This has been a topic I have been meaning to write about since my return from the strong Welfare States of Scandinavia. While I was there, I met a number of guys my age that had some form of mandatory service in the armed forces of their countries. For example, Halvard, my SUST program director’s assistant, served in the Norwegian Military for 8 months guarding the Royal Family. Another student at the University of Oslo (UIO) served in the Danish Military, and said it was a valuable experience. He had considered going to Afghanistan, but when asked he declined.
Arguments for and against military Conscription aside, I think the United States would benefit from some form of mandatory national service from its citizens. In Norway, it is the form of 6 months-1 year of service in the armed forces or with a non-profit organization or government office for Conscientious objectors. This is for both Men and Women.
I am not suggesting bringing back the dreaded “Draft” of conscripted service into the Army, Navy, or Air Force; I believe these services and the special forces that are associated them: Marines, Navy Seals, The Rangers etc. should remain a volunteer army and highly trained specialized force. However, at the end of the mandatory service, citizens would have the option to pursue professional careers in the armed forces if they desire to.
However, I do think that the National Guard should be refined to as service for the homeland and not be involved in operations abroad (Iraq or Afghanistan). These Citizen/Soldiers as the National Guard often bills itself as, should remain in the United States for purposes of National Defense in the event of a natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina to prevent events like rapid response teams where left with little to no equipment because their units had been mobilized and deployed to combat zones when they were needed in Louisiana. The National Guard would also assist law enforcement in the event of a Domestic attack or Terrorist attack on the United States. These forces would not be deployed abroad, not even as peace keeping forces.
This would dramatically reduce instances of “Backdoor drafts” or citizens enlisting for assignments that “they didn’t sign on for” as has been heard in the media from members of National Guard units who have encountered heavy amounts of combat in both theaters of the middle east.
Some would argue that institutions already exist too train our young men and women in the realm of national service: The Boy Scouts of America and its counterpart the Girl Scouts of America. However, I personally feel that being a member of the National Guard would have more unifying power of democracy and nation building than service in either of those institutions.
I am interested in others responses to this topic especially from my friend Rory who is currently serving in Iraq and has had many debates about the roles of the US military in the current era with my brother Frank. Check out Rory’s blog: Duty, Honor, and Country .
Some may accuse this post of being socialistic or even communistic in its tone, but maybe that is what the US needs, a return to the era of the New Deal and a belief in the power and responsibility of a government of the people and not an enemy to be feared. I really need to watch V for Vendetta again.