The Opinion. Section 9: Conscripts.
Earlier today I was reading up on a few countries, namely South Korea and Singapore, and I specifically sought information about their conscription practices. The reason for this is because the subject of conscription fascinates me, and while I used to support it with a near 100 percent back in my earlier days I have come to realise just how complex this subject has become. Situations like the Korean peninsula and Israel’s position in the Middle East constitutes a need for conscription as hostilities can resume, or start at a moments’ notice. Yet even in South Korea, the public has been pressuring the government to either reduce the amount of time required of all male citizens, or for a complete switch to an all volunteer army (though after the incidents in 2010, this is not likely to occur). Thus the question is presented to us, should we rely on this system to supply our armies with fresh recruits, or should we consider a volunteer force?
Warfare has evolved over time; there is no doubt about that. Tactics, strategies, and even treatment of personnel have improved considerably, making attrition-based, mass infantry wave tactics a thing of a past (and thankfully so I might add). Yet even when massed infantry tactics were popular, Great Britain was able to defend much of her empire with an all volunteer force. Today it should be obvious, with the advancement of tactical knowledge, technology and quality of personnel (at least in developed countries), warfare has evolved yet again. Today we emphasize small unit tactics, strong leadership, and leverage of technology. Therefore the 21st century is as good a time as any to field an all volunteer force that is not only motivated to win, but also can achieve victory with minimal resources. Now I say this, because I believe in a volunteer force. Soldiers who signed up willingly are easily motivated to carry out their duties whereas conscripts typically only think of going home, especially when they are posted overseas. Therefore it is difficult to motivate those who do not want to be there in the first place, and in some jurisdictions, the lack of pay and poor treatment of conscripts exasperates the problem. Now in the event that the home territory has begun to fall into enemy hands, then there is no question as to what we should do next. When a hostile force sets foot on home soil, then everyone must contribute in whatever form they can. Yet when there is no imminent danger to home soil, then an all volunteer force is ideal for tackling the enemy as the personnel are highly motivated and well trained. Another point to add, is the concept of the reserve force, of which if there is a large pool to draw from when it comes to the military reserves- that being part time soldiers- then it is obvious that conscription is no longer a viable option as the practice exists solely to increase the number of soldiers available. Now how does a large reserve force make conscription obsolete one might ask?
Reserve soldiers hold civilian careers, and do not require the military to pay them for a 40 hour work week (reservists typically spend less time in uniform and thus only receive an “allowance” if you will). A large reserve force also enables a country in question to mobilize their forces at a moments’ notice, and whereas a conscript force requires training prior to deployment, reservists tend to go through regular training cycles and are thus better prepared to go into action immediately. Once again I must also emphasize that reservists like regular soldiers who volunteered to serve, are motivated to win. Thus the morale of the troops is not an issue, unlike a conscript force where individuals are less likely to take their training seriously and may even view their service as a burden (further depleting morale). Yet the question still remains, what is the respective country’s current political situation?
South Korea, Israel, and a few others exist under the shadow of danger. What I mean by this statement is that the two nations have unresolved tensions of which can trigger another conflict at any time. Therefore it is difficult to simply recommend that they switch to an all volunteer force because it would prove difficult to justify, with the likelihood of attack and thus a return to hostilities. Other countries like Singapore see it as a way for young boys to mature into adulthood and invest themselves in a public enterprise. Should a society view it as necessary, then the practice of conscription is likely to continue. Another example of social attitude towards conscription would be the national service scheme in the UK shortly after the Second World War, of which was not abolished and replaced with a professional army until the 1960s. Since then the British Forces have been able to maintain a force of about 250,000 professional soldiers serving full time, and not including reservists. It was because their society viewed national service as no longer necessary that the UK abolished it in the 60s. The flipside would be that if the British saw the process as a benefit to society, the results of the referendum would have been different. Not all societies are the same as those in North America, Oceania, and parts of Europe. They may see the world differently than we do, and thus have a different idea of what a citizens’ duty looks like.
Sometimes beliefs can conflict with the national will, the most obvious one being the right for the citizens to choose to serve. Again this subject area is entirely dependent on the society and country in question, as the answer to the question of; “do we not have a right to choose to serve”, cannot be applied to all nations. Some might agree and transition to a volunteer force (or begin the process), while others may reply with the statement; “in order to enjoy your rights, you must defend them”. Every society views things from a different standpoint, this is reality. These differences can include universal healthcare, language, customs, social norms, and the list goes on. Ultimately, if there is a high probability of war (in regards to invasion of sovereign territory) or the society views it as necessary, then the likelihood of conscription remaining in place is quite high. If the professional army is sufficient enough to tackle most – if not all – threats, then a conscript force is unnecessary and a waste of resources.
Anyways I hope you enjoyed this article, it was definitely an interesting topic for me to write on. If you have any topics of which you wish to hear my opinion on, feel free to throw me a request in the comments section below, or under this post on my Facebook page if you see it. Thank you all for reading, and I will see you next time.