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A question of service: A look at Military service and citizenship

A question was raised to me recently that I have heard before often enough and it deserves a little time and attention to explore a few of its twists and turns:  Should we force all of our young to serve in the military?  Other countries do it, and some think that doing this would cause Americans to stand up and take more notice of the freedoms we have and begin to take a more active part in the process of voting and caring about the running of our government beyond the usual whining and complaining.

Alongside that question is sometime raised another:  Since so many people don’t even care enough about their country to vote on election day, we should only give citizenship to those who serve in some form within the branches of our military.  The thought here is that this would mean those entrusted with voting for and running our country could only be those who have already sacrificed personally to serve it.

I’ll address both of these in turn, but be patient, as this will take a few twists along the way.


Conscripted Military (the draft):

Back in 86, While serving in the Infantry overseas, I was reminded why an all volunteer force is so powerful when you compare it to a conscripted service:

When I participated in the French Commando training program, the differences that I witnessed between the French units which contained conscripts, (France required 2 years of military service of all men at 18) and the French Foreign Legion, which contains nearly all volunteers was tremendous.  And when force-on-force training exercises began, the conscripts just as often gave up in the middle of a fight as they did follow through and finish it.  There was a very real difference between the volunteer and conscripted forces even just looking within France alone and that very difference is also where the American military force shows its true strength and stands out in the world as unique and exceptional.

In our training exercises at French Commando school, the American Infantry wiped the French regulars off the face of the map so quickly it wasn’t even a contest, but the Foreign Legion actually held it’s own much better, if still not quite up to par with us.  From my personal observation, the difference between us and the Foreign Legion appeared to be the lack of true nationalism and pride in the process that you can only find in an army of dedicated volunteers that believe in their country and willingly sacrifice their own freedoms in order to protect it.  American soldiers are personally invested in the success of our military and that personal investment often stems from a heritage of traditional dedication that carries on from generation to generation.  Sons serve, whose Fathers serve before him whose uncles or father or mother served before them.  These families are not unique in any way within our country, millions of people all over our nation count it an honor to have served in our country’s military and as a nation we still honor all of those who have served and treasure those who have given their very lives in service to both God and Country.

Volunteer soldiers serve for many reasons, not the least of which is that they believe that not only is our country great, but that the values of freedom and exceptionalism are so vital to our country’s future that they are worth sacrificing our own freedoms, comforts and sometimes lives to protect it.  There are, of course other countries who have the same motivations, but in nearly every case, their freedoms have been whittled away over the centuries while ours has remained the primary focus of our society.  The fact that our country is so very young by comparison means that we have yet to dilute our collective resolve and continue to hold our freedoms as sacred trusts because our country was born from the cry for freedom and founded upon the desire to keep freedom alive and thriving.

Why make service mandatory?  Yes, the experience has value, and service itself is indeed noble and does build character and all that, but you remove the true value of that whole experience by forcing it down people’s throats.  Nobody learns dedication through forced service, they learn to either let their spirit die and go through the motions under the burden of slavery until it ends, or they learn to loathe the government who thrust this upon them.  The only times in our history the draft ever worked is when the country faced a clear evil large enough to threaten the entire world and even then it only worked because the threat was so plain and overwhelming that volunteers were already flooding in to do their part.

There are already plenty of cattle in our country today that don’t even care enough to vote on election day, so why ruin our military by infusing that malaise into it?  Forcing everyone to serve would only accomplish two things:  Drain the military budget of all its fantastic technology resources which give our Soldiers such an edge on the battlefield in order to bear the burden of so many mouths to feed and pay; all in order to reduce the level of expertise and exceptionalism down to a lukewarm mash already found within failed militaries the world over.

To truly appreciate the differences between the military of different countries, you have to acknowledge that the difference in attitude, dedication and passion plays out in the training and preparation of their military forces, unmotivated troops train poorly and though equally motivated to survive and do well during combat, their malaise during training ensures their failure on the battlefield even when equally equipped.  Add to that the dedication of the society within our nation itself, driving innovation in order to keep our men and women dominant on the battlefield and so overwhelm our foes as to bring our heroes back home safe.   People dedicate their entire lives to the study and development of better technology and resources, doing their part in serving the defense of our country because they value the dedication of our troops enough to devote their efforts to keeping them safe and giving them the best tools possible.  In short, our country was founded upon selfless sacrifice and devotion to duty that comes from the heart and soul, not from a draft card.


Citizen Soldiers:

I look fondly upon the idea of US citizenship being earned through military service, such a concept would indeed ensure that those who voted in our elections has a vested interest in the outcome, but I definitely do not think that conscripting military service is the answer.  To devise such a fundamental change to our country’s foundation however, would be a massive undertaking not likely to ever take place except in the idle fancy of those of us who wish people would take their citizenship less for granted.

There is, of course one other glaring problem with the whole concept of restricting citizenship to the military and that is class warfare.  When you divide the citizenship into categories like this and assign different levels of freedom or benefit, you rob the society of it biggest asset:  True freedom.  Yes, the few who make all the sacrifices do allow those who do not sacrifice to enjoy the same freedoms and no it isn’t fair or equal in any respect, but it is that very altruistic and uniquely American principal (The freedom to choose to be exceptional which comes side-by-side with the freedom to not be exceptional) is just one aspect of the foundation of our country.

The few will always protect the many and there will always be a “warrior class” among us that watch out for the safety of our country, but to put any real boundary between those who serve and the rest of the country’s citizens invites catastrophe and changes the very nature of what makes our country both unique, and uniquely exceptional in the world.   Those who have served their country already stand out in the display of their character, honor and dedication, in their courage and heart.   The fact that they have served is enough and the pride in accomplishment it’s own reward.

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