Book Sale

Saturday 27 January 2024



Conscription is clearly often immoral (except maybe when your society is under direct threat).[1] But I could be convinced to support it under one condition: anyone, no matter their age (they can't be too old, no exceptions) or gender who advocates for war or conscription, must be in the first wave of conscripts and sent to war. If, after their deployment there is still a need to fight, then we may have to do general conscription. I suspect this policy could solve more wars than we think though. How often today are wars far removed from the aggressor country, fighting an enemy we have nothing to do with and never attacked us? Most of the time, especially America’s wars.  

There is a bit of a myth that the most war hungry people are those in the military themselves. But this is not true, especially of seasoned soldiers who tend to learn what really is behind many wars and recognize why it is always better to avoid a fight if possible. And who also recognize how often the motives for wars are immoral and unjust and just serve the interests of the powerful and corrupt.  

The most war hungry people are often those who would never lift a rifle for themselves, but who live in a state of near constant fear or alert about the world, and who therefore want as many people as possible to go and fight what they are afraid of so they can live in peace. That is after the weapons builders, of course. As Smedley Butler proved in his book, War is a Racket, war is largely a profit supercharging exercise for the wealthy. During war a small percentage of the most powerful men get very rich, their sons get exempted from fighting, and the rest of the male population bears the brunt. Between these two groups, the chicken hawks and the military industrial complex, you have most of the push for war in our modern nations. Many military men, especially below the top ranks, would prefer not to go to war.

Don’t take my word for it, here is what a veteran has to say about this topic,

“I’ve been in or around the military for two decades, first as a soldier and later as a defence journalist – including trips to Afghanistan in both roles…

…These calls to arms are delivered partly because generals and politicians mistake things about which they personally fantasise of an evening, for things which are remotely in the national security interest.

But primarily because the military and the state must endlessly justify its vast and wasteful war spending while your nan freezes for five months of the year…

…Just ask the millennial veterans who served in failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For the most part, War on Terror veterans I meet view their wars with cynicism…

…Beyond that, if Russian and British generals and politicians really want to fight, they should duke out themselves and leave the rest of us out of it.”[2]

Most of the ordinary run-of-the-mill military folk don’t want to get into bad wars. And it would be an even worse idea to try and make up for this with conscription, because:

“It is also a bureaucratic and expensive waste of labour and talent. Conscription does not just recruit literal bodies to fight, it tends to recruit broader society in a struggle against it.

One of the reasons why we have a professional military is that conscription in wartime radicalises and backfires. During the Vietnam War, soldiers were shooting their own officers and sailors were sabotaging their ships, which tends to cause a terrible mess.”[3]

Conscription is not the wonderful idea that many boomers and some other conservatives think it is. Alot of people, especially older people, think things like conscription or national service are simply unquestionable good things. But conscript armies are undisciplined, low in morale and are often in need of heavy policing to function well. Because most people are not keen to fight when they know the cause is unjust, and the enemy they face is just like them; men who'd rather be home than fighting oligarch wars. Remember the stories of German and British soldiers exchanging gifts at Christmas in World War 1? Or World War 2 fighters shooting above the heads of the enemy? 

This was even the attitude of many in the ancient world. One of the most warlike peoples in the ancient world, the ancient Greeks - the Myceneans - had a custom that as two armies came up to do battle they would often send out their champions to face each other, and the winning army was the one where the champion won. Those men got it. Send your two biggest troublemakers out to fight, and let everyone else go home to their wives, children and farms.

Conscription on a large scale is a relatively modern phenomenon, put in place by the French in the Revolutionary era and capitalized on by the warmonger Napoleon to serve his own goals and interests. Our world would be a better place if those who continued to push for unnecessary wars were made to do all the fighting themselves. As citizens we should oppose such measures, unless of course our own nation is under dire threat.

List of References

[1] For those who dispute this, how is it not the sin of man-stealing? Exodus 21:16, “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” It is not just selling the slave that was wrong, it was stealing them to force them into your service which was wrong as well. Because the consequences of invasion are worse than the consequences of conscription, the more important moral imperative might need to be heeded.

[3] Ibid.

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