Guns & Patriots

Compulsory Military Service the Answer?

Joe Galloway speaking at the Marine’s Memorial Club

At a Vietnam veterans memorial event in 2008 held at the San Francisco Marines’ Memorial Club, best-selling author and war correspondent Joe Galloway commented on how much better it would be for all if they brought back the draft and required every President of the United States to not only serve in the military, but be a combat veteran: “So the President would know personally what he’s getting his young men and women into.” Almost everyone stood up and gave a standing ovation.

Bring up the idea of compulsory service in the United States and you bring up a maelstrom. Some are vehement that we never have required military service, except during actual wartime. Others say we should have not only a draft, but we should be using that standing military to lay down the law in every nation of the world.

“It’s too much of an imposition in this modern world, where all the military does is go off to foreign lands to ineffectively stop genocides and ends up defending dictators!”

Others say, “I’ve got to get my MBA by the time I’m 25, or I won’t be able to get a good job—how am I going to do that if I have to spend a year or two of my life in the military?”

“Why draft if we’ve got enough volunteers who want to go into the military and defend democracy in other countries?” others ask.

That’s the crux of it, how to justify a military that’s already supported by volunteers, such as presently done by the US in the troops it sends to Afghanistan and Iraq? But that is the problem: we don’t have enough volunteers to fight a war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Libya; or wherever, that makes the US seem more like the Roman Empire just before it fell—in debt and spread too thin.

To really understand the application and impact of compulsory service on a nation’s people, I chatted with Swiss Defense, Military, Naval and Air Force Attaché in Washington, Maj. Gen. Peter Egger. Switzerland has had compulsory service since its adoption of a federal constitution in 1848.

To listen to Cork Graham’s interview with the Swiss Defense, Military, Naval and Air Force Attaché in Washington, Maj. Gen. Peter Egger, Click Here.

Though the United States is a constitutional republic, and not that other form of democracy created in Switzerland, direct democracy, we are both made up of a collection of people from different cultures, from nations that have been historical enemies. But, when you get a number of people together, and put them through the same kind of serious training required to defend a nation, you get a group of people who learn how to make things work, instead of what happens in societies where everyone is out to get what they can, and to hell with everyone else.

Doesn’t make the position of drill instructor an enviable position, but in the end what they churn out are people who learn how to overcome differences in order to achieve mutually beneficial goals. In war, that means destroying an enemy, and if you do it right, you keep from killing yourself in the process. These are skills that call on a mass of people to forget their immediate differences for the longevity of their nation. There is a trust that results. Ask a Swiss national whether they can trust their fellow citizen to come to the call of action when the nation is in danger, and there’s an overwhelming positive response. It resulted in the Swiss culture, society, and even in why the Swiss Red Cross was formed.

Group for a Switzerland Without an Army, on the other hand, is an organization that has been trying to shrink the Swiss military and remove conscription since 1982. It’s not a new idea; in the past there have been many such movements. Often they were funded by outside influences, in an effort to weaken the ability of Switzerland to defend itself, such as the Nazis and the Communists during World War II. GSwA’s suggests that men do civil service instead of military service, much like in the US entering the AmeriCorps instead of serving on active duty, in the reserves, or the National Guard. Being confronted with your own sense of mortality is one of the most maturing experiences a human being can have. And civil service doesn’t provide this experience. A personal realization of mortality is one of the major reasons that people grow up.

No matter if the Swiss national comes from a wealthy and upper-class family, or a family with barely enough money to purchase the clothes the young man needed to leave home, all arrive in the same type of boot camp in Switzerland. That’s a very unifying experience. Also, it says that you really believe in your country: What’s better, a country that seeks out mercenaries, like France with its Foreign Legion, and Ancient Rome with its Visigoths and such, to fight its wars? Or a nation whose people feel so strongly about how lucky they happen to be living in a strong form of democracy that they not only show up rain or shine at the site of entry into the military, but also 69 percent of those between 20 and 29-years-old, according to an article in “20 Minuten,” consider their military service “a good thing.”

One impetus to keeping peace is the knowledge that not just the most patriotic, or the poor, will go to defend the country, but everyone, man and woman, rich and privileged, or not, will be required to pick up arms and defend this country during a time of war. Something to think about as we get more and more political leaders vying for the office of the President without any prior military experience, much less actually having gone to war. The United States hasn’t been involved in so many conflicts around the world since World War II, and likely to get into more. Would we be involved in so many if every congresswoman and congressman knew they personally, and their offspring, were going into harms way, too, as members of the US military?

To listen to Cork Graham’s interview with the Swiss Defense, Military, Naval and Air Force Attaché in Washington, Maj. Gen. Peter Egger, Click Here.

 

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