ensures that young people have been well mentored and prepared for future responsibilities. This makes a country to have a generation of responsible citizens who can be entrusted with various responsibilities. When a nation has responsible citizens, it enhances its public relations with other nations. This may attract tourists and investors in the country thus increasing the country’s revenue. Conscripts also learn to work hard while in the military. A hardworking nation provides a stable economy for itself.
Conscription gives employment to people who might not have anything to do after clearing their high school education. Such people are saved from desperation, which comes from joblessness. This gives them a sense of purpose and direction in life and prevent them from becoming a burden to their relatives and friends.
The advantages of conscription are far much very many and every individual from the age of 18 should go through them, as they do not only prepare the individual for the military service but also facing the normal challenges of life. The intensive training is very significant in character molding especially for high school graduates to prepare them for the challenges of life. Even though mandatory conscription has few negative implications, the overall benefits are far too many to be foregone for the few challenges.