Stancliff’s Spiel- Mandatory national service is justifiable in a modern age


In today’s modern era, the idea of mandatory national service is a controversial one. Not many Americans are open to the idea of anything being mandated by the government, and generally I would agree with the majority. Mandatory national service, however, is not an idea to throw away entirely, given that certain precautions are taken and it is properly justified. I contest that a modified system of national service can and should be applied to the general population, as it has the potential to be beneficial to our country as a whole.

In a worldwide sense, we possess a plethora of rights. Some are provided simply because we are human beings, such as the rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. These natural rights are inalienable and inviolable, and are intrinsic in our nature. Some rights, however, are linked to a particular status, such as American citizens possess some rights that noncitizens do not.

Just because natural rights are given does not mean citizenship rights are. We may be called to perform specified acts to have the privilege of enjoying citizenship rights, and we may act in ways that result in the forfeiture of those rights, like criminals who are unable to vote. Citizenship, then, is a package of rights and responsibilities, decided upon by the government.

In past years, many new rights have been constructed and old rights have been modified. Despite these mostly progressive changes, we have neglected the opposite side of these rights. With rights comes responsibilities, and American citizens have largely ignored this truth of nature.

In the past, such as during the Vietnam War, military service was considered a moral responsibility to one’s nation. However, we have since drifted away from a mandatory draft system, as volunteerism has proven to be exponentially better than conscription. However, this progress has a major flaw in it despite its militaristic advantages. Sadly, for most of the general population, defending our country is something we watch on television. Little in the lives of young Americans helps them understand that citizenship is more than a list of rights to which they are entitled.

Suppose that upon reaching the age of 18, excluding certain mental, physical, domestic, or economic situations, every American was offered a choice between community service and military service, a choice which would dictate the service they would perform for two years unless opting for more. Those performing community service would receive stipends to compensate their work, as members of AmeriCorps do today, and those engaging in military service would receive many benefits that current volunteers do.

The benefits of this system are plentiful. It maintains a quasi-volunteer army, since members can elect to be there. Additionally, it preserves a volunteer force that can be utilized to assist in worse off areas of the nation, in addition to helping in extreme circumstances, such as natural disasters. The main positive is that the option of doing little to nothing, an option chosen by some Americans, will be removed from the system.

Those called to serve would spend time helping their country in their communities, in hard-hit areas far from home, or overseas. They would meet people of other social class or ethnic groups, people unlike themselves who possess different aspirations. Americans would begin to reshape their conceptions of how to spend their lives, opting for military, nonprofit, or other service careers. Most would kindle strong friendships and all would have formative experiences they would never forget.

Service to our nation should be mandatory in a modern America, as we are in dire need of domestic assistance. This new system would enable a system of Americans helping Americans, which has been proven to be beneficial. A study done by the Points of Light Institute found that, “Volunteering helps build a more cohesive, safer, stronger community… [and] also have positive effects on volunteers as individuals.”

I believe the United States needs a bonding agent to pull it back together. With political disconnect and societal conflict rampant in America, this is a strong way we could reignite the smoldering embers of America and rekindle our society to its former global position.

Hayes Stancliff is a News Editor for The Patriot and

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