At the age of 17, I had no concept of conscientious objection, conscription, militarism, or any of the other big issues related to making war. Until I enlisted in the “All Volunteer Force” of the US Army, military service wasn’t in the forefront of my consciousness. It’s refreshing to read the opinion of 17 year old, Fred Hidvegi, who knows and has considered these concepts because of the compulsory draft in the Israeli Defense Forces.
The US insidiously sells militarism to our kids from a very young age. Recruiters are playing interactive online games/e-sports with your kids right now. They are also setting up tables in a local high school career fairs today to hand out Marine Corps branded lanyards to prospective recruits for knocking out a round of pushups. If you have forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager, a lanyard or ARMY t-shirt is instant social capital in high school, at least for the day. For a recruiter it’s an opportunity to follow up with a potential recruit—name, age, and contact information—in exchange for some easy schwag.
Even as recruiters begin to personally experience stop-loss (being retained past their contract dates of service), know that the DoD is desperate right now and sending recruiters to set up at unexpected venues where you may have never expected to see them. I saw an Army recruiting tent with BBQ near the sand courts at the beach recently. We need to talk openly and seriously with prospective recruits—young people—about conscientious objections, conscription, selective service, militarism, otherwise we leave a huge information gap and an even larger power vacuum that recruiters are ready to fill.
Hidvegi’s thoughtful opinion piece is powerful because of the considered attention of a young person that they will be compelled to served at 18 years of age despite their opposition to military participation. If the looming reality of compulsory service in the Army had been part of my childhood, perhaps I would have had a more informed opinion as well. Some believe that a similiarly compulsory draft for all US youth would level the playing field, doing away with registration for males only in the current selective service system–that making it worse for the majority of people somehow makes it more “fair”. Hidvegi’s opinion reinforces that nothing could be further from the truth.