Leaner and Meaner
But look again. There is an important reason military conscription is written into the German Constitution and why Germany has remained one of the last countries on Earth to practice compulsory military service.
In the first decade after World War
Instituted in 1956, a year after West Germany entered
“Drafting young men instead of having professional soldiers was a guarantee for a democratic army,” stated Rainer Arnold, the ranking member on the Defense Committee of the German parliament (ibid.).
Considered in the context of German history, the move to abolish the draft is revealing. The elimination of military conscription will mark the elimination of one of the bulwarks built into the German Constitution to prevent the Bundeswehr from becoming a professional army!
As journalist Christian Thiel stated on German television: “This is not a reform, but in reality a revolution, planned by the defense minister” (August 23; our translation).
Stratfor wrote that Guttenberg’s proposed reforms “could greatly increase the Bundeswehr’s deployability—its capacity to deploy and sustain troops in a foreign theater … and begin to close the gap between Germany and other European militaries …” (August 30). According to Thiel, Guttenberg is overhauling the German military because he wants “to make the homeland defense an army of intervention.”
For those prepared to take more than a fleeting glance at Germany’s military transformation, the ambitions of Germany’s defense minister are obvious. When it comes to military reform, and specifically suspending conscription, Guttenberg is simply trimming the fat.
The fact is, conscription is holding the military back. “Analysts say that the conscription system is both expensive and of little use for a modern army that must be able to deploy abroad quickly” (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, August 23).
Conscripts serve for only six months, reduced from nine months in July. This means that by the time the army trains them, they move on. Thus, the army finds all kinds of excuses to reduce the number of conscripts it gets burdened with. It has been raising the standards of its medical exams higher and higher as a way to reduce the number of conscripts.
Under Guttenberg’s plan, the government’s power to draft conscripts would still be enshrined in its Basic Law (a sort of constitution), so the government could rapidly expand the army in the future if necessary. In the meantime, Germany would have “voluntary conscripts.” Men and women could sign up for 12 to 23 months of voluntary service in the army, which would then be able to recruit professional soldiers from their ranks.
Look closely, and it’s obvious that Guttenberg’s ultimate goal is to forge the German military into a trimmer, more efficient—and more powerful—fighting machine!