OPINION: America Should Practice Conscription

Photo Credit: Chuanchai Pundej

From the hunter-gatherers millenia ago to the modern era, the survival and spread of civilizations has been based upon the martial might and organization of armed forces. Countries and cultures have risen and fallen solely because of military victories and defeats. With so much at stake, it can be no surprise that in every nation in the world, the government has paid the most attention to and spent the most energy and money in warfare and national defense. 

While the armies of the past were typically made up of conscripted soldiers, America’s military has been all-volunteer since 1973. Today, there are 1.3 million active-duty personnel in the United States, less than one-half of one percent of the entire population. Since the move to make the US military all-volunteer, enlistment rates have stalled along with a 600,000 decrease in active-duty personnel. The current pandemic has made the enlistment problem worse, threatening to cause multiple military services to fall thousands short of their enlistment goals from widespread lockdowns, which in turn puts pressure on troops already serving to stay on longer than normal. Only time will tell, but I believe this downwards trend will continue with steady decreases in recruits. 

In order to maintain and build a strong military, nearly 60 countries today practice conscription of either one or both of the sexes, and I think America should join them: here’s why. 

  1. Conscription can create a sense of public identity and build national pride

There are not many things all people can relate to, but service in the military surpasses differences of economic wealth, race, gender, and politics. One of most unifying things for a country is shared military service, where there is one common goal and one uniform approach to reaching it. Serving in the military can also build national pride. When you’re fighting for your country and your rights, you’ll start being more grateful for what you have back home. Building a mutual love for America and a desire to protect what makes our country great will help foster a shared sentiment in American citizens, helping to unify our country.

  1.  Conscription will ensure our military is constantly well supplied 

Having a large military is key to warding off foriegn invasion and a rich resource of defense during times of conflict. Compulsory military service for all able citizens will ensure a ready defense at all times. A strong and well manned military is directly proportional to the security, readiness, and longevity of a country. 

  1. Conscription promotes equality 

Mandatory military service means all people are required to serve, regardless of race, social or economic standing. Celebrities, athletes, politicians, everyone is required to don the same uniform and pursue the same goal. Conscription can break down societal barriers by placing everyone in the same conditions and environment.  

  1. You will learn useful skills

Time in the military can teach you many useful skills. Not only in self defense, but also in technology, machinery, health, discipline, and teamwork. When people think of the military, they often only think of combat situations. In reality, the military provides a broad range of careers. There are strategists, analysts, engineers, computer scientists, medics, lawyers, there are even careers in the arts and humanities.

While there are many positives related to conscription, there are some concerns which should be addressed. First, is that conscription violates the idea of personal freedom. While it may not be your desire to serve in the military for two years, it probably also isn’t your desire to pay taxes for your entire life. However, both are for the common good and support of your country. For those concerned that compulsory military service is asking Americans to potentially put their lives at risk, only 10% of people who serve ever see combat. Most everyone who serves in the military plays a logistical role, supporting the small number of soldiers that ever use weapons. There are also concerns about compulsory service interfering with education. However, many countries provide time for deferment of service. For example, Cuba allows men to enlist anytime between the ages of 18 and 28, allowing them time to establish careers or families. 

The benefits of conscription are clear, and the result of its implementation will be a more patriotic and united nation. With the current political division and international tension, American freedoms and ideals need to be protected now more than ever, with active involvement from every U.S. citizen. Coming together under a common goal will alleviate the political polarization and create an environment of unique individuals working and learning together. There may not be much which can unite all Americans, but as long as we live under the Stars and Stripes we can agree on one thing: we love America and we owe it our service.