Current Events: Military Service – Volunteer or Conscription?

Who defends the country when there’s a threat? Should nations have standing armies at the ready or should they wait and recruit people upon attack? Should military service be voluntary or compulsory? Should women be drafted as societies seek gender equality? 

These considerations are weighed every time there is a new danger. Many countries’ policies on conscription change in times of emergency when volunteers aren’t enough to meet the demand for soldiers. Democratic countries have to balance individual freedom with the need for national security in the decision to mandate military service. 

At present, Russia’s attack on Ukraine has European countries reviving conscription or at least reviving the conversation of a draft. In Israel, the need for soldiers recently prompted members of Parliament to consider drafting a previously exempt religious sect. And in Myanmar, conscription is a last ditch attempt to put down anti government uprisings. 

In the United States, the Constitution provides Congress the power to draft an army in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 12, “[The Congress shall have Power . . . ] To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; . . .”  The United States hasn’t drafted soldiers since the Vietnam War, but recruitment numbers are down. In order for the military to truly represent the country, should a more representative portion of the population be serving? As technology changes warfare, could physical requirements for soldiers change as well? 

This collection of sources examine all these issues and more as our modern world seeks to adapt military service to changing circumstances. 


Essential Questions:

  • Is military service a duty or a job?
  • How does conscription vary country to country?
  • To what extent do governments have the right to require military service?
  • How has the requirement of military service changed throughout US History?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of a volunteer military?




Background Resources:

Recent Articles:

Recent Editorials:

Lesson Plans:

Resources for Younger Students: