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Debate: Military draft

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Is a military draft generally a good thing to have in place at all times?

Background and context

Should a government have the right to draft its citizens into military service?


  • Conscription does not infringe upon anybody's rights. Conscription is not harmful and does not infringe upon anybody's rights and freedoms as there usually are ways to avoid joining the military training (e.g. if you work in a hospital instead).
  • Military draft improves safety and rights of all citizens. Conscription means that at the time of a military conflict state has enough trained troops, therefore the security of that state is enhanced - a benefit every citizen can enjoy.
  • A professional army can become a dangerous state-within-a-state. "Military virtues such as obedience to orders and respect for the chain of command can possibly be abused by aspiring dictators. Armed forces can attract — consciously or unconsciously — people who prefer authoritarian systems. The army can even become the only chance for a job and decent life in times of unemployment (this was crucial in the rise of Japanese militarism,) or for despised minorities. Such people may come to regard the army as their home and elevate it above the state." (by Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


  • Conscription is against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Many people claim that conscription violates the following articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Art.3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Art.18: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Art.20: (…) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
  • A military draft is reflective of an oppressive government. A government becomes oppressive under the following two conditions: (1)when a government infringes upon the rights of individuals (2)when a government has rights that the citizens themselves do not have A military draft meets both these conditions; it infringes upon an individual's right to consent, and the citizens themselves do not have the right to draft others, so the government demanding military service of these individuals would be imposing a double standard.
  • Conscription can be used as a tool to control and re-educate the population. Military service is based on discipline and obeying orders thus dictators can use it as a tool to instill obedience. Hence most of the undemocratic states use conscription. (China, Cuba, North Korea...) Almost every dictatorship in the past relied on conscription. (Soviet Union, communist dictatorships)
  • Conscription is a violation of the proper function of government. At it's very core, the government's duty is to protect the rights of it's citizens from those that will violate them, such as criminals or foreign invaders. If this principle is accepted, then all the other augment in favor of drafting other then national defense (training for real life, rites of passage, nationalism and loyalty, employment, etc) will automatically become irrelevant since they are not things that are within the purpose of the government and any interference into those matters will be a violation of their proper role. And in the case of national defense, if a country is popular and supported by their own citizens, than it should have no lack of volunteers to defend the ideals and principles that it stands for against it's enemies. A military that are made up entirely of volunteers is an excellent power balance against statist and militarist within a government. A rational person will gladly fight and even die for a country that they support, but not for one that stands for something that they don't understand or believe in. Volunteer armies will at lease have some influence in preventing government in declaring unjustified or unnecessary war, when conscription will remove this (already limited) influence all together, opening up the entire population to become canon fodder for some power-lust causes.

Is it necessary for a state's security to practice conscription?


  • In case of total war, the conscription is the only alternative for a small nation to build an army of credible strength without having to depend on alliances. This is particularly the case when the opposing state is significantly larger and/or militarily stronger. In such a case, a voluntary force often can not, regardless of its quality, stand against the sheer numbers of the opposing force.


  • Conscription is unnecessary. At the time when countries all around the globe are becoming members of military organizations such as NATO, at the time when countries are signing treaties concerning military cooperation and support should a country need protection, the concept of keeping a national army is becoming obsolete. There is no need for a specific country to introduce or practice conscription as long as it is protected by professional armies of its allies (or by a professional army of its own).
  • The conscript army is not effective. Under conscription, the military cannot legally exclude low quality volunteers to make room for high quality draftees, which means that conscription in fact lowers the quality of military personnel.

Can the conscription benefit the society?


  • In the military, young men acquire many skills for everyday life. These include first aid, driving an ambulance, extra practice for surgeons, swimming, etc.) that might be beneficial either to their own careers, or in cases of emergency to everyone as these skills are transferable. That means that "conscription makes for a more disciplined and skilled workforce, as men (and women) leave the military and take the skills which they honed there back to their civilian jobs." (by Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
  • Test of manhood. Men are tested, to see whether or not they can endure the hardships of military training and earn the right to be called men.
  • Conscription may inspire camaraderie, unifying a people. "All able-bodied males together as a union have had the same experience and are soldiers, and that may create unity and a national spirit." (by Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


  • Justification for attacks on civilians. Conscription can result in a blurring of the moral distinction between civilians and legitimate military targets. For example Hamas guerrillas claim their deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians is justified by the existence of conscription in Israel.
  • Nationalism and promoting militarism. "The military draft is predicated on the assumption that nations have rights that supersede those of the individual. The building of large conscript armies coincided with the rise of virulent nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries, culminating in World War II. Moreover, in peacetime, conscription can create an atmosphere of militarism and bigotry in society. Many young men in countries with compulsory conscription develop a cynical stance about militarism because the mandatory nature of conscription creates low morale among soldiers. This is especially true in countries where nationalist feelings are weak to begin with, such as Austria, Germany and Sweden, or where conditions are brutal." (by Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
  • The state does not own the lives it's citizens. The ideology behind military drafting is simple: The individual citizens is the property that belongs to the state just because of chance in birth. They have no value beyond his or her utility to the government, whether as an expandable instrument of war or production. As far as the state is concerned, it cares no more for the lost of an individual citizens more than a human do about individual cells in the body. It is the embodiment of the idea that your rights are given to you by the state, and therefore can be taken away at will by leaders and politicians. (In other words, you have no rights). If this principle is allowed, then despotism and a dictatorship will be it's only logical conclusion.
  • Conscription may create an atmosphere of chauvinism, sexism and discrimination against those men who haven't served in the armed forces.

Is the conscription economically favourable?


  • Possible better economic impact during wars. "In a very large war, (such as World War II) raising a large enough volunteer military would require dramatic increases in taxes or budget deficits. In such cases conscription can have lower negative impact than the impact of these higher taxes and possibly be more equitable (higher taxes would penalize those out of service much more than those in service). Research into fiscal impacts of conscription in World War II suggest a volunteer army raised to the same size would have had worse economic impact in terms of economic growth." (by Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


  • Conscription creates numbers but not quality. Conscription means purchasing and maintaining lots of "unnecessary" equipment for people who - most probably - will never fight in any conflict and if they indeed did, they wouldn't be as useful as professional soldiers and professional armies due to the lack of training (one or two years of military service are not enough). It is economically wiser to have a smaller, well-equipped professional army than millions of soldiers lacking weapons, transporters and experience, to say the least.
  • Subtracting from the productivity of the economy. Draft is not economically favourable because it is the most fit young men who - instead of working - join the army. Men are "taken away from their civilian work, and away from contributing to the economy which funds the military. This is not a problem in an agrarian or pre-industrialized state where the level of education is universally low, and where a worker is easily replaced by another. However, this proves extremely problematic in a post-industrial society where educational levels are high and where the work force is highly sophisticated and a replacement for a conscripted specialist is difficult to find. Even direr economic consequences result if the professional conscripted as an amateur soldier is killed or maimed for life; his work effort and productivity is irrevocably lost.Additionally, their training is costly and in some countries these men are even paid for the service." (by Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
  • Unwilling conscripts are undisciplined and inefficient. "No military can operate effectively without discipline. Discipline can either be taught from esprit de corps, already-acquired motivation of the personnel or be fundamentally embedded into the troops through guidance from leadership. One can speculate that volunteers manifest less undisciplined behavior, however citizens conscripted might have little motivation to serve." (by Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

See also

External links and resources

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