Courtesy Reuters

Volunteer Armed Forces and Military Purpose

The NATO nations are phasing out of existence the mass conscript armed force with vast mobilization reserves. This has profound and subtle implications for international relations and also for domestic civil- military relations. In the United States, one campaign promise that President Nixon sought to implement after he took office was to halt the draft as soon as possible and create an all-volunteer force. Paradoxically, the prolongation of hostilities in Vietnam served only to speed the end of conscription and develop congressional support for his campaign promise. Terminating conscription was one issue on which antiwar Congressmen and pressure groups could unite with the Nixon administration. The result was that Selective Service legislation will not extend beyond July 1, 1973, and that military officials plan to reach the objective of a "zero draft" call by January 1, 1973, at the latest.

The end of the draft in the United States will also push NATO nations toward all-volunteer systems or toward new forms of militia systems. Great Britain introduced an all-volunteer system in 1960, and the 1970s will certainly see further overall reductions in its military manpower because of economic pressure and the sheer difficulties of recruitment. In the last three years NATO countries have reduced the length of conscript service and are certain to examine more radical measures closely after the American end of the draft. The Netherlands, with its powerful commitment to NATO principles and strategy, is openly debating and planning for the conditions under which it will institute an all-volunteer system. In Germany Helmut Schmidt, Socialist Minister of Defense, has advocated an all-volunteer cadre augmented by a short-term six-month militia. In Italy, and to a lesser extent in France, the size and type of manpower systems are related not only to international relations but to internal security, so that the debate on the shift toward a volunteer force has been retarded but is being raised with greater frequency.

Can an all-volunteer armed force produce the number and quality of military personnel required for an effective

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