I am glad finally conscription is getting a serious discussion. Here in Switzerland, we never abolished it and one can see the difference. A significant portion of politicians have gone through military service, many became officers (myself included). It definitely made me meet people from all walks of life and, though I really disliked it at first, I grew to enjoy gritting my teeth at whatever hardship I was going through. I think in many ways the lesson was that when you’ve gone through unpleasant things, going back to civilian life makes you grateful for all the things you previously took for granted, plus you’re a lot less intimidated by challenges which might have seemed significant before. For officers, management and leadership skills really show when you go back to civilian life.
Just an fyi, most of the army is non-professional, up to some brigadier generals, the idea is that as much of the army is staffed by citizens, professionals serve mostly as instructors, command and administrators. The idea was that a militia army prevents a separation between civilian and military spheres, correctly as far as I saw.
Concerning women, here they join only on a voluntary basis, but in my experience it has been a strong positive. Men seem to make much more of an effort with women around and overall with good leadership, the women integrated seamlessly. Many are motivated and tend to pursue advancement.
For Germany and Europe generally, bringing conscription back is very costly, but unfortunately there is a risk that the civilian-military gap will keep growing. Additionally, with many systems being sent to Ukraine, a lot of countries are in the short term disarming, deepening existing problems. Finally, as Ukraine showed, recruits with 5 days training are still sent to the front. I think 6 months training is far better than 5 days, not to mention specialist roles like artillery, command & control, etc are impossible to train in such a short timeframe.
Thanks for the article, good topic to discuss.
An interesting reply, thanks. I do think Switzerland’s circumstances are unique though, not sure how they map across to a country like Germany. Do they still issue you with bicycles? I thought that was cool.
The opinion of the journalist quoted in the article was that women shouldn’t be forced to serve, their job was to have babies and provide future conscripts.
Since having a baby isn’t mandatory and today fewer and fewer women are having babies the proposed division of labour is not only unfair but also unworkable.
If conscription is mandated in any country then men and women should be drafted in equal numbers and given the same training. Women have been demanding equality for several decades, there’s no reason not to give it to them.
Alternatively perhaps a Lebensborn program for those ladies who would prefer a more traditional role than submitting to the draft?
That is an awful thing to say – those women who participated in the Nazi Lebensborn programme were treated vilely and cast out by society along with thier children.
The day you grow a womb and can grow, give birth to and feed babies with your body, we’ll talk again. Men will never be equal to women – you don’t have a womb. Equality for women means being valued as highly for our role as women as you are for yours as men. I’ll pre-empt your protests by saying that without us, you literally would not exist. Equality means you get to deal with the fact that we are not your posessions and do not exist for your pleasure and objectification.
There is a reason we historically sent men to war en masse … it was so that we could rid society of the incels or ‘bare branches’ as they are known in Japanese culture. Males without mates create too much chaos and depravity in decent society, so we send them off to war. Women are always useful for their ability to have babies and perpetuate the species, and we can do that with the very best specimens while the betas and incels are shipped off to take out their frustrations over their mateless states on our enemies, and our emenies do the same with their incels. That is how it has always been. The chaos in our modern western societies at the moment is because we have reached peak incel. Peace has made men weak, and weak men are dangerous men.
Of course more women are choosing not to have babies – they are not valued for it in male dominated societies so why should they? Babies don’t pay the bills.
What a strange twisted attitude.
Why so bitter?
Manless, childless and loveless, I expect, having squandered her best decades on a pointless ‘career’ in academia.
Touch of beta male there hmm? You’d hate to know that my life is the exact opposite. Knowing as I do that I get to choose from the best specimens of malehood despite the preponderence of beta’s in the world, and having produced a clutch of very attractive offspring that I am raising to never settle for beta’s, I am quietly smug. You may be shocked to learn that I have been there and done that and got many, many t-shirts. Nice that you think I might be an academic, but no, I am too busy living my best life. Sorry to disappoint.
Not bitter at all. Just pointing out some salient historical practices and some biological facts. Grow a womb, and we’ll speak again. “…no reason not to give it to them” you say. Touch of thinly veiled misogyny there.
“Males without mates create too much chaos and depravity in decent society, so we send them off to war.”
You complain that Mr Bray’s observation was “an awful thing to say”. Your bigoted misandry is far worse and sinister in its hatred for men.
And as for your comment “… without us [women], you literally would not exist …” – ditto in reverse. What a stupid point!
I know that you want your version of me to be true, but I don’t hate real men pet, I absolutely adore strong, able, good looking men. It is all the beta’s that I give a wide berth. The mean little grey men that think women should be treated like them to be equal. ^^See above. You know I am right. Unless you are gay, we hold everything that you so desperately want, and if we don’t choose you, you get all mean and rapey, and violent. That’s why we send men to war – or we did before everyone got all touchy feely and woke – because we don’t choose you. You are not good enough. And you hate that that power is in our hands.
And on my ‘you wouldn’t exist’ comment – thank you for recognising that universal truth. It is not all about you. Women have intrinsic value too. I have some ideas about how we can keep the very best of men and farm them for baby making ingredients, but that is a plot for my future dystopian novel so I’ll leave it at that 🙂
Whilst, of course, you are correct that having babies is not compulsory it is still only (young) women who can have babies, so, for a nation to endanger them in large numbers is not a good idea. I do accept that women should have the similar responsibilities to men, but unless we are engaged in an existential war (e.g. Israel or Soviet Union during WW2) the loss of large numbers of young women is not sustainable for any nation.
True when there were only a few humans on Earth. Now there is no shortage of men or women. We could easily lose a few hundred thousand women. Value decreases with number.
Also, before the end of the century the artificial womb will make these discussions mute.
Depends on which ones. The fat, dim ones would not be much missed by the nation – if there even were such a thing in any meaningful sense any more. But they’d be of less than no use, militarily.
Trouble with major wars is that it’s disproportionately the best-quality people who get culled, like my great grand-uncle Edwin, blown to atoms by a random 5.9 shell on his first day in the line, or my grandmother’s first two husbands. A million of our best men in the Great War, 300,000 in the Second. For the Germans, it was two million and FIVE million. Vast casualties for France, Italy and Russia too. Those wars ruined Europe, economically, demographically and geopolitically. As societies, we never recovered.
The novel England, Their England (1933) by A G Macdonell has a chapter concerning a visit to a village pub, in which the disastrous social impact of the war is demonstrated and explained, in a few pages, more effectively than many a full-length study could.
Ah, but here the ideology we’ve had rammed down our throats for the past 20 years or so – that a woman can do anything a man can do and sex (sorry, ‘genderrrrrr’) is a social construct founders on the hard rock of reality.
Field soldiering – infantry, artillery, engineering or tanks – is arduous work and demands considerable physical strength and fitness. The kit is heavy, the distances are considerable, the weather is often foul, the hours long and the living conditions rough. You need long, strong legs and a hard, robust body. Not one per cent of 20-something women would be up to it. And that’s before you even mentioning the emotional factors and the willingness to kill someone with a machine gun, rifle or bayonet.
In an infantry units, women would be an utter liability not only in combat but in any remotely realistic training, too. (The USMC did some interesting practical exercise trials on this three or four years ago.) But if you conscript men only, then the whole legal ‘equality’ agenda of the ‘progressive’, globalist west is exposed as a busted flush. Jeez, they’ll be saying borders matter and unity and social cohesion are a good thing, next!
So what to do? They can’t have it both ways.
I guess you have never heard of the Peshmerga Zeravani unit or the YPJ women fighters? Or how about the Caracal Battalion in the IDF? In the IDF women have been conscripted since 1948.
The point about heavy gear is a nonsense. Modern tech can make the gear that soldiers need much lighter – they don’t because they are dinosaurs and misogynists and want to keep women out of combat roles.
As of February 2022, approximately 18% of the combat force in the IDF are women – and that is not because the women can’t hack it, it is because … well see the paragraph above.
Oh and did you see the latest Who Dares, Wins? You know where random men and women go through the SAS/Special Forces training … it was won by two little girls. One was a pagent queen from one of those southern states in the US. I’ll just leave that there.
The most vehement condemnations of conscription I have ever heard came from a Royal Marine Commando who served in the Falklands and then more specilised units and an officer who joined the Army under National Service and was promoted from the ranks. Training feral youths from sink council estates and feeble middle class mummy’s boys is the waste of good NCOs time. Apparently, The Army has stopped recruiting from some large sink council estates because the youth are untrainable for the advanced equipment in use and many have low levels of fitness. If one is recruiting from youth who have already spent few years working on farms, construction sites, mines and boxed, played rugby , they have achieved a degree of fitness and in particular strength of spine and upper body, without which they cannot carry loads while marching.
If there was a desire for a national Conscription I suggest a non- military type based around environmental /countryside manual labour such as ditch clearing, dry stone walling, pruning trees in towns, constructing urban gardens, managing commercial woods, clearing up rubbish, removing graffiti, undertaking maintenance work in National Parks which could be combined with adventure training( climbing, orienteering, sailing and rowing) plus training in practical English, Engineering Maths, car and computer repair, physical training including swimming in cold water and surveying.
Undertaking hard manual labour in a cold wet windy winter, such as dry stone walling, will temper people physically and mentally. Carrying the stones from the valley floor to the top of the hill to build a dry stone wall will develop practical physical fitness. It is remarkable how many men who have bulging muscles from gym work cannot undertake weeks of hard manual labour out of doors in a cold wet windy winter.
Training people in first aid, mountain, fire, water and sea rescue will develop the important character skill of grace under pressure and teamwork.
One to one and a half years of the above will produce people who are fit, tough and capable of teamwork in adverse conditions, ideal material for Armed Services, Police, Fire Service, etc and Britain will have a more beautiful environment.
Your quite excellent idea makes far too much sense for any government to adopt.
I think there is something to the idea. Usage of conscription to something similar to the US Civilian Conservation Corp or the US Corp of Engineers maybe and a medical element with some element of militarisation ?
I have heard of these organisations, would you explain a little more about them?I agree with you on the medical element which was why I stated first aid should be taught.
I have minimal understanding sadly. the US has 8 uniformed services one extra military (Space Command) and 3 which the UK has civilian organisations fulfilling the purpose. “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniformed_services_of_the_United_States” After the levees broke after Hurricane Katrina the Corp of Engineers (corp of engineers are part of the US army but are mixed uniform and civilian) were deployed to fix them and they are involved alot in infrastructure and construction around the US. They built the pentagon during WW2 for example. The Public Health corp is were the surgeon general sits, I always thought it odd that in the west wing the surgeon general wearing a uniform until I found out about this corp. This for example could be make use of the NHS reserve allow people to do nursing or physician associate apprenticeships (https://www.nhsemployers.org/articles/physician-associates#:~:text=Physician%20associates%20(PAs)%20are%20healthcare,work%20autonomously%20with%20appropriate%20support.) why not increase supply of expertise by offering other routes to qualification. Use the system to offer other paths in life other than university.
The Civil Conservation Corp was a job creation exercise during the new deal to stop people being idle and get them working. I think they helped support national parks which fits with your dry stone walling. But in the UK they could be used like the land army for vegetable picking in the summer months and other tasks. I think though it can’t just be vegetable picking it has to be worthwhile work that people see the impact of 10, 20, 30 years after they were involved.
My thinking was in a disaster situation what you need is people with some level of experience with medical, engineering and logistic skills who are confident in their abilities to get stuck in and do something who through militarisation can slot into a command structure.
David Goodhart said in Head Hand Heart we concentrate to much effort on Head and this sort of conscript could be used to rebalance our country.
Thank you, good points.
I agree with Ben. Excellent, detailed proposal. I was a Territorial for 5 years. The last thing the armed forces want is conscription. Your proposals address how to foster community spirit while serving the community.
Very good idea, and not just for boys, girls would benefit, too.
I remember my father telling me that when he was in the RN (before, during and after WW2), that during the 1950s and early 1960s when national service was around, the captain on one of the ships on which he served was strongly opposed to having national service men on his ship. He would tell my father and the other CPOs and POs to keep the national service lot away from anything important and not let them disturb the smooth running of the ship. They didn’t want to be there and the captain didn’t want them there so they reached a good modus operandi.
Thank you. Would you suggest different levels of fitness and activities for girls; in particular upper body strength ( rope climbing, pull ups and press ups) and load carrying ?
What is unfortunate is that only the Communists and Nazis realise that a fit, healthy and active youth are vital to a country.
Physical activity may have to be tailored to the two sexes; we have people who train female athletes, so they probably have the know-how. The main thing is to have a physically fit population who have learned to work together for the common good, so that when they leave their time in service they can use what they have learned and continue living a healthy life.
Those recruits you speak of from “large sink estates” are also so addicted to video games that the British Infantry has adopted the ridiculous nonsense of ‘suppressing fire’ as opposed to the previous emphasis on ‘aimed shots’.
As a result a certain British Infantry Battalion managed to fire 7 million rounds of small arms ammunition in 7 months in Afghanistan, hitting almost nothing.
The End is nigh.
You sound like a Roman with foresight in about 409AD.
Or perhaps “The Groans of the Britons “, circa 450AD?
Never heard of that saying, who is the author?
I think that it’s originally from Gildas. He was a British monk who wrote a short tract called De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (On the ruin and Conquest of Britain) which he blames on the British themselves, particularly their leaders, for turning from God, and thus they deserve everything they get. I have a couple of favourite bits: “the island, stiff-necked and stubborn-minded”; “Britain is a land fertile in tyrants”. It’s a great little read, all fire and brimstone, and after taking every one to task he ends by saying “I would have no one suppose I intended to reprove”.
Sorry, 6 hours late and I missed your comment!
It was the final appeal of the Britons for help from Rome, dated about 450AD, and recorded by Gildas in his “De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae”.
I find that utterly implausible. Why would video games in any way limit anyone’s trainability as a marksman with a rifle? You’re saying that British infantry were passed out as trained and then deployed without being able to use their rifles with any accuracy (this despite the standard rifle having a scope fitted).
In any case, the concept of suppressive fire is at least as old as the Maxim gun.
There’s a lot of sense in this and it would be good to see it happen. But if the UK State is too weak and gormless to make convicted criminals or benefit claimants do this sort of work, why should young people be expected to accept it? What about those who would refuse, or ‘work to rule’? What are the sanctions? It just won’t work. The years when you could conscript young men to be Bevan Boys down the mines or young women to be Land Girls are long gone. The deferent, obedient society is dead, the left-liberal Big State strangled it, and I cannot see how you can ever bring it back.
People (largely those who never had to do it) forget what a grossly inefficient boondoggle National Service often was: two years of low-paid. make-work activity for young men who had better things to be getting on with, but instead got a compulsory apprenticeship in skiving, swearing, boozing and whoring – and in being naked before arbitrary authority. A girlfriend ‘s father, who had done his two years in the RAF in the early 50s, explained to me that the crucial prop to have was a clipboard: armed with one of those, you could wander around the base all day, pretending to be occupied on an assigned task. He – a working class East Londoner who went on to be a construction inspector and then teacher – was quite bitter about the waste of two years of his life, and of his generation’s, not least because the artificial labour shortage it created forced the door open for mass immigration to our cities and the unravelling of Britain as a cohesive society. So much for ‘defence’….
“the commander ordered my dad to dive into a water-filled rut. Out of pure depravity, he suspected.”
I suspect your father was wrong. He needed to learn that training is not a game and when the bullets started flying past his head that he should not look for a nice dry bit of ground but just get down. Water and mud is nothing compared to a bullet, and my training had similar experiences.
It’s rather amusing that he expressed or mentioned his father’s perceived slight even in hindsight.
Oddly, my own father once recounted a similar instance when he was in training at the the Rifle Brigade depot at Winchester in 1960. Advancing across a heath, in line abreast with ten-yard spacings, he saw a small pond to his front and started to veer at a diagonal…
‘No – straight through it,’ said the Sergeant. So through he waded, right up to his armpits. The real bother, of course, is being in wet battledress for the rest of the exercise, but there was anything personal in it. All just part of training.
“….after conscription was halted in 2011, Germany’s all-volunteer army attracted proportionally more unsavoury, far-Right crackpots ….”
Now to be balanced out with unwilling, unco-operative progressives.
My Lithuanian father-in-law was “conscripted” by the Nazis when he was 15. He was, in fact, slave labor who slept under a truck, fed a potato a day, and nearly blown up by Allied bombers whilst building an airplane tarmac. He got his revenge, though: he later served as a guard during the Nuremberg Trials. Sorry about your dad getting wet and muddy during training.
Most regular soldiers I’ve spoken with in the UK think conscription is a terrible idea; invariably you end up diluting your fighting capability by running a two-year outward bound course for young people who don’t want to be there. The sole purpose of an army is warfighting. Two years is insufficient time to train, deploy and get any RoI for a modern soldier.
What I do think might work better (speaking as a former reservist) is a hybrid model whereby young people might be encouraged into the reserves with a view to undertaking attachments with the regular army, especially to backfill posts / roles that are in demand. A financial bursary / support scheme (similar to the one paid to army doctors) would be cheaper and more effective.
TL;DR encourage people with transferable skillsets into military reserves in a targeted way. Give them financial incentives and training. Make sure military see benefit and lead demand.
Conscription might work in a war for national survival, as we are seeing in Ukraine. But for Germany? No.
Well put. The unpleasant reality is the very high percentage of British youths lack the physical and mental toughness, coordination, discipline, ability to take orders to even start military training. A former cavalry officer said even some TA troops do not have enought time to train to use modern electronic equipment effectively. Another aspect is that the people one wants in the Reserve Forces are often in time demanding jobs with frequent travel and long commuter journeys.
If one wants better Armed Forces I suggest we bring back boxing, rugby and scouting into schools and Physical Geography with plenty of map reading, out door work and surveying.
Actually, we do have a little known form of conscription: those who cannot pass exams, or count, go into training to collect coloured stamps on bits of cardboard wandering around London EC3, and drink voluminous amounts of beer outside local taverns for large parts of the day, whilst being overpayed, and or reading car magazines. These are the ” Non Marines” at Lloyd’s of London!
Always ignore the 101st Chairborne Division. In other words, ignore anyone who advocated a military intervention unless you could imagine that person as an 18-year-old in battle. The call for war invariably comes from the liberal bourgeoisie. That is the class least likely to join the Armed Forces voluntarily, or to see combat even in periods of conscription. Operationally, that is of course just as well. But if there is not a strong enough case for conscription, then there is not a strong enough case for war. Unless a country needs to mobilise its entire healthy and able-bodied male population of fighting age, then it is not under sufficient threat to justify going to war at all.
Tony Blair took the UK into a disastrous war against Iraq on the basis of a lie to the nation. He is a prime example of the ‘liberal bourgeoisie’ (monied family, Fettes, Oxbridge, etc.) to which you refer.
No ICC warrant out for him yet, though – or for Cheney, Dubya and Rumsfeld. I wonder why?
“when push comes to shove, that’s not what the military’s about.”
Good article. Women excel at various roles within the armed forces. But not in the “teeth arms”. The armed forces do not exist to represent society, but to defend it…when push comes to shove.
Completely agree, and it is from a place of rampant hubris that social issues are considered and not only military efficiency.
The debate is whether the benefit to the nation from universal conscription outweighs the potential loss of capability from turning the military into a social program.
Now let’s get to the meat:
You don’t serve your nation, You don’t vote!
If you demonstrate you don’t put the nations needs ahead of your own, how can you ever be trusted to put the nations needs ahead of your own?
So if Trump didn’t provide a come-to-Jesus moment – the Russians certainly did : ). The USA could use conscription at the moment if nothing more than to knock some sense into and provide a dose of reality to the Woke Left. I am guessing that ANTIFA could teach today’s American military a trick or two.
I have been thinking about the usage of conscription not from creating a large military sense but as something to build trust across the nation and develop social cohesion from our atomised individualistic society. It would build on a shared experience everyone would have been involved in at a formative point in life.
I have wondered since hearing about the US Civilian Conservation Corps if that could be something to emulate. It could then be used to support conservation, humanitarian, relief operations as required. As I understand FDR set it up under the New Deal to provide work for unemployed men. The We Have Ways podcast spoke how many of its leadership became NCOs and junior officers during the US Army expansion during WW2 as they were used to militarised discipline and harsh conditions.
You could even in the more modern way, offer after initial work allocations options for people to complete basic training and join the reserves or other necessary skills to build resilience, confidence and personal responsibility across the civilian population. I think that is something that could be worth discussion as a form of conscription today.
And those who do not choose to serve will have demonstrated they don’t warrant a vote in the nations decision making.
Well that’s for an interesting conversation for any my future grandchildren’s children. If we want to discuss and implement before they are born.
So what happens what those who ‘chose not to serve’ constitute, er, 85% of the total? Think that’s going to work?
Robotics and unmanned weapons would be a far better use of money and effort than developing another draft. Even modern armies are very slow to adopt or even recognize technological potential (except the Ukranian Army, which is not in a theoretical/social/peacetime bubble). We still use thousands of soldiers to do work that belongs to robots, such as mine clearing, fixed site surveillance, route security, recon patrolling, perimeter guard, aerial recon, etc etc etc. Even in the small all volunteer military there is still an attitude that it is just a social dumping ground to keep out-of-control youth busy. Sometimes less is more, especially when your job is deadly serious.
The stats about 15% having military service in Norway shocked me. People call the USA an over-militarized hell all the time and I’ll bet that number is 2-3% there.
And your experience is?
I was a company commander. I spent over 4 years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any more questions about me?
What is being ignored is the massive decline in fitness and skills in Western Europe. In WW2 Bagnold who founded Long Range Desert Group realised Rhodesians and New Zealanders were perfect material; they were fit from boxing, playing rugby( could work as part of a team ) and farmwork, could shoot, knew how to stalk, read the land and repair farm equipment. We now have an urban unfit population with no practical skills or experience of teamwork.Even if people were willing, I would suggest it would take a year to turn the average unfit mentally soft impractical urban dweller into someone capable of start being trained to be part of a modern high tech Armed Forces. All training does is cut and polish the stone, it cannot turn dross into gold.
I agree we or the teenagers we are talking about live too much in the virtual world and not the physical. This has been a problem for going on a century around fitness decline as rural populations have moved to urban areas.
Quite. You can’t polish poo.
This is the heart of the issue, separating social programs from ruining the effectiveness of the military. (Edit I would argue in Iraq and Afghanistan the lack of conscription simply delayed hard questions like “wtf are we doing” from being asked with more urgency, so all volunteer wasn’t very effective anyways)
However, there is something to building a nation. A country of insufferable children claiming their “rights” from “oppression” while machines do everything for them sounds like absolute hell.
An excellent, pithy post – and yes, the point about delaying hard questions is well-observed.
Yes, well Norway got invaded in 1940 and spent five whole years occupied (despite being a neutral). They wouldn’t want that again and with their sovereign wealth fund and gigantic oil and gas revenues (massively boosted in value by the joint USSA-Norway bombing of Nordstream) Norway can afford all the man hours and weaponry it wants.
There is, of course, the potential benefit of a population who know how to shoot a rifle. God forbid it should ever matter, but if it did…
Well, to quote George Orwell, who fought with the POUM in Spain, served in the Home Guard in WW2 and would have been a forthright defender of the Second Amendment: “That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.”
“There are many ways to defend the nation. For example, by giving birth to the conscripts of the future.”
Sure. But this “defend the nation” does not exactly correspond to reality because it …
… clashes violently with the horrors being broadcast from the trenches of Bakhmut.
I have a major issue with conscription- at Sandhurst, I incurred the wrath of the powers that be by walking out of a lecture that the whole Academy was compelled to attend given by the then US General in charge of forces in Viet Nam, in somewhat childish ” protest” against the US draft( he was also a creepy bullshitting non- entity).
However, prior to Sandhurst I, and all others destined for The Brigade of Guards and Household Cavalry had already endured 12 weeks recruit training at the then Guards Depot , Pirbright, known as ” Brigade Squad” designed to give future officers a taste of what their Guardsmen and Troopers had had to endure.
It was an electrifying experience, and I actually loved it… not least because I actually wanted to be there. No authority had sent me like some quasi criminal.
So, and I’ll bet a million pounds to a reichmark that although German training is nothing like The Guards Depot of yore, that ( as I later discovered) trying to turn individuals who don’t wish to be soldiers, into soldiers is a folorn task.
That does not mean to say that some form of physically demanding, high discipline neo recruit training should not be employed as an alternative to prison, which in turn may also create some willing new recruits, what that is a different matter… but I would have still refused ” the draft” as a matter of principle!
Qu’est-ce qu’elle est chic!
This article flirts with military conscription, because the current context of Germany and most other Western countries is peacetime. Both the article and most of the comments on it discuss this topic from a disengaged and almost Olympian perspective, referring almost entirely to practical matters such as financial costs, nation building, make-work projects, alienated or indifferent youth, career planning and so on. Even the few references to wartime, however, are strangely aloof from the specifically moral implications of forcing people into combat. I find that, well, shocking, even though I do realize that we all have our own interests, backgrounds and perspectives. I just don’t know how to discuss the utility of human lives without reducing those lives to “renewable resources” or commodities.
It’s true that people in earlier times took for granted the notion of involuntary servitude. It was all very rational and practical. They assumed, as had their ancestors for countless generations, that society simply required conscript armies, slave labor forces or feudal serfs to work the land. No one today, at least in Western countries, would argue for slavery or serfdom on either moral or economic grounds. But many people today still argue for military conscription on practical grounds and, when pressed, add “moral” arguments (which usually amount to evolutionary or even Darwinian theories). This is not the place for a rebuttal of those. I want only to note that one dimension of the discussion, a dimension of profound importance, is lacking (so far, at any rate).
I did find a very few references in both the article and the comments to universal military (or civil) conscription. After all, that topic is, or should be, very hard to avoid in this age of sexual equality. And nothing says inequality like confining combat to men. Someone argues here that women “defend” the nation by giving birth to soldiers, which is precisely what the Nazis thought. Women produced life for the Reich, and men took life (or produced death) for the Reich. People in other countries had similar ideas, of course, but seldom took these to their logical conclusions. For one thing, the Allied countries didn’t give absolute value to the group and therefore deny any value to the individual. Moreover, they didn’t glamorize the collective mentality by sending women to prestigious stud farms where they could mate with elite men and thus improve the racial stock.
The Nazis adopted a symbolic form of sexual equality, to be sure, but not one, I hope, that would be uncontested today. That’s partly because the cost of associating society’s ideal man with killing or being killed is very high–even in peacetime–and requires considerable rewards or privileges for the surviving men, as distinct from women who stay home. That social contract was still possible during and just after World War II, but I doubt that it would be possible today. So, if you care about what’s practical, consider that.
‘In 2019, Macron introduced a new four-week programme of national service, which will become compulsory. (He has said: “Military experience not only leads you to develop experiences but also behavioural qualities.”)’
a. Wow, four WHOLE weeks? Well, they won’t get beyond induction admins, kit issue, ironing, making bed-blocks and some basic drill.
b. Really? When? I’ll believe it when I see it.
c. Given his backgournd at ENA and investment banking, what would Macron of all people know about it?