10 JANUARY 2005




            The importance of a nation having a way in which to defend its borders and protect its rights is not much of a debate.  However, many disagree on who should be chosen to provide this protection.  Should we continue with our current system, the all volunteer force, or make military service compulsory for all citizens of a certain age?  Many countries of the world, including Sweden and Switzerland, continue the policy of mandatory service for male citizens.  Because compulsory military service establishes a sub-standard military, creates deep resentment among the public toward the government, and violates the individual rights that form the foundation of this country, citizens should not be obligated to serve in their nation’s armed forces.

            By forcing citizens to serve in the military, we significantly reduce the effectiveness of our armed forces.  The effectiveness of military units is a vital element of our nation’s status as the top military in the world.  Members of the armed forces represent the ideals of teamwork, courage, and a desire to serve their country.  If citizens forcibly enter the military, there will inevitably be conflict among those who voluntarily joined to give back to their country and those who were forced to provide their services.  “Since the Civil War, volunteer soldiers’ position has been that unwilling soldiers make poor fighters (Emert).”  Such conflict will destroy the strong teamwork that the military is famous for.  Without a strong sense of teamwork, units will not be able to accomplish the mission as effectively.  Our military will gradually become sub-standard.  Instead, we want our nation’s defense system to improve and become more efficient, especially given the current conflicts in which we are heavily involved.  We do not want it to digress and lose our position as having the supreme military in the world.  Also, when citizens are obligated to serve, they will be more reluctant to put their best efforts into the tasks to which they are assigned.  In the Vietnam War, which is our most recent conflict that involved forced military service, “acts of mutiny took place on a scale previously only encountered in revolutions (Geier).”  Mutiny became so common that the army attempted to disguise its frequency by talking instead of ‘combat refusal’ (Geier).    This type of disobedience endangers the entire unit and can often result in the unnecessary deaths of fellow soldiers.  When you go to war, you expect that the soldiers next to you will fight to the best of their abilities.  If you cannot rely on this, the motivation to protect the ideals of the United States decreases dramatically.  Forcing citizens to serve in the military will increase the size of the military, but when only a “small minority of youth are called to serve, conscription cannot avoid destroying morale (Folsom).”  The negative effect that it will have on soldiers’ attitudes and military effectiveness makes such a decision detrimental.

            Compulsory military service will create large amounts of resentment among both citizens that will be drafted to serve and those who will not have to serve.  It is obvious that those who are unwilling to serve will feel great resentment toward the national government that created such a law mandating that they provide such services to the nation.  The effects of this resentment were mentioned in the previous paragraph.  However, those of the general public who will still not have to serve despite the new policy of compulsory service will also feel resentment toward the administration that drafted and enacted such a policy.  As in Vietnam, there will be protests throughout the country.  There could even be riots depending on the severity of missions/conflicts that the military is involved with at the time, similar to the urban riots in Detroit during the Vietnam War (Bexte).  All this resentment also reduces the effectiveness of our government.  The public will no longer trust the government to protect its rights, undermining the entire infrastructure of our governing body.  Some experts believe that the military draft during the Vietnam War helped to start “a cycle of civic disengagement, leading to a drop-off in voting and in the faith in the institutions of government (Jones).”  Perhaps the most severe and most frightening consequence of obligatory service is the potential resentment toward the service members who are dragged into the politics of the situation.  As constantly emphasized during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, we should applaud the effort and sacrifice of the service members no matter what opinion we hold on the war.  In Vietnam, soldiers returned from the battlefield with few congratulations or gratitude from the public.  "They weren’t regarded as heroes, but as “baby killers (Bexte).”  There were no parades or huge celebrations like those for the soldiers who returned from World War II.  The soldiers, both who volunteered and who were drafted, were unappreciated by the vast majority.  Such an outcome is not worth creating a policy that obligates citizens to serve in their nation’s armed forces.

            The unconstitutionality of forcing citizens to serve in the United States military is the strongest argument against the creation of such a policy.  Such a policy violates the principles upon which our Founding Fathers based our system of government.  Dr. Ron Paul, a Republican member of Congress from Texas, states it perfectly in that “the basic premise underlying conscription is that the individual belongs to the state, individual rights are granted by the state and therefore politicians can abridge individual rights at will.”  Such mentality goes against all that the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence stand for.  The Founding Fathers, using a philosophy based on the writings of John Locke, created a system of government that establishes certain unalienable rights that are guaranteed by the government.  By forcing citizens into the military, we are in direct violation of the philosophy of the Founding Fathers.  During the War of 1812, Daniel Webster eloquently argued against military conscription with “Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained, that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any worth, in which the folly or the wickedness of Government may engage it (Paul)?”  If we simply ignore the foundation of our unique form of government, upon what else can the American people rely?  If we should ever enact a policy that makes military service mandatory for all citizens, America will no longer be known for its protection of the rights of the individual.  We will become more like a country where the state decides, “who shall have what values and who shall do what work, when, where, and how in our society (Paul).”

            While there are numerous opponents to compulsory military service, proponents of military conscription argue that citizens of this country should be required to protect all the freedoms that we enjoy.  Steve Yuhas, a conservative freelance writer argues that “everyone should have to give to the nation to take from it and it is all of our responsibilities to defend the United States.”  Our society gives so much to us, so we should be willing to protect it.  They cite the numerous services, such as public work projects and the defense system, and the superior quality of life that we enjoy with freedom of expression and abundance of free or low-cost education.  They also cite the numerous other countries of the world that currently require male citizens to serve in the military.  These countries have no major problems as a result of compulsory service and are successfully helping by giving their services to society.  To those who argue with such evidence, I would like to offer this to counter.  There are numerous ways for a citizen to serve our society and give back what society has given them.  Serving in the military is not the only way to give back to society.  In this time of heavy military action, it is indeed true that military personnel are spread thin, but our country still has numerous reserve forces that we can employ before we need to severely expand our forces to include all male citizens of a certain age.  These soldiers will most likely not be as properly trained and as combat effective when compared to an all volunteer force.  There are many other countries, such as Denmark and Taiwan, that require military service for men, but look at the sizes of these countries.  Their populations are significantly smaller than the population of the United States.  Normally, we can meet our national defense needs solely based on volunteers, while others can only do so with mandatory service.  However, in times of conflict, such as the one we are currently involved in, the size of our armed forces may seem inadequate.  Active duty, reserve, and National Guard units are being deployed to Iraq three or four times over.  These organizations are also finding it difficult to meet established recruiting goals.  Such facts, however, still would not justify the implementation of a draft.  Instead of resorting to conscription, the leaders of our national government might take a step back and see this as a lack of support for the conflict by the people.  When the American public has believed the cause to be just, there has been little difficulty finding citizens to fill the ranks of the armed forces.  In fact, there were many cases in our nation’s previous wars where young men lied to recruiters about their age in order to enter the military and join the fight earlier.  Perhaps, the government should concentrate on methods to resolve the conflict rather than how to best increase the size of the military.  Also, our country is unique based on how we created our system of government.  Other countries do not have a Declaration of Independence or a Constitution that demanded the preservation of individual rights.  Because of these differences, forced military service will not be effective or beneficial for the United States.

            By obligating citizens to serve in our nation’s armed forces, we will reduce the effectiveness of our armed forces, create resentment among our citizens, and violate the individual rights that form the foundation of our country.  All these reasons explain why our country should not establish a policy of military conscription.  Is it really worth such severe consequences?  Ayn Rand in her Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal expressed the argument against forced military service very appropriately: “If the state may force a man to risk death or hideous maiming and crippling, in a war declared at the state’s discretion, for a cause he may neither approve of nor even understand, if his consent is not required to send him into unspeakable martyrdom—then, in principle, all rights are negated in that state, and its government is not man’s protector any longer.  What is there left to protect?"




Works Cited

Bexte, Martina.  “The Vietnam War Protests.”  Essortment.  28 April 2005. < http://ohoh.essort



Emert, Phyllis Raybin.  “All-Volunteer Army or Military Draft: Does Uncle Sam Want You?”  New          Jersey State Bar Foundation.  28 April 2005. <



Folsom, Roger Mils.  “Can Conscription Work?”  The Cato Institute.  15 May 1981.  28 April

            2005.  <>.


Geier, Joel.  Vietnam: The Soldier’s Rebellion.”    International Socialist Review, Issue 09.  Fall

            1999.  27 April 2005.  <>.


Jones, Tim and Michael Tackett.  “Some Wounds of Vietnam Have Healed – Many Others Won’t

            Go Away.”  Chicago Tribune.  28 April 2005.  <



Krembs, Peter.  “An Idea Not Worth Drafting: Conscription is Slavery.”  20 January 2003.  20

            April 2005.  <>.


Paul, Congressman Ron.  “Against Military Conscription.”  23 March 2002.  20 April 2005. 



Yuhas, Steve.  “Compulsory Military Service for All.”  27 April 2005.  < http://