German draft rouses questions for military

Regina Budden

When United States newspapers run reports about citizen apathy towards the war in Iraq, I feel sad and disappointed at the contentment of my peers. Then I eat my fries, drink my root beer  and settle down with some homework on my futon.

However, my interest has once again been piqued because some of my friends from high school have recently signed up for military duties. In fact, since coming to college, it seems like more and more people of my acquaintance have joined some sort of service.

With non-participants like me, the sustainability of our volunteer-based army continues to boggle my mind. Germany, however, is having problems sustaining their compulsory draft. Post-WWII Germany set up its military with the intent to avoid another “state within a state” scenario. Male youths are required to serve an amount of time in the military or hospital if they are conscientious objectors. They are then discharged when their time is up, which prevents them from becoming “professional soldiers.”

To a nation like the U.S., this may seem a little off-kilter, but in a nation that is trying to stay out of wars, it is sensible. The biggest problem today, however, is that the German Parliament has been shortening the time that youths serve until most Germans, whether for or against the draft, feel it is ineffective. Which leaves them at a juncture. Now, Parliament members are asking if they should change to an entirely volunteer-based army.

While this violates the original idea of the conscription services, at this point it doesn’t seem likely that this scenario will really pose a threat. The Germans worry if duty is on a volunteer basis, they will lose any sort of standing army.

It makes me wonder what it is that makes German youth different. Perhaps it is because there is less financial incentive, considering that the U.S. government pays for college and gives great benefits for military service. Maybe it is that Germany isn’t as deeply involved in the wars in the Middle East (although its influx of Middle Eastern immigrants shows that they are still affected). No matter what, it seems that young Germans are less and less enthusiastic about service.

Globally smaller armies could indicate different things. Perhaps world peace is growing closer, and all our defensive needs will be found in teams of small, specialized forces. Or, perhaps smaller armies are more indicative of the post-Cold War times. Now, if nations cannot achieve their ends by using a smaller force, they are capable of just dropping a massive nuclear weapon.

The concern for me is, if this lack of interest in national defense is a growing global trend, and what it means. We could all go the way of Costa Rica, with no national army.