Mandatory military service is also known as ‘conscription” refers to the people enlistment into the armed forces by force according to a particular nation’s policy (Duindam 1999). This policy has been in placed during the 27th century BCE Egyptian era but later, improved to universal conscription in the 18th and 19th century during the French revolution. In this period of globalization, the world’s becoming more vulnerable to coercion, such as unconventional and invisible threats that can destabilize a nation rather than traditional security challenges. As a result, many countries adopt this conscription policy in order to safeguard peace, thus ensuring security and stability within a country. Moreover, prior research has revealed that more than 26 countries worldwide have been implementing this strategy (Omond 2017). Normally, a country or state that faces a high risk of security threat tends to adopt the device on mandatory military service in order to boost their nation’s security.
Still, embracing mandatory military service does not necessarily have an impact on a nation’s strength. There are many ways of measuring country strength; obviously, DIME (Diplomatic, Information, Military, and Economic) model commonly used to help influence a national grand strategy ( Farlin 2014) (Mills 2006). In comparison, the hierarchy of power justifies the vital element of economic power in influencing political power as an instrument of national power with support from media and social service power (Jeff Smith 2012). A country that has accomplished all level of hierarchy power is given the status called “Superpower” which a term is given to a strong nation or states (Gary 2015). Despite having a few similarities of elements such as economic or financial and information or media seems to be relevant and rational instruments in proving a strong nation.
This essay argues that mandatory military service will not strengthen a country. Firstly, it will rebut the strength of a country by means of elaborating economic or financial and information or media elements identified by both theories mentioned. Furthermore, it will illustrate the means and ends of these elements with support from case studies of the United States of America, the Republic of China and France. In the end, by assessing findings it will summarise and unveils that mandatory military service by means of military power will not create nation strength.
Financial and Economic Power
Firstly, economic power can easily be recognized with a nation that has a high gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. There is also a correlation of high GDP per capita with an increase in defence budget so as to provide defence security toward the nation economic of interests (Gary 2015). Countries that have vast territories will require an extensive fighting power capability to safeguard their sovereignty. As such, the defence budget is crucial for sustaining military effectiveness to provide protection and security of national interests such as protection of Oil and Gas sector, securing shipping lanes and fishing sectors within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) boundaries. For instance, the French Ministry Armed Forces has allocated defence budget 2019 an increase of up to 5% that is €1.7 billion to €35.9 billion just to accommodate the need for mandatory military service programme (Tran 2018). Even though mandatory military service draft will create an indirect financial burden to accommodate the cost of training, manning and equipping the military force only brings a minimal impact to a national economy.
Another example is France who has scrapped mandatory military service in 1996, yet is ranked 6th most powerful country (Baker 2018). Therefore, it can be seen that the essential need for mass military forces from conscription draft is no longer applicable with the formation of international allies such as European Union (EU), Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and United Nation (UN). Nevertheless, the French government has recently reintroduced the national service plans due to the concern of unconventional threats, which is the sudden rise in terrorist attacks and security issues of high influx refugees fleeing from Syria conflict (Williamson 2018) (Mohdin 2018).
In another case, the United States (US) and China have been in diplomatic tensions and further lock into trade dispute, which is known as economic war. Despite the absence of the conscription draft, yet these superpowers still have the ability to influence global trade by means of economic sanctions and tariff on import and export materials (Baker 2018). Only just, President Donald Trump has slapped tariffs $267 billion worth on Chinese imports such as steel and washing machines, while Beijing retaliates with imposing tariff worth $110 billion on US products like chemicals, coal, medical equipment, and soybeans (BBC 2019). Nonetheless, both US and China are highly dependent on each other’s demand and supply as trading partners will have a less negative impact, but their actions will most likely cause negative consequence globally especially third world countries and developing nations (S. Nye 2011). The effect will be more catastrophic for countries such as Iran and North Korea who already suffered from economic sanctions or embargo from the US and the UN. Moreover, North Korea despite abstaining military might be able to suffer from economic sanctions because of banning 90% of North Korea key exports in order to stop their ambition for Nuclear Weapon and Missile Program (Sang-Hun 2018).
Information or Media power
Secondly, media power plays a critical instrument in acquiring, gathering, processing and disseminating raw data in providing current, relevant and accurate information to the public or international viewers. On the other hand, media power can be related similarly to military context as Command, Control, Communications and Computer Intelligence (C4I) as means of providing a common operating picture from every domain in order to raise the situational awareness ( Farlin 2014). A military which has an equipped advanced networking and integration system will be able to project force at precise time and space. Unfortunately, the information from C4I is only relevant military perspective as part of Commander’s Critical Information that will only deliver an impact for the armed forces (Giegerich, Childs and Hackett 2018). Then again, information can be manipulated, deceitful and persuasive influence the attitude, thinking and behavior of society through media propaganda. An illustration is in September 1914 during the First World War, the British government has established the Bureau of War Propaganda (Wellington House) under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Among the bureau, the main function was to publish news that depicts the imaginary crimes that were carried out by the German army in order to gain the support of the people (Majid, Roya 1991) (News 2018). Furthermore, the US and Britain have the capability to influence the audience globally using their media broadcasting such as CNN, BBC and New York Times with current news. Moreover, the US also has been active in inserting media propaganda from numerous tv channels stories, movies and documentaries such as US Hollywood movies HBO, discovery channel and even cartoon network. This tactic is commonly known as “hearts and minds”.
Significantly, the media has the power to influence modern society in the aspect of a social way of life, decision making and perception. Most national press or publication companies are government control despite partaking freedom of speech or rights. Mass media industries are obliged to construct their information needs based on the government agenda in accordance with the national policy that is the information act ( Prat 2018) (News 2018). The level of power of media has can be measured in many ways namely; the number of televising network subscription, television viewers, radio listener and a number of copies sold for newspapers, books, and magazines. Having said that, in this modern digitalize era, digital media information can be accessed anytime and anywhere using social media retrieved from fingertips. The countries worldwide can now gain information by means of information technology (IT) for online access to blogs or websites and joining popular social media networks, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, telegram, twitter, and Instagram. Furthermore, revolutionize IT with cutting edge technology has enabled the integration and connectivity of various media platforms from smartphones to computer tablets, which enable the speedy spread of information or media globally. To put it another way, a country that possessed a popular social media network has the power to manipulate information, which can influence worldwide users to meet their national interest.
In spite of social media’s advantage of fast information, there are also vulnerabilities of media that are the threat of fake news and viral hoaxes which may be misleading the public. Moreover, those with an extensive media network need to be extra vigilant to be equipped with protection software in order to prevent any cyber-attack that is malware. Cyber-attack or cyber warfare is the action or attempt of infiltrating into an information communication structure with the intention of stealing data, espionage, and a conflicting hoax ( Prat 2018). For instance, according to reports from Centre of Strategic and International Studies, in 2018, China has the recorded of more than 100 incidents attempts using cyber-attack focusing on government agencies, defence, financial institutions, and industrial companies. Recently, Chinese hackers were caught to have to conduct cyber spy on multiple companies within 12 countries with the intention of obtaining trade secrets ( Schwartz 2019). Based on the above facts, it can be said that information and media power provide an impact globally regardless that particular country does not have conscription. In today digital age where wars are fought in the digital space prove to become a great threat to national stability. Information or media power can either be a misuse to disrupting a national economy by hacking into bank accounts systems to stealing funds or infiltration into defence security network to sabotage a country defence command and control thus making that country vulnerable to attack. On the contrary, even though imposing compulsory mandatory military service within a military, a country still cannot protect itself from these online threats unless they enhance their cybersecurity firewall protection systems.
The evolution of conventional threats, the rise of transnational organized crimes, civil unrest and widespread terrorism has shifted the nation’s measures to enhance military workforce and capabilities. Several countries such as France, Lithuania, and Sweden have reinstated their mandatory military service to maximize their fighting force as part of deterrence against these complex threats (Mohdin 2018) ( L. Quackenbush and C. Zagare 2016). Even countries like North Korea and the State of Israel still maintain the draft as preparation towards conventional threats of war or conflicts with neighboring countries. Still, mass armed forces from mandatory military service are no longer provide necessary since military force can be boost by equipping their forces with highly powerful technology weapons and capability as a force multiplier. Even nowadays most nations preferred to strengthen their diplomatic ties with regional countries that share their common interest in order to gain mutual support and deter any direct confrontation of war. Nonetheless, the elements of power still enable a country to technically undermine another country by means of soft power. Having said that, most of the case study countries that apply these soft powers behavior as per mentioned above did not even practice conscription and can still become a superpower. Hence, it is proven that financial or economic power and information or media power are elements that constitute a strong nation thus showing that mandatory military service on its own does not necessarily strengthen a country.
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