Our first President eloquently stated the rationale for national service:
"... it must be laid down as a primary position and the basis of our (democratic) system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free Government owes not only a proportion of his property, but even his personal service to the defense of it.”
George Washington’s statement makes explicit the social contract inherent in US citizenry: to enjoy our nation’s freedoms requires we as citizen’s to bear personal responsibility for defending them. And yet, today, while our nation continues to fight war on several fronts and must regularly contemplate new military interventions and increased domestic ...view middle of the document...
" --Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4,1777
Many countries in the world have compulsory service. Such democratic countries as Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Mexico, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey are among them. Compulsory military service is normally for 18-year-olds, and lasts between 1 and 3 years.
And there are usually many types of service that can be performed, ranging from combat roles to intelligence and logistic work. Different genders are frequently given different responsibilities. In Israel, for example, males usually perform 3 years of combat/security service, while females perform two years of non-combat service. Many nations grapple with the question of mandatory military service, including the United States. Proponents believe it increases the strength of the military, strengthens the character of youth, and increases the collective conscience of a nation and the restraint of leaders when considering military action. Opponents consider it an affront to individual liberties, a risk in breeding militarism and the dominance of the state, and simply unnecessary when voluntary armies can be sufficient. These and other pros and cons and quotations are documented below.
Compulsory national service is not a new concept; it is rooted in government policies of the late 1700s. A draft changes the nature of national service because only a sub-set of citizens must serve.
At two key points in American history, the draft was highly divisive and resulted in massive protests: the Civil War and Vietnam. President Nixon and Congress abolished the draft in 1973.
Reinstituting the draft would require an act of Congress
Political and moral motives
Further information: Social contract, Social solidarity, and Active citizenship
Jean Jacques Rousseau argued vehemently against professional armies, feeling it was the right and privilege of every citizen to participate to the defense of the whole society and a mark of moral decline to leave this business to professionals. He based this view on the development of the Roman republic, which came to an end at the same time as the Roman army changed from a conscript to professional force. Similarly, Aristotle linked the division of armed service among the populace intimately with the political order of the state. Niccolò Machiavelli argued strongly for conscription, seeing the professional armies as the cause of the failure of societal unity in Italy.
Other proponents, such as William James, consider both mandatory military and national service as ways of instilling maturity in young adults. Some proponents, such as Jonathan Alter and Mickey Kaus, support a draft in order to reinforce social equality, create social consciousness, break down class divisions and for young adults to immerse themselves in public enterprise.
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