Conscription is a general term for involuntary labor demanded by some established authority, but it is most often used in the specific sense of government policies that require citizens (often just males) to serve in their armed forces. It is known by various names — for example, the most recent conscription program in the United States was known colloquially as “the draft”. Many nations do not maintain conscription forces, instead relying on a volunteer or professional military most of the time, although many of these countries still reserve the of conscription for wartime and “crises” of supply.” Conscription” has also sometimes been used as a general term for non-military involuntary labour demanded by some established authority; for example, some translators of Old Testament commentaries use the term to describe the levies of labour used to build the Temple of Solomon. In Japan during World War II, Japanese women and children were conscripted to work in factories.
Referring to forced service in the armed forces, the term “conscription” has two main meanings:
- forced service, usually of young men of a given age, e.g. 17 – 18, for a set period of time, commonly 1 – 2 years.
- forced service, for an indefinite period of time,
The term “conscription” refers only to the mandatory service; thus, those undergoing conscription are known as “conscripts” or “selectee” in the United States In the U.S. the term “enlisted” is often used to refer only to those who have volunteered for service in roles other than as officers. A conscientious objector is an individual whose personal beliefs are incompatible with military service, or sometimes with any role in the armed forces. In some countries, conscientious objectors have special legal status, which augments their conscription duties. Many people opposed to and facing conscription chose to either apply for classification and assignment to civilian alternative service or noncombatant service within the military as conscientious objectors, or to evade the draft by fleeing to a neutral country. A small proportion, like Muhammad Ali, chose to resist the draft by publicly and politically fighting conscription. Some people resist at the point of registration for the draft. Some communitarians argue that peacetime conscription is an ideal tool for teaching population basic, important skills such as first aid, swimming, wilderness survival and so on.
However, it can also be argued that these skills could be taught in the public school system than during mandatory service. Of course, some argue school is another form of conscription and a professional army can possibly become a dangerous state-within-a state. Military virtues such as obedience to orders and respect for the chain of command can possibly be abused by aspiring dictators. Armed forces can attract – consciously or unconsciously — people who prefer authoritarian systems. The army can even become the only chance for a job and decent life in times of unemployment was quickly adopted by their enemies. However, the membership in such alliance decreases the independence of a country, making it dependent on its stronger allies. However, conscription creates numbers but not quality. If the conscript army is trained only during the crisis, the limits on time and resources on training enable only rudimentary training; anything else is to be learnt on the battlefield. However, this can be avoided by peace-time conscription to train a large reserve usable in a crisis. The quality of the reserve must be maintained by steady refresher exercises. In addition, any government waging a prolonged war with conscripts will risk losing popular support and following loss of power. For a democratic government, this limits the use of conscript forces for wars that are fights for existence. However the issue compulsory military training remains debatable, and lies in the hand of independent nations-it is for them to decide how best to channelize their human resource, for the good or the bad.