Mandatory military service, otherwise known as military conscription, is a strategy that is being used by countries to build large and powerful armed forces to be deployed in times of war or when there is the need to protect a state’s sovereignty. As history shows, many governments had used this strategy, including France during the French Revolution in the 1790s and the Qin Empire of China in 221 BC. Even today, this strategy is still observed by some countries, such as North Korea, which had extended its 10-year military conscription in 2014; South Korea, which has imposed compulsory national service for all its citizens; and Myanmar, which has required the drafting of men and women into its military. Considering its concept, mandatory military service has been a controversial topic, with a lot of objections being raised against it on both political and religious grounds. This has lead to the question amidst debates whether it is a good thing or not. One good way to come up with a well-informed decision is to take a look at its pros and cons.
List of Pros of Mandatory Military Service
1. It encourages national unity.
Military conscription can promote national unity in a way that it allows countrymen to train and learn together, creating a shared experience of having served in the armed forces. Also, there will be a general understanding of what life in the military is like, what would be required for the job and what should be done in order to protect the country. The citizens will be able to understand and develop appreciation for the sacrifice that those in the military have been making, and all of these things can bring people together, especially when dealing with a political or cultural threat that comes overseas.
2. It maintains an active military force.
Imposing a mandatory military service would mean that a country will have an active reserve of a large body of army that is prepared to respond effectively and quickly to any threat to national security.
3. It promotes a high level of participation by the government.
With citizens being required to join the armed forces when the need arises, the public will be more watchful and aware of the decisions made by the government, especially when it comes to national security and the like. With their lives at sacrifice or at risk, people would seek to understand more about the threats facing their country and to have a greater voice on how the government should be addressing issues.
4. It provides useful skills.
Training in the military can teach individuals not only how to shoot straight or throw a salute, but it will also provide perks that go far beyond the technical skills necessary to get the job done. For example, many military volunteers who have entered a career in the civilian workplace had presented several other skills and work-related attitudes, which helped them to perform their job better. These include initiative, responsibility, teamwork, diversity, stress management and global awareness. Others even learned the habits of discipline and healthy living, not to mention the skills in self-defense.
5. It promotes equality among citizens.
This strategy entails that no one will be exempted from facing wars, where all citizens including businessmen and celebrities are required to serve when the country is facing war or needing more soldiers.
List of Cons of Mandatory Military Service
1. It violates free will.
One of the biggest arguments that are raised against mandatory military service is that it violates the right to free will. As you can see, no one will have the final say whether he should participate or not in training and enter the armed forces, as it is mandated throughout the country.
2. It can interfere with other forms of education.
Typically, military conscription drafts young men and even women when they are at the peak of their learning ability, which can delay their individual pursuit for higher education and their entry into the civilian labor market. As a result, returns to human capital investments are being reduced.
3. It can put the lives of young people at risk.
Sad to say, part of the military conscription process is risking the lives of young people. It is worth noting that casualties do not just happen in actual combat, but also during training. This strategy, which normally enlists able-bodied youth, put the next generation to serious harm and even death.
4. It would compromise military service quality.
Unlike voluntary soldiers, who are willing to undergo hard training and serve the nation for a long time, draft soldiers often lack the necessary preparedness and experience, having insufficient combat skill qualities during the actual war. This could result to a high casualty rate among soldiers who are drafted under conscription.
5. It does not guarantee that everyone is fit for it.
While mandatory military service requires every citizen to join and serve in the military, it is worth noting that not every person is cut out for it. Whether it is a physical, mental or psychological issue, not everyone is fit to meet the demands of the job. Potentially killing someone is something that a person who was drafted would struggles within his own way. This means that factors, such as depression and anxiety should be carefully considered. This way, we can make sure that every individual who would be drafted could function well to accomplish his duties in times of need.
Mandatory military service surely has its fair share of pros and cons. While it has been proven to be valuable in protecting a state’s sovereignty and in expanding territories—it helped the Qin Empire to conquer a large area of what is now China and helped France during the French Revolution with defending itself from the attacks of European monarchies, it still comes with important things to consider, such as the ramifications on the young people enlisted, the labor market, the quality of military service and the future generations.