This meme showed up in my Facebook feed the other day and I re-shared it vocalizing support. I was surprised at the numerous negative reactions I got. It seems like an easy win-win to me. So I thought I’d give a fuller exploration to the topic than a few words and a picture can. I have my own vision of how it would go and some of the nuance of that certainly changes my perspective
I see a number of benefits that come with a mandatory service.
- A more engaged populace
- A more mature freshman college class and entry level work force
- A more disciplined group of young adults
- A universal experience that bonds our nation
- An easy path to citizenship
- A work force that can be deployed on many of our labor intensive problems
- A populace that understand veterans far better
- An easier path from service to civilian
- A higher skilled entry level workforce
- A populace that understand guns and violence beyond political talking points
So that’s some pretty great stuff, but it might not be super obvious how we get all that. First the plan. I think that everyone out of high school should go through basic training, no exceptions. From there they are placed into units based on skill and temperament. You don’t want to have a conscientious objector manning a machine gun, for example. Now we’re adding somewhere in 10 million people range(approx 10 mil Us pop between the ages of 18-20) maybe 9 million as the armed forces is about 2 million between active and reserve. That means we’ll have 5 times the size. That’s not all going to go to war efforts. In fact most of it will go to civilian work(in my plan) because turns out that’s where most of the things that need to get done are. So you join, get trained the same, separated and assigned jobs, server your 2 years, than are given a re-introduction process.
Now that you’ve seen the plan, I can walk you through how it accomplishes the goals.
- A more engaged populace-The more engaged populace should be obvious. When everyone has a chance of serving on the front line it becomes way more likely people will pay attention to big federal decisions. Further though, having served people will feel a stronger tie and more ownership of the country. They’ll be more likely to care how the country goes having sweated, cried, and bled for it. Want to kill the political apathy? give everyone some skin in the game
- A more mature freshman college class and entry level work force-I took 2 years off from college. When I came back the difference between me and the kids out of highschool was enormous. People grow alot in their first few years as an adult. Many people take a break between and almost universally do better. When you further consider how many people lose time and money going to school because they feel they have to and fuck around there not know what they want to pursue. We can greatly eliminate that problem by telling them this is what you’re doing while they figure out what they want out of life
- A more disciplined group of young adults– Increased Discipline is pretty obvious. People who’ve been in the military have discipline forced on them. Many then lose it later but it’s a thing few people outside of the service seem to get on their own.
- A universal experience that bonds our nation-This one is huge to me. Our country, by the way this is US focused in case that wasn’t clear by now, is not one people. We are a hugely diverse population and I’m not even talking ethnicity, religion, socio-economic background, or any of the usually trotted out divisions. Just by region we have entirely separate cultures to the point we’re more a collection of smaller countries than we are one single country. There is no universal American experience any more. I think that’s a problem.
It’s hard for sections of our country to relate to other large sections and that’s one of the reasons American politics is so extreme. It’s why walking across the line is so hard. We don’t understand each other. We think of the other as truly an other. In addition to forcing a melting pot this gives us something we call all look back on and share. Something we can all relate to. It ties us together.
- An easy path to citizenship- This one you might hate, but I don’t think you should be a citizen until you’ve served. The country does alot for it’s citizens, maybe that should be earned. Especially when there are so many legal and illegal immigrants that are actually better participants in the american way of life than huge swaths of natural born citizens. And I know you may think this is a social Darwin or abilist thing, when certain people are restricted from serving because they literally can’t but I’m ok with that. I have a friend that used to get paid to watch mentally disabled people. All of whom were registered voters. He got to go into the booth with them and fill out their ballots….Turns out he got far more 1 vote that year. So yeah…I’m cool with abilism restricting citizenship.
- A work force that can be deployed on many of our labor intensive problems- Our country is falling apart. Guess what happens when we have a few million people we can assign to that? Better water in flint? Done. Homeless shelters need building? Done. Need someone to work with at risk youth? Done. Basically anything Americorps does, now the military does. Oh, and that understaffed VA problem? taken care of. Need people to work with returning Vets, got it. Need help taking care of the swiftly retiring Baby Boomers. Oh yeah we got that under control. Our forestry service, Ambulances, Firefighters, (but not cops) all get injections of staff for labor intensive work.
- A populace that understand veterans far better-One of the huge problems with vets returning is they feel out of place. They can’t relate to civilians and vice verse. It’s been theorized that one of the reasons PTSD seems so much more prevalent is that in earlier societies warriors came back with a hero’s welcome that helped them overcome and heal traumatic experiences. Regardless, it would certainly help if everyone had alittle taste of what it’s like. Most people would still not know what combat felt like or how to relate there but they’d be much closer .
- An easier path from service to civilian- With a few million people coming out of service to rejoin civilian life over the first few years very quickly a better process would come into effect. A greater demand of services helping transitioning would mean more people stepping up to the plate and doing a better job as the market weeded out the poor performers. It would become a lot easier to study as their would be a much larger sample size and much more likely to be studied as everyone will have gone through the process sparking more interest by sheer law of large numbers. Basically because we’d do it so much more, we’d naturally get better at it.
- A higher skilled entry level workforce-In a way this is a double edge sword. There’s a greater supply of trained or partially trained workers entering the workforce which will drive prices down on skilled labor fields. However it will also likely improve productivity which improves standard of living even if wages don’t match as well as give people some avenue of entering the workforce right out the gate which basically doesn’t exist now. It used to be a high school education was enough to get you alot of jobs. Not anymore. This however will begin to replace that. You made it though basic and your service? Well then I know you aren’t a complete fuck up. Here’s a chance.
It’s possible this could create an under-class in America. An Untouchables Caste. However we kinda already have that with homeless people, drug addicts, and criminals or ex cons. This just adds a more clean cut distinction. It’s not great but I think it’s a fair trade.
- A populace that understand guns and violence beyond political talking points- Gun control is one of the fiercest and most dumb debates in the country. Neither side has any real good points to make, they don’t listen or communicate, and none of the “solutions” proposed from either side fixes any of the problems we are likely to face. It’s a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. It might help if more people had a good understand of how guns work, what they are capable of, and also what real violence is like. Perhaps we could come to some understandings then.
Not that I laid out my position more fully I’m gonna address some problems people had with mandatory military service more individually.
Increase in veterans that need care. Covered above.
Govt having total control over a much larger section of the people: Due to the increase in size of service as well as a much more engaged populace, using it for tyranny becomes infinitely harder. More people in the service means more people willing to stand up to things that are against codes of conduct. Basically more Snowdens.
America’s military is great because it’s a volunteer service: That ignores countries like Isreal, non volunteer, that have great militaries as well as the past American Militaries that were pretty damn good that weren’t voluntary, like WW1 and 2.
This is how Starship Troopers and North Korea happen: Starship troopers is a book and north korea is countered by Denmark, Sweden, Isreal, Finland, and a host of others