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National Service: Should it be Reintroduced?

National service is becoming highly promoted and campaigned in Britain especially by the Tories. It is heightened after the sister of murdered teenager Ben Kinsella called for the reintroduction of national service as a solution for knife crime. Many analysts saw this as an opportunity not only for British defence but also for the development of teenage boys. However, many critics have fears and doubts whether there is really a need for the reintroduction. Citizen Service: Disciplines and Develops Personality David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, proposed in 2007 a version of national service called “citizen service”.

It is open to 16-year-olds,involves charity work and physical training, and voluntary unlike the prime national service. Initially, his proposed programme aimed on helping the teenagers develop their personality, such as deciding whether to pursue higher education or work eventually, and encourage young people to be part of a strong British society. 1 Cameron’ radical scheme targets 16-year-olds from all respects, whether black or white, rich or poor in a six week summer training of triathlon and military challenge. 2 He estimated a 650,000 teenagers including school leavers despite it is not compulsory.

3 Several personalities have expressed their support to the new scheme such as Andre Marr, a long-time BBC political editor and who was once a member of the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. Marr is known for criticizing the Tories especially during the 1950s however he seemed to have a change in mind after expressing support to the national service which has been reintroduced by Cameron, a Tory. Marr argued that national services have considerable benefits not only for the British defence but also in lowering the crime rates.

In two years of compulsory military training, many young men, including those potential criminals, are removed of the streets hence reducing crime incidences in Britain. He also added that young men are taught of discipline and obedience and its implementation must not be a matter of political inclination. 4 Another political persona supports the reintroduction of the controversial national service, although in another scheme. A former municipal chief and head of the Government’s Commission on Integration and Cohesion, Darra Singh, suggested another version but focusing on community service.

She said it should be implemented in order to improve the multi-cultural relationship among different ethnicities and also to embark a sense of civic pride among youths. 4 Both Marra and Singh agree that the young people of Britain nowadays are knowledgeable about their rights but not on their responsibilities, particularly civil duties. Most of the young men and women lack the sense patriotism and self-sacrifice for the country. They are more driven by alcohol, drugs, sex and crime. Upon breaking the law, they are held innocence since many social workers and courts plead that they are victims of the harsh society.

Teens are getting more aggressive especially those from broken families and their crimes are justified. By implementing the long-time campaigned national service, which also sounds authoritarian, they will learn obedience—a value that many teens lack these days. Ben Kinsella Murder: Sparks Reintroduction of National Service Over the past years of the 21st century, numerous campaigns have been made by political leaders and analysts in their speeches and interviews in newspapers; but one story captured the attention of many and provoked the reintroduction of the national service more.

In July 2008, Brooke Kinsella—the sister of the murdered Ben Kinsella called for the reintroduction of the national service. Ben Kinsella was a victim of knife murder after he was stabbed 11 times in the street. 5 Knife murder has been a trendy crime in the streets and the number of cases reported are piling up; Kinsella was the seventeenth casualty by the second quarter of 2008. 6 Brooke, a former star in EastEnders, was heartbroken and pleaded for the reintroduction of national service to get rid of violent young criminals off of the streets.

Rather than committing crimes and killing people, she argued that they should spent time on military trainings and serve the country instead. 7 Kinsella’s call for the reintroduction is serious and she demanded for the Government to require violent and young offenders to be sent into the Army. She said, “I want politicians to consider bringing back the national service. If these evil people want to fight so badly, let them fight for the country. ” 7 National service has been very controversial for the past years and many have supported it, particularly political figures.

The case of Kinsella murder added a major twist especially since it was linked to a street crime, knife crime, committed by young men. It took seventeen casualties before one speak up and called for the national service as a solution and the reintroduction is getting bigger. History of National Service The national service began during World War II where many civilians are forced to be part of the Army due to the severing war. In 1939, the Military Training Act was implemented requiring all men aged 20 for a sex-month military training. However, as the war broke out and casualties pile up, more soldiers were needed.

The National Service Act was introduced requiring all males aged between 18 to 41 for military service during emergency. 8 The National Service extended almost twenty years until 1963 with 2. 5 million young men required to serve. Many were willing to serve but others were hesitant, afraid, and unsure of their future. The only excuse that would rescue these young men was failing the medical examination which many attempted to do. 9 Out of the millions that poured into different ranks, British army had to train each one into becoming an effective fighting force.

The army faced many difficulties in placing personnel on specific tasks especially those relating in equipments and technologies that required different roles such as rifleman, gunplayer, tank driver, and skilled tradesman. This became a problem for the Army since they must select the best man as much as possible, otherwise everything will be compromised. The beginning of the National Service Act was arduous from registration, selection of preferred position, medical examination, recruitment, interview, recommendation, and to the actual placement.

There were numerous factors to consider such as the short time for recruitment and training, effective selection, aptitude records, personal capacities, enlisting process, procedure orientation, relationship between commanding officers and subordinates, manpower use, and lots of concerns that either slowed down or disrupted many military operations. 8 The first Act was implemented during the World War II but another law was introduced after the war. It was called for the peacetime National Service which extended the conscription in response to the unstable international condition.

In 1948, another National Service Act was implemented enforced fixing the service into 18 months and four years in the reserves. The period of serviced was added with two more years after the Korean War broke out in 1950. The last records of National Servicemen were released in 1963. 10 Reintroduction of National Service and Impact to British Defence The first mandatory National Service was enforced in 1939 during the course of World War and two more were revised and implemented, adding more years to service.

The need for additional servicemen is undeniable in order to sustain British defence. However, the number of casualties, losses, and failed operations were unimaginable. After the release of last servicemen in the 1960s, the National Service as officially closes but as the 21st century enters, there are many calls for the reintroduction. Many political figures such as Cameron greatly campaigned it and even heightened by the Kinsella murder, adding more points for the reintroduction of the National Service.

Before suggesting for a reintroduction proposal, it is necessary to define ‘national service’ by type and age and gender requirements. In Britain, it refers to military service in one of the armed forces while in other countries there can be several forms such as public services in environment or charity projects. 11 The enforcement of national service is right of the state particularly on the times of need such as war. Permanent conscription will help maintain a stable army with ready and trained personnel during emergency and urgent needs.

On the other hand, national service is considered as an instrument for embarking a sense of patriotism for British citizens allowing an integration with other cultures. It is seen as an opportunity for developing as ‘cohesive society’, one that has low crime rates perhaps, and more committed people. By undergoing the training, young men or women will gain experience that will teach them self-discipline and obedience, skills, sense of responsibility, and direction. This is considered as their payback for the social benefits and services they render such as free education.

National service is also an opportunity for the young people and the society to address problems on environment or poverty. The National Service guarantees benefits but there are also possible downfalls and hindrances. Newman said in Britain, there are no enough justifications that would validate the need for military service such that Britain us under security threat now or in the near future. Besides, the Army has the capacity to fulfil its role. Additional trainings for conscripts require time, money, and effort. 12

On the side of the trainees, if they are forced to serve against their will it will result to resentment against the government and low performance. Hence, the overall performance of British defence might be affected. Also, patriotism must not be associated with military service only otherwise it will create a ‘extreme nationalism’ and ‘xenophobia. Newman also added that aside from abiding by the rules of society and paying taxes, other types of service shall be voluntary and not mandatory to increase commitment and dedication to the job.

British defence policy considers maintaining civilian services vital together with other concerns such as developing more powerful nuclear strategies, provide the best weapons, and improve conditions in the Army. 13 The Conservative Party has been one of the long-time supporter of conscriptions since the World War but many realized that a permanent National Service will only cause more opposition. 14 Should it be Reintroduced? The current demands for the reintroduction of the National Service relates to patriotism, personal development, and crime reduction in Britain.

Although there are several proposals of national service with different age requirements and forms, military training is still involved. Before organizing a national service, it must be analyzed carefully according to the need, operational needs, and the requirements. The first national service employed is necessary and is difficult to dispute. In the 1930s, World War II had been doing great damage and soldier casualties were increasing. Conscriptions or civilian military service is the best solution at the time that there was really a justified threat to security.

However, the reintroduction of national service these days has not directly spoken of ‘direct threats’. The reintroduction means set asiding funds and sending considerable time and effort for the training schemes. Although, the recent proposals for the service are based on personality development, crime reduction, and patriotism it will still consume too many resources. In terms of personality development and skill learning, young people might actually benefit from it. They will learn discipline, obedience, and focus. However, if they are forced to do so then their performance will be unpleasant.

Although Cameron’s offer is “voluntary” this might create tension on the part of those who choose not to join. In response to the increasing crime rates committed by young people and their involvement to drugs and sex, they may be removed off of the streets but if they are not willing to do teaching them will not be successful. Instead of creating training schemes and spending huge budget, why not spend it on other social services. As criticized by several analysts, patriotism shall not be based on military service alone but also in other ways.

National Service is justifiable means if there is a pending threat in the near future but if there is none then it must not be implemented. Additionally, the lives of 16-year-olds which are often described as lacking in direction and purpose cannot be solve by a training scheme that will be forced upon them. Instead of improving British defence, the fulfilment of its role might be affected. Bibliography BBC News, Cameron proposes citizen service, 2007, retrieved 2 May 2008, <http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/6980830. stm>.

D Brierley, ‘Enough is enough’ says sister of murdered teen, Evening Standard, retrieved 2 May 2009, <http://www. thisislondon. co. uk/standard/article-23517686-details/’Enough+is+enough’,+says+sister+of+murdered+teen/article. do>. D Prest, The Peacetime Conscripts: National Service in the Post-War Years, retrieved 2 May 2009, <http://www. bbc. co. uk/history/british/modern/peacetime_conscripts_02. shtml> Daily Express, Tories plan citizen service, 2007, retrieved 2 may 2009, <https://www. express. co. uk/posts/view/18414/Tories-plan-citizen-service->

H Strachan, British Army, Manpower, and Society Into the Twenty-First Century, Taylor and Francis, 2000, p. 16-18. Imperial War Memorial Collections, What Was National Service, retrieved 2 May 2008, <http://collections. iwm. org. uk/server/show/ConWebDoc. 1272> L Mckinstry, National Service Could Bring Back the Social Cohesion We Have Lost, Daily Express, retrieved 2 may 2009, <http://www. express. co. uk/posts/view/9495/National-Service-could-bring-back- the-socialcohesion-we-have-lost>. P Cheston, Argument that led to killing of Ben Kinsella, Evening Standard, retrieved 2 May 2009,<http://www.

thisislondon. co. uk/standard/article23682965details/Argument+that+led+to+killing+of+Ben+Kinsella/article. do>. S Nathan, and Hendry, S, Bring back National Service. If evil want to fight, let them fight for their country, The Sun, retrieved 2 May 2009, <http://www. thesun. co. uk/sol/homepage/news/justice/article1378670. ece>. T Sather, Pros and Cons, Routledge, 1999, p. 100 The Sun, Cameron’s call up for teenagers, 2007, retrieved 2 may 2009, <http://www. thesun. co. uk/sol/homepage/news/article262776. ece>

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