Last Updated on March 9, 2021 by Filip Poutintsev
Inspired by historic war stories and patriotism they portray, many young men and women today dream of serving in the military. Service to the country through the military is presumably one of the oldest and noblest forms of public service.
Aside from carrying weapons to fight the enemy, soldiers contribute to making differences in people’s lives which is one of the greatest acts of nationalism.
What is Compulsory Military Service?
Also referred to as conscription, compulsory military service is a strategy used to build a large and powerful military ready to be deployed in the time of crisis. All the qualifying individuals in a country must serve when the need to protect the sovereignty of the state arises.
History of Compulsory Military Service
Many governments in world history have used conscription, with its history dating back to at least the Egyptian Old Kingdom (27th-century BCE). There is also evidence of compulsory military training during the Qin Empire of China in 221 BC and France during the French Revolution in the 1790s.
Even today, some countries like Greece, Iran, South Korea, Egypt, and Russia, among many others, impose mandatory military service. In South Korea, this practice has existed since 1957, requiring men between the ages of 18-28 to serve from 21-24 months in the army. Although not compulsory for women, they may voluntarily enlist.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Compulsory Military Service
Mandatory military service has always remained a controversial topic. Based on religious and political grounds, many objections have been raised against it. However, the fact that military service creates strong and capable citizens cannot be denied. Let’s take a look at its pros and cons to be further clarified.
Advantages of Compulsory Military Service
Mandatory military service has proven itself valuable in protecting the sovereignty of the state. Let’s take a look at some of its advantages.
1. Stronger National Unity
Compulsory military service can promote national unity in many ways. Since it allows citizens to train together, a shared experience about nationalism is created. Citizens can understand the sacrifices that people in the military made for their country. All of these can bring people together.
2. Stronger Defensive Force
Having compulsory conscription means having an active reserve of a large body of armies that is capable of quick response to national threats. When these armed forces are well stocked, it becomes challenging for foreign states to attack. In case the war is declared, the presence of conscription allows for more resources to be directed into the fight.
3. Equality Among Citizens
Social status isn’t taken into account when enlisting in the military. No one will be exempted from facing wars. This promotes equality among all the people.
4. Sense of Public Identity
When citizens are enlisted in the army, a sense of common identity among them arises. They collectively carry a national purpose which promotes their public identity in the nation.
5. Provides Useful Skills
Military life is more than throwing a salute and shooting straight. The provided training goes far beyond the technical skills needed to get the job done. Skills including teamwork, responsibility, initiative, stress management, diversity, and global awareness help them become better people overall.
6. Monetary and Family Benefits
You don’t serve for free during your compulsory military service. There are variable monthly allowances across the globe, depending upon where you are stationed. Besides, there are additional benefits including healthcare for not just you but also your immediate family.
Disadvantages of Compulsory Military Service
People argue that conscription leans more towards the negative side, let’s take a look at why.
1. Violation of Free Will
The right of personal freedom and free will is violated by compulsory military training service. Since it is mandatory, no one has a say whether they should participate or not in the military training.
2. Forced to Risk Lives
Making it mandatory for young people to join the military puts innocent lives in danger. Casualties aren’t just likely to happen on a battlefield, but also while training. This puts the next generation to serious harm.
3. Interference in Individual’s Education Path
Usually, enlistment in the army takes place when youngsters are at the peak of their educational lives. This delays the individuals’ pursuit of higher education and the labor market. Especially in these times of huge advancement in information technology, people have high chances of succeeding in their dreamt professions. And even if you are already successful and making sufficient progress in your career or education path, compulsory military service forces you to change that.
4. Compromises the Quality of Military Service
Not all citizens are equally capable and fit enough to be enlisted in the army. However, this strategy forces people of all capabilities to be drafted even if they lack the necessary experience and preparedness. This provides low combat skill quality when the time comes they are sent to war.
There are some definitive merits and demerits of compulsory military service to consider for a country of any size. Besides promoting a great sense of nationalism and patriotism among citizens, this will provide people with some lifelong skills. However, conscription can endanger the lives of young individuals.
Hence, it is essential to review the ups and downs of compulsory military service periodically considering its ramifications on the young people enlisted, the quality of military service, the labor market, the future generations.