Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bring Back Conscription

The Israelis have at least one thing right. They require their Jewish young people, of both sexes, to spend time in the military service. You might be surprised at how many other countries require military service of their youth. I was. Click on the link for a list.

Why should America consider mandatory conscription? Because as we get further and further away from the abandonment of the draft...(The military draft ceased in this country a few months after I was drafted in November of 1972)...we also get further and further away from the time when people were forced to learn about the value of personal responsiblity. When one takes responsibilty for also becomes more valuable in one's own mind, and to the rest of society. Basic training is tough. But, it generally makes you a better person in many ways...not the least of which is understanding that you are ultimately responsible for yourself. I say this as a 55-year-old man who is observing things daily that I can't find a way to swallow.

Examples? You see and read it every day in the news. The inability, or unwillingness, of individuals to take responsibility for their own actions. i.e.--
  • Men who make children and then leave them.
  • Women who expect someone else to solve all their problems for them.
  • All types of people who expect the government to solve all their problems.
  • Executives who are unwilling to provide for their employees.
  • Employees who complain easily and are quick to blame their problems on management, lack of opportunity, or bad luck (something outside of themselves).
  • Folks hire lawyers in order to blame someone else for, and profit from, their own misfortune.
  • Children who refuse to accept blame for lack of performance, or misbehavior, in school. (Mostly because they hear parents blaming teachers or administrators.)
  • Instead of accepting constructive criticism with a thank you, people tend to offer excuses or foist blame.
  • Just about all criminal behavior.

There are hundreds of other examples. But, you get the idea.

Why would mandatory military service help fix these problems? It is the one experience I have had in life where I was put in a situation in which I was forced to be my own best friend. It is made clear at the outset that noone is going to take care of you, but yourself. Much is demanded physically and mentally. You are pushed to your limit, and most times you find that you are capable of much more than you imagined. You are strong, you are smart, you are worthy of honor and praise. You are just as good, if not better, than the next guy and you can take care of yourself.... Hallelujah...YOU CAN TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!!! Once you get this basic lesson of life through your head, your expectations of yourself are greater, and of others around you less. You are more valuable in every possible aspect of living.

Being a proud person also gives one the ability to understand and celebrate excellence...appreciate freedom and do something with it. Unless a person understands what it takes to personally excel, mediocrity becmes that person's excellence. Unsatisfactory becomes acceptable. Being a burden for others becomes a way of life. Fewer and fewer of us look in the mirror to find the answer to our problems because we don't understand that we are capable of excellence and therefore demand more and better of ourselves.

Maybe forcing all young people to serve two years in the military is expecting a little much. But, a good dose of good old-fashioned basic training for a couple of months...followed by four months or so of some kind of public service... would tend to straighten out a lot of our social problems in America. I'll bet there are a number of my ex-military friends who understand where I'm coming from. I wouldn't expect anyone who hasn't stood in front of a drill sergeant at 5 a.m. to get it. And that's the problem.

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