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People and Politics Forum 25. 06. 2010

"Is conscription out of date?"

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More information:

A Calculated Advance - the Defence Minister and Germany's Compulsive Military Service Laws

"In a highly professional, well-armed and flexible army... there is little capacity left over for the training of recruits." With words like these, German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has set a battle in motion that is dividing the political landscape regardless of party. The Defense Minister sees the steep new spending cuts planned by the German government as the perfect opportunity to fundamentally reform the Bundeswehr. Defense experts agree.

Our Question is:

"Is conscription out of date?"

Waltraud Maassen, New Zealand:

"Twenty years ago I would have approved of the abolition of conscription. Nowadays I am pretty sure it serves a purpose. Without conscription there cannot be alternative military service either. That would mean there would be no auxiliaries in social institutions and I think they are essential. Conscripts also help out at natural desasters. I would suggest reduce spending on high tec machinery and take a close look at excessive bureaucracy. Finally: get out of wars that contravene our constitution."

Michael Schreiber from Taiwan says:

"Conscription is outdated in an age of modern warfare and weaponry, because there's not much 6 months training can do. What we need is a highly professional army of full-time soldiers."

René Junghans from Brazil agrees:

"If every country took care of its own problems, the world would be a much more peaceful place. We have to stop using violence and interfering in other people's business! The money that we would save by getting rid of the draft could be invested in educating our young people. They aren't educated enough these days to fill vacant positions because the money isn't being spent on the educational system but on the war in Afghanistan, for which there is always money somewhere. So what we need is an end to conscription and a fast rethink."

Wolfgang Sachsenroeder from Singapor:

"Conscription isn't only superfluous, it’s also counter productive! Anyone who within six months manages to learn how to shoot themselves in the foot isn't suitable for military operations overseas. If Germany wants to start intervening abroad, which is questionable in itself, it can only do this with a professional army. Our military would be more effective and cheaper without this unjust system of conscription."

Helge Weyland from Argentinina:

"We need to keep conscription so that the army doesn't form its own state within a state. This has already happened in the many countries where conscription has been scrapped."

Victor Chan from the United States of America:

"I don't believe conscription in today's Germany is able to achieve what it set out to do. The idea of a citizen in uniform isn't new. The Prussian military class during the early to late 1800s was exemplary. Prussian officers could be found at all levels of society. This no longer works. Young recruits will not be able to learn what it means to be a soldier in just six months, and it won't change their lives either. Very few conscripts would opt to become professional soldiers in that time either. Instead, Germany's armed forces should concentrate on offering career prospects to young people who are really interested."

Herbert Fuchs from Finland:

"Conscription is in no way superfluous, but that still doesn't mean we don't need a professional army. It doesn't harm young men or women in the least bit to serve their country for a couple of months and they can learn what it really means to live in peace. In the event of a natural disaster, young conscripts form an important part of any relief mission. When something unforeseen does occur, it doesn't always mean a combat deployment straight off. That's why I think it's important for conscription to continue."

Gerhard Seeger from the Philipines:

"As long as common sense is lacking on our planet, armies will be needed - at least for defense. But defense is as far it should go: we shouldn't use force to meddle in the affairs of other countries."

Rolf Bockmühl from the Philipines:

"Conscription just doesn't make sense for Germany in this day and age. Germany is surrounded by friends, so it needs a professional army - no more and no less. Why do we need these giant tanks and missiles which threaten our neighbors? Our borders are secure today, so our armed forces have to be capable of overseas operations. What we need is a modern, capable and highly motivated army equipped with the latest weaponry carried by trained soldiers. Even if I'm not in agreement with the American adventure in Afghanistan (how exactly are we protecting our interests in the Hindu Kush mountains? what interests do we have there), I recognize that our soldiers cannot do their jobs with equipment designed for use against the old Warsaw Pact forces. But why are we even discussing conscription? We should just get rid of it, then reduce the size of the army and turn it into a modern fighting machine. What do we do with all the generals? Send them back to their day jobs and leave the running of the reformed and democratic army to the modern soldiers. The old army chiefs who long for medals and love old military traditions (such as the Iron Cross and naming barracks after military leaders) should be discharged from service. A modern army requires modern computers with the latest software. You can't catch terrorists with tanks and missiles and Germany hasn't got any other enemies in Europe - or anywhere else, for that matter."

The editors of "People and Politics" reserve the right to abridge viewers' letter where necessary.