|Conscription by country|
Conscription (also known as the draft, call-up or national service) is a general term for involuntary enrollment in the service of a country. It is most often used in the specific sense of requiring citizens to serve in the 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 possibility of conscription for wartime and during times of crises.
Referring to compulsory service in the armed forces, the term "conscription" has two main meanings:
The term "conscription" refers only to the mandatory service; thus, those undergoing conscription are known as "conscripts" or, in the United States, "selectees" (from the Selective Service System).
Around the reign of Hammurabi (1792-1750 BCE), the Babylonian Empire used a system of conscription called Ilkum. Under the system those eligible were required to serve in the royal army in time of war. During times of peace they were instead required to provide labour for other activities of the state. In return for this service, those subject to it gained the right to hold land. It is possible that this right was not to hold land per se but specific land supplied by the state.
Various forms of avoiding military service are recorded. While it was outlawed by the Code of Hammurabi, the hiring of substitutes appears to have been practiced both before and after the creation of the code. Later records show that Ilkum commitments could become regularly traded. In other places, people simply left their towns to avoid their Ilkum service. Another option was to sell Ilkum lands and the commitments along with them. With the exception of a few exempted classes, this was forbidden by the Code of Hammurabi.
Under the feudal conditions for holding land in the medieval period, most peasants and freemen were liable to provide one man of suitable age per family for military duty when required by either the king or the local lord. Those who refused became outlaws. The levies raised in this way fought as infantry under local superiors. This was essentially an early form of conscription. Although the exact laws varied greatly depending on the country and the period, generally these levies were only obliged to fight for one to three months. Most were subsistence farmers, and it was in every lord's interest to send the men home for harvest-time.
In the middle of the 14th century, Ottoman Sultan Murad I developed personal troops to be loyal to him, with a slave army called the Kapıkulu. The new force was built by kidnapping Christian children, especially from the far areas of his empire, in a system known as the devşirme (translated "blood tax" or "child collection"). The captive children were persuaded to convert to Islam. The Sultans had the young boys trained over several years. Those who showed special promise in fighting skills were trained in advanced warrior skills, put into the sultan's personal service, and turned into the Janissaries, the elite branch of the Kapıkulu. This soldier class became a decisive factor in the Ottoman invasions of Europe.
Most of the military commanders of the Ottoman forces, imperial administrators and upper-level officials of the Ottoman Empire, such as Pargalı İbrahim Pasha and Sokollu Mehmet Paşa, were recruited in this way. By 1609 the Sultan's Kapıkulu forces increased to about 100,000. As European Christian states increased in military power, they were able to stem and eventually repel most of the Islamic riazzas (invasions) into the European heartland.
The Sultan began turning to the Barbary Pirates. Their attacks on ships off the coast of Africa or in the Mediterranean , and capture of people for ransom or sale provided some captives for the Sultan's system. Eventually the Sultan turned to foreign volunteers from the warrior clans of Circassians in southern Russia to fill his Janissary armies. As a whole the system began to break down. The loyalty of the Jannissaries became increasingly suspect. Mahmud II forcibly disbanded the Janissary corps in 1826.
Similar to the Janissaries in origin and means of development were the Mamluks of Egypt in the Middle Ages. The Mamluks were iusually captive non-Muslim Iranian and Turkish children who had been kidnapped or bought as slaves from the Barbary coasts. The Egyptians assimilated and trained the boys and young men to become Islamic soldiers who served the Muslim caliphs and the Ayyubid sultans during the Middle Ages. The first mamluks served the Abbasid caliphs in 9th century Baghdad. Over time they became a powerful military caste. On more than one occasion, they seized power, for example, ruling Egypt from 1250–1517.
From 1250 Egypt had been ruled by the Bahri dynasty of Kipchak origin. Slaves from the Caucasus served in the army and formed an elite corp of troops. They eventually revolted in Egypt to form the Burgi dynasty. The Mamluks' excellent fighting abilities, massed Islamic armies, and overwhelming numbers succeeded in overcoming the Christian Crusader fortresses in the Holy Land. The Mamluks were the most successful defense against the Mongol Ilkhanate of Persia and Iraq from entering Egypt.
On the western coast of Africa, Berber Muslims captured non-Muslims to put to work as laborers. They generally converted the younger people to Islam and many became quite assimilated. In Morocco, the Berber looked south rather than north. The Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismail, called "the Bloodthirsty" (1672–1727), employed a corps of 150,000 black slaves, called his Black Guard. He used them to coerce the country into submission.
The Swedish allotment system of the 17th century predates most conscription policies. The official layout of the system differs from the French and modern ones, but the effect was the same though on a lesser scale.
Modern conscription, the massed military enlistment of national citizens (today recognized in the USA as "the draft"), was devised during the French Revolution, to enable the Republic to defend itself from the attacks of European monarchies. Deputy Jean-Baptiste Jourdan gave its name to the September 5, 1798 Act, whose first article stated: "Any Frenchman is a soldier and owes himself to the defense of the nation." It enabled the creation of the Grande Armée, what Napoleon Bonaparte called "the nation in arms," which successfully battled European professional armies. More than 2.6 million men were inducted into the French military in this way between the years 1800 and 1813.
The defeat of the Prussian Army shocked the Prussian establishment, which had believed it was invincible after the Frederician victories. Scharnhorst advocated adopting the levée en masse, the military conscription used by France. The Krümpersystem was the beginning of short-term compulsory service in Prussia, as opposed to the long-term conscription previously used.
In the Russian Empire, the military service time "owed" by serfs was 25 years at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1834 it was decreased to 20 years. The recruits were to be not younger than 17 and not older than 35. In 1874 Russia introduced universal conscription on the modern pattern was introduced, an innovation only made possible by the abolition of serfdom in 1861. New military law decreed that all male Russian subjects, when they reached the age of 20, were eligible to serve in the military for six years.
The Union Army introduced conscription in the American Civil War. The 1863 Enrollment Act permitted draftees to hire paid substitutes to fight in their place. This, and the bounty system, led to widespread dislike of conscription by the public at large; the New York Draft Riots were one symptom. In addition, draftees were viewed with disdain by volunteer soldiers and their officers. In the end, the draft provided only 6% of the Union Army's manpower. The US did not use conscription again until 1917 in preparation for war in Europe.
Louis Althusser has underlined how Machiavelli was one of the first modern theorists to consider the relationship between conscription and the creation of a nation, or successfully bolstering patriotism. Machiavelli despised the use of mercenaries and professional armies, which at that time were ravaging the divided Italian states.
Sending conscripts to foreign wars that do not directly affect the home nation's security has historically been politically contentious in democracies. For instance, during World War I, bitter disputes broke out in Canada (see Conscription Crisis of 1917), Australia and New Zealand (see Compulsory Military Training) over conscription. Canada also had a political dispute over conscription during World War II (see Conscription Crisis of 1944). Similarly, mass protests against conscription to fight the Vietnam War occurred in the United States and allied countries in the late 1960s. (See also: Conscription Crisis)
As of 2006, countries that were drafting women into military service included China, Eritrea, Israel, Libya, Malaysia, North Korea, Peru, Taiwan, Egypt and Tunisia. In the United Kingdom during World War II, beginning in 1941, women were brought into the scope of conscription but, as all women with dependent children were exempt and many women were informally left in occupations such as nursing or teaching, the number conscripted was relatively few.. In the USSR, there was no systematic conscription of women for the armed forces, but the severe disruption of normal life and the high proportion of civilians affected by World War II after the German invasion attracted many volunteers for what was termed "The Great Patriotic War". The United States came close to drafting women into the Nurse Corps in preparation for a planned invasion of Japan.
In 1981 in the United States, several men filed lawsuit in the case Rostker v. Goldberg, alleging that the Military Selective Service Act violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment by requiring that men only register with the Selective Service System (SSS). The Supreme Court eventually upheld the Act, stating that "the argument for registering women was based on considerations of equity, but Congress was entitled, in the exercise of its constitutional powers, to focus on the question of military need, rather than 'equity.'"
On October 1, 1999 in the Taiwan Area, the Judicial Yuan of the Republic of China in its Interpretation 490 considered that the physical differences between males and females and the derived role differentiation in their respective social functions and lives would not make drafting males only violating the Constitution of the Republic of China. Though women are conscripted in Taiwan, transsexual persons are exempt.
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. For example, Sweden allows conscientious objectors to choose a service in the "weapons-free" branch, such as an airport fireman, nurse or telecommunications technician. Some may also refuse such service as they feel that they still are a part of the military complex. The reasons for refusing to serve are varied. Some conscientious objectors are so for religious reasons — notably, the members of the historic peace churches are pacifist by doctrine, and Jehovah's Witnesses, while not strictly speaking pacifists, refuse to participate in the armed services on the grounds that they believe Christians should be neutral in worldly conflicts.
Historically, there has been resistance to conscription in almost every country and situation where it has been imposed. The New York Draft Riots (July 11 to July 16, 1863; known at the time as Draft Week), were violent disturbances in New York City that were the culmination of discontent with new laws passed by Congress to draft men to fight in the ongoing American Civil War. The Central Asian Revolt started in the summer of 1916, when the Russian Empire government ended its exemption of Muslims from military service.
In the USA and some other countries, the Vietnam War saw new levels of opposition to conscription and the Selective Service System. 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. In the USA since 1980, for example, the draft resistance movement has focused on mandatory draft registration. Others resist at the point of induction, when they are ordered to put on a uniform, when they are ordered to carry or use a weapon, or when they are ordered into combat.
In the United States, especially during the Vietnam Era, some used political connections to ensure that they were placed well away from any potential harm, serving in what was termed a Champagne unit. Many would avoid military service altogether through college deferments, by becoming fathers, or serving in various exempt jobs (teaching was one possibility). Others used educational exemptions, became conscientious objectors or pretended to be conscientious objectors, although they might then be drafted for non-combat work, such as serving as a combat medic. It was also possible they could be asked to do similar civilian work, such as being a hospital orderly.
It was, in fact, quite easy for those with some knowledge of the system to avoid being drafted. A simple route, widely publicized, was to get a medical rejection. While a person could claim to have symptoms (or feign homosexuality) if enough physicians sent letters that a person had a problem, he might well be rejected. It often wasn't worth the Army's time to dispute this claim. Such an approach worked best in a larger city where there was no stigma to not serving, and the potential draftee was not known to those reviewing him.
For others, the most common method of avoiding the draft was to cross the border into another country. People who have been "called up" for military service and who attempted to avoid it in some way were known as "draft-dodgers". Particularly during the Vietnam War, US draft-dodgers usually made their way to Canada, Mexico or Sweden.
Many people looked upon draft-dodgers with scorn as being "cowards", but some supported them in their efforts. In the late years of the Vietnam War, objections against it and support for draft-dodgers was much more outspoken, because of the casualties suffered by American troops, and the actual cause and purpose of the war being heavily questioned.
Toward the end of the US draft, an attempt was made to make the system somewhat fairer by turning it into a lottery, with each of the year's calendar dates randomly assigned a number. Men born on lower numbered dates were called up for review. For the reasons given above, this did not make the system any fairer, and the entire system ended in 1973. Today, American men 18-25 are required to register with the government, but there has not been a callup since the Vietnam Era.
There are those who are immune to the draft in certain countries; these people include anyone who works for the government (teachers, police officers, lawmakers, etc), people who work for government contractors, and those who work in jobs essential to the operation of the country (waste management, power plants, etc). In the United Kingdom this is known as a reserved occupation which is deemed necessary to the survival of the nation.
In Israel, the Muslim and Christian Arab minority are exempt from mandatory service, as are permanent residents such as the Druze of the Golan Heights. Ultra-Orthodox Jews may apply for a deferment of draft to study in Yeshiva, but once they are finished studying, they are required to do national or army service. Druze and Circassian Israeli citizens are liable, by agreement with their community leaders. Members of the exempted groups can still volunteer, but very few do, except for the Bedouin where a relatively large number have tended to volunteer.
|Country||Land area (km2) ||GDP nominal (US$M)||Per capita
|Angola||1,246,700||$28,610||$2,332.92||12,263,596||republic; multiparty presidential regime||Yes|
|Argentina||2,736,690||$210,000||$5,210.67||40,301,927||republic||Legal, not practiced|
|Australia||7,617,930||$644,700||$31,550.09||20,434,176||federal parliamentary democracy||No (abolished by parliament in 1972)|
|Bahamas||10,070||$6,586,||$21,547.17||307,451||constitutional parliamentary democracy||No|
|Belgium||30,528||$316,200||$31,400||10,584,534||federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy||No (conscription suspended since 1994)|
|Belize||22,806||$1,274||$4,327.67||301,270||parliamentary democracy||Military service is voluntary|
|Bhutan||47,000||$1,308||$561.89||682,321||in transition to constitutional monarchy; special treaty relationship with India||Yes (selective)|
|Bolivia||1,084,390||$13,190||$1,446.41||9,247,816||republic||Yes (when annual number of volunteers falls short of goal)|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||51,197||$14,780||$3,246.78||4,590,310||emerging federal democratic republic||Yes|
|Bulgaria||110,550||$39,610||$5,409.09||7,262,675||parliamentary democracy||No (abolished by law on January 1, 2008)|
|China, People's Republic of||9,326,410||$3,251,000||$2,459.43||1,330,044,544||Communist state||Yes (selective) (Legalized by law, but have not yet been practiced)|
|Croatia||56,414||$51,360||$11,430.32||4,491,543||presidential/parliamentary democracy||No (abolished by law in 2008)|
|Cuba||110,860||$45,580||$4,000.34||11,423,952||Communist state||Yes (both sexes)|
|El Salvador||20,720||$20,370||$2,931.75||7,066,403||republic||Legal, not practiced|
|Finland||304,473||$245,000||$46,769.47||5,244,749||republic||Yes (Alternative service available)|
|France||640,053||$2,560,000||$35,240.62||61,037,510||republic||No (suspended in 2001)|
|Germany||349,223||$3,322,000||$40,315.05||82,369,552||federal republic||Yes (Alternative service available)|
|Grenada||344||$590||$6,557.67||90,343||parliamentary democracy||No (no military service)|
|Hungary||92,340||$138,400||$13,901.01||9,930,915||parliamentary democracy||No (Peacetime conscription abolished in 2004)|
|Jamaica||10,831||$11,210||$4,032.18||2,804,332||constitutional parliamentary democracy||No|
|Japan||374,744||$4,384,000||$34,402.26||127,288,416||constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government||No|
|Korea, North||120,410||$40,000||$1,800||23,479,088||Communist state one-man dictatorship||Yes|
|Lebanon||10,230||$24,640||$6,276.90||3,971,941||republic||No (abolished in 2007)|
|Libya||1,759,540||$57,060||$9,451.85||6,173,579||jamahiriya (a state of the masses) in theory, governed by the populace through local councils; in practice, an authoritarian state||Yes|
|Lithuania||65,300||$38,350||$10,725.96||3,565,205||parliamentary democracy||No (Suspended on September 15, 2008)|
|Macedonia, Republic of||24,856||$7,497||$3,646.55||2,061,315||parliamentary democracy||No (abolished in 2006)|
|Malaysia||328,550||$186,500||$7,513.71||25,274,132||constitutional elective monarchy||No|
|Netherlands||33,883||$768,700||$46,389.35||16,645,313||constitutional monarchy||Legal, suspended since 1997 |
|New Zealand||268,021||$128,100||$31,124.18||4,173,460||parliamentary democracy||No|
|Philippines||298,170||$144,100||$2,582.17||96,061,680||republic||Legal. Practiced selectively and only rarely|
|Romania||230,340||$166,000||$7,451.95||22,246,862||republic||No (ended in 2007)|
|Russia||16,995,800||$1,290,000||$9,124.49||140,702,096||federation||Yes (Alternative service available)|
|Rwanda||24,948||$3,320||$335.10||10,186,063||republic; presidential, multiparty system||No|
|Syria||184,050||$37,760||$1,954.98||19,747,586||republic under an authoritarian military-dominated regime||Yes|
|Switzerland||39,770||$423,900||$56,111.06||7,581,520||formally a confederation but similar in structure to a federal republic||Yes|
(Republic of China)
|32,260||$383,300||$16,768.11||22,920,946||multiparty democracy||Yes (alternative service available)
An all-volunteer force is planned by the end of 2014, but conscription will remain in practice thereafter.
|Trinidad and Tobago||5,128||$20,700||$19,590.99||1,047,366||parliamentary democracy||No|
|Turkey||770,760||$663,400||$9,322.83||71,892,808||republican parliamentary democracy||Yes|
|United Kingdom||241,590||$2,773,000,||$45,626.38||60,943,912||constitutional monarchy||No (except Bermuda Regiment )|
|United States||9,161,923||$13,840,000||$45,958.70||303,824,640||Constitution-based federal republic||No Registration remains required.|
Traditionally conscription has been limited to the male population, as males have been warriors. Women and handicapped males have been exempted from conscription. Many societies have traditionally considered military service as a test of manhood and a rite of passage from boyhood into manhood. Pacifist feminists oppose conscription of women as well as men, arguing that it would have women become their own enemy by taking part in a patriarchal oppressive construct of the military. Israel is one country that does draft women, with exceptions for marriage and pregnancy reasons.
It can be argued that in a cost-to-benefit ratio, conscription during peace time is not worthwhile. Months or years of service amongst the most fit and capable subtracts from the productivity of the economy; add to this the cost of training them, and in some countries paying them. Compared to these extensive costs, some would argue there is very little benefit; if there ever was a war then conscription and basic training could be completed quickly, and in any case there is little threat of a war in most countries with conscription. In the United States, every male resident must register with the Selective Service System on his 18th birthday, so he is available for a draft.
The cost of conscription can be related to the parable of the broken window. Military service can be related to any other work, such as that of policemen. The costs of work do not disappear anywhere even if no salary is paid. The work effort of the conscripts is effectively wasted; unwilling work force is extremely inefficient and the conscripts also lose their the costs of all-volunteer paid force. The impact is especially severe in wartime, when civilian professionals are forced to fight as amateur soldiers. Not only is the work effort of the conscripts wasted and productivity is lost, but professionally-skilled conscripts are also difficult to replace in the civilian work force. Every soldier conscripted in the army is taken away from his civilian work, and away from contributing to the economy which funds the military. This is not a problem in an agrarian or pre-industrialized state where the level of education is universally low, and where a worker is easily replaced by another. However, this proves extremely problematic in a post-industrial society where educational levels are high and where the work force is highly sophisticated and a replacement for a conscripted specialist is difficult to find. Even direr economic consequences result if the professional conscripted as an amateur soldier is killed or maimed for life; his work effort and productivity is irrevocably lost.
Jean Jacques Rousseau argued vehemently against professional armies, feeling it was the right and privilege of every citizen to participate to the defense of the whole society and a mark of moral decline to leave this business to professionals. He based this view on the development of the Roman republic, which came to an end at the same time as the Roman army changed from a conscript to professional force. Similarly, Aristotle linked the division of armed service among the populace intimately with the political order of the state. Niccolò Machiavelli argued strongly for conscription, seeing the professional armies as the cause of the failure of societal unity in Italy.
Some ideologies and cultures, and those based on collectivism or statism, such as Fascism, value the society and common good above the life of an individual. Those ideologies and world-views justify the state to force its members to protect itself and risk their lives for the common good. In states based on society-centered ideologies, world-views and religions, such as in all Communist countries, conscription is seen as the natural way of raising the army. Other proponents such as the late William James consider both mandatory military and national service as ways of instilling maturity in young adults.
In a very large war, (such as World War II) raising a large enough volunteer military would require dramatic increases in taxes or budget deficits. In such cases conscription can have lower negative impact than the impact of these higher taxes and possibly be more equitable (higher taxes would penalize those out of service much more than those in service).
It is estimated by the British military that in a professional military, one company deployed for active duty in peacekeeping corresponds to three inactive companies at home. Salaries for each are paid from the military budget. In contrast, volunteers from a trained reserve are in their civilian jobs when they are not deployed.