Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The social value of conscription

Conscription as integration? (photo from Helsingin Sanomat)

The seminar I attended last week was run by the Finnish National Defence University and was title "The Future of Armed Forces". There were some gradualist approaches to change put forward mainly by serving officers from various countries and some more radical approaches from the private and academic sectors. One speaker even suggested that in the modern world you don't really need armed forces, just a strong police and nuclear weapons - although his sentiment should be seen in the light of what happened forty years ago today: events that has left his country's military playing a quasi-policing role ever since and weakening them relative to their neighbours as a result.

But being in Finland, much discussion revolved around the value of conscription for modern armed forces. The Finnish defence establishment resolutely support the concept - at least in public - but I found the French experience far more convincing. If you want a modern, technologically advanced military, you need professionals, not kids doing six months before starting uni or college. France realised this after the first Gulf War where they had to sail their aircraft carrier to the Gulf with a skeleton crew after the president announced no conscript would be put in harms way, before promptly evacuating them from the ship as it headed south.

The argument is often put forward that conscription leads to social cohesion: Finnish President Halonen said exactly this yesterday at the Defence Forces parade through Helsinki, but reading her speech I had a wry smile remembering what I had heard from a French officer last week: "The French army decided that it was the job of the schools to make little Frenchmen not the military, our job is to kill people when the government tells us to."

1 comment:

Scott Kohlhaas said...


Would you be willing to spread the word about www.draftresistance.org? It's a site dedicated to shattering the myths surrounding the selective slavery system and building mass civil disobedience to stop the draft before it starts.

Our banner on a website, printing and posting the anti-draft flyer or just telling friends would help.


Scott Kohlhaas

PS. When it comes to conscription, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!