International tensions empower politicians seeking to force the unwilling into government service.
Europe’s first war between more-or-less peer powers in over 70 years upsets a lot of assumptions. Not least of them is the belief, or maybe just hope, that the brief and pleasant interlude of relative peace among powerful nations was here to stay. In broad terms, as I’ve written elsewhere, much of the world is back on a war footing, expanding military budgets and cementing defensive alliances. But renewed fears also offer governments that fear international dangers or just want an excuse to regiment their societies an opportunity to revive the unfortunate and previously fading practice of conscription. “The Russian attempt to subjugate Ukraine has catapulted the world back a good 30 to 40 years to the Cold War era when highly armed military blocs faced off against each other in the middle of Europe,” Deutsche Welle’s Bernd Riegert wrote in March. “Germany and other states could find themselves forced to reintroduce conscription if they want to train enough personnel and reservists to build up an effective deterrent.” Wolfgang Hellmich, a lawmaker and member of the defense committee from Germany’s ruling Social Democratic Party called for just that, as did Johann Wadephul, deputy leader of the opposition Christian Democratic Union in the German parliament. This would be a dramatic reversal for the country, which dumped the draft just over a decade ago in favor of a smaller, professional force recruited from volunteers.