Germany plans to suspend the draft

Starting on March 1, 2011, the German military will “suspend” the general draft that has been in effect since 1957. After that date, only volunteers will be drafted into German military service – which essentially transforms the German military into a volunteer army.

This morning Der Spiegel reported that the general draft is only suspended and not completely abolished so that it can be re-instated easily in case of a military conflict. The Federal agency that oversees the conscientious objectors – or Zivis – will be transformed into a national service agency – a sort-of domestic PeaceCorps – that will offer 35,000 men and women every year the opportunity to serve the country in civilian jobs at  non-profits and charitable organizations.

Personally, I am sad to see the draft “suspended” – I would have liked to see it transformed into a draft for a general “national service corps” where the military is one of many options for young Germans to apply their talents to serve the greater good. The two years I worked for the German Red Cross as a conscientious objector were a pretty important time for me and had a lot to do with choices I made later on.

Transforming the German military into an all-volunteer force probably makes sense from an efficiency and efficacy perspective. A smaller, professional force will be better equipped to deal with modern military assignments. But this might also weaken the military’s connection with the general population and its democratic foundation. Yet, of course, a general draft is such a Cold-War relic. I just wish someone had had the wisdom to turn the draft into a proper, progressive tool, not just get rid of it – or suspend it … how half-assed is that!?. But that’s certainly asking too much from the current, half-assed gang of comedians in Berlin.

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