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Archive for Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Military training

September 25, 2001

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Universal military training programs might be among the projects to consider as our shocked society seeks to meet the future with confidence.

The United States faces a number of major changes in its modus operandi following the terrorism in New York and Washington. One of the early calls regarding ways to meet an especially challenging future is for reinstatement of the military draft. The concept is worth serious discussion and consideration.

For some years, the United States has been operating with all-volunteer armed forces and more often than not that plan has served the purpose. Interestingly, in the aftermath of the World Trade Center and Pentagon tragedies, recruiters for all the services report a great interest in sign-ups, much as there was after the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941.

The military draft, necessary during World War II, was discontinued in favor of a volunteer program following the Vietnam War. However, that might not be as valuable to the nation in the difficult times to come as a sound plan for universal military training for every mentally and physically able citizen, male and female, upon reaching the age of 18.

We find in our society now so many individuals who have never had first-hand contact with armed service. Universal military training, could do much to draw millions of young people into the fabric of America and what it stands for. Young men and women could benefit handsomely from a mandatory year of service followed by annual reserve duty, say for five more years. It would give many "I don't care" and "me first" people a different perspective on the United States and a greater appreciation of their own capabilities. Alternative duties could be offered to people whose moral or religious beliefs preclude military service.

Chances are we would find our young people more devoted to the nation and its principles than we might cursorily think.

Nations such as Switzerland and Sweden are among those with universal training plans. Young people enter active service as soon after high school graduation as is reasonable and then are engaged in reserve units with annual update training for a given period of years. Such a program is a matter of course with the Swiss and the Swedes.

The first criticism will be that America will become a militaristic society with trained killers at every turn. Has that happened in Switzerland and Sweden? Many historians still marvel how in World War II, Americans with so little military background, kids from farms, big and small towns and many walks of life, were able to overwhelm military factories such as Germany and Japan nations which had been steeling their people for years for killing and dominance.

But the fact is, we were caught flat-footed in December 1941 and it took a painfully long period for us to measure up to the stern tests just as it may do in our declared war on terrorists even though we can do it.

Universal military training could give us a strength and personnel reserve we do not now have, and could serve the nation and its citizens well with the alertness and preparedness we will need for the crucial battle now on our doorstep.

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