Military conscription has existed since the 18th to the 20th century. One of the reasons was motivated by regional and global military threats and expansion; for example, during Napoleon Bonaparte’s rule in France, this system was used as the “the nation in arms.” Similarly, in World War I and II and the Cold War era, this system is re-adopted for the military defense system purposes.
Many countries in the contemporary world have expelled this system; however, this old system is being re-adopted in Timor-Leste.
This concept’s argument is to revive this classical system, which is being debated by the civil society groups and the citizens?
This paper aims to provide some basic information to the readers about the history of compulsory military services and re-examine whether this system is still relevant to the Timor-Leste defense system?
Military conscription was a top dominant priority issue of the defense system for many countries in the world. It was one of the dominant realist concepts of balance of power in the world system until the mid-1990s. Moreover, the main reason to implement military conscription is to respond to the external threats in wartime; it is more noticeable when we glance back at the world system’s history in the era of World War-I and II and the Cold War. For instance, (1955–91) of the Warsaw Pact has proved that all its members used military conscription to maintain and increase their military power against other countries.
Similarly, in many countries, especially in Europe, American Regions and some Asian countries and other regions have also been used in their defense system. Furthermore, when we look at the historical experiences, the militarization era for national security and defense already existed even before the first world war. For example, this kind of military defense practice arose since the era of Napoleon Bonaparte in France in the 1870s, called “the nation in arms,” which overwhelmed European professional armies that often numbered only into the low tens of thousands. As a result, in 1800, France joined the military with an approximate number of around 2.6 million men. This historical evidence has proved the argument of some European leaders that the military conscription model can be used as a military power. For instance, France has successfully used it as their military strength.
The adoption of military conscription systems in Europe, for instance in Germany has used as a tangible power to maintain the aggression of the German military to defeat their enemy and expanded their military aggression to control other European countries. Germany has a long history of militarizing all the citizens to be ready in war through joining the military force, called Volkssturm (“People’s Storm”), and included children as young as 16 and men as old as 60. Some countries for instance in the UK, have imitated the same model to counter Germany’s Military aggression in 1939. The UK government imposed conscription on all males aged between 18 and 41 who had to register for military services.
Similarly, Asia region like Japan also has a tradition of the robust military system under Meiji’s culture, which has a long history of feudal Samurai system. For example, in 1873, the Meiji government-issued military compulsory system reflected from Samurai culture at the end of the 19th century. Japan expanded more quickly its status of the army power. Japan increased military power through its political influence to pursue its national military strength. Thus, one reason for military compulsory in Asia and Europe has started to respond to the security issue in both internal and external threats.
Moreover, the evolution of this model continued to arise after world war two and the cold war. In the first and second wars, Britain and the Soviet Union conscripted women to be involved in military services. Moreover, the history of war among the European and alliances countries has touched every country to increase its military capacity, particularly increasing human resources to maintain the status quo of power or militarization.
Declining of Military Conscription in the world system
Since the era of militarization between 18 and 19 centuries, some countries have dropped or reduced military conscriptions. It happened because of some negative reason; for instance, World War II (WWII) had a devastating effect globally, with at least 60 million individuals, mostly civilians, losing their lives. Another example in Europe, for instance, the geopolitical situation after the human catastrophe of the world, has come up with the argument to change the world militarize system, which happened after the cold war, for instance, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Belgium. In the USA, military compulsory was declined after the mass protest of USA involvement in the Vietnam War, which affected many young American people who died in that w
Although military conscription still existed in some countries in Europe, Asia, and other regions, some Asian countries, such as Thailand, North Korea, South Korea, Singapore, and Myanmar, still used military conscriptions. However, military services have shifted into a voluntary approach, and some countries have been decreasing the length of military services. Yet, this old concept of traditional realist ideas applied in their countries.
History has shown that the classical realist model of reviving military conscription has moved to regression in the 21 century. Because of some historical background of how military conscription reveals a negative consequence to the world system, it can also provoke military tensions among the neighboring countries in the world system. As Gwartney, (2009), Sheehan and Young, (2014) proved that the world had changed considerably since 1970 to 2010; it has generally become more open, more democratic, and more economically free along ma
In the contemporary era, military conscription has continuously been debated by international political scholars, activities, and international organizations including world citizens. The argument of pro and contra over military conscription is never ended however the historical evidence has shown that the military conscription has no longer been used as the best model to securitizing military defense, although some countries still applied this system.
Military Compulsory in Timor-Leste
The military services are regulated in law number 3/2007, it emphasizes in article 2 that “Military service is universal in the census stage and all Timorese citizens between the ages of 18 and 30 may be drafted into military service and are obliged to fulfill the ensuing military obligations”.
The military compulsory was first debated in 2013 by the former president of Timor-Leste, Taur Matan Ruak. The argument behind this idea is “ President of Republic wants to implement compulsory military service for the youth within the so-called ‘Cidadania Civica Patriota’ (CCP) program, which is aimed at increasing the sense of nationalism and patriotism, thus contributing to the defense of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
In the mids of the COVID-19 outbreak and the 9 state emergency, the government of Timor-Leste under prime minister Taur Matan Ruak, approve decree-law on military compulsory” The Decree-Law draft regarding the New Regulation of the Military Service Law, presented by the Minister of Defence, Filomeno da Paixão de Jesus, was approved.
The new regulation aims to reconcile the innovation introduced in the new F-FDTL Military Status, concerning the recruitment of troops in times of peace, adopting the mandatory military service system, to meet the needs of the FALINTIL-Defense Forces of Timor-Leste and the stated government programmatic purposes”
Military conscription and the civil rights
Many debates over military conscription have been arising. For example, UN Human Rights mention that” Conscientious objection to military service.” The right to conscientious objection to military service is based on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief. In its general comment No. 22 (1993), the Human Rights Committee stated that such a right could be derived from article 18, in as much as the obligation to use lethal force might seriously conflict with the freedom of conscience and the right to manifest one’s religion or belief”.
The right to conscientious objection to military service is considered a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion as articulated implicitly in article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And explicitly by the Human Rights Committee in its general comment No. 22 on article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Military conscription in the global perspective, especially from the historical background from the Era of Napoleon Bonaparte in 18 century and the 19 century (World War I and II and the Cold War), has shifted the military concept of conscription. The contemporary world politics with the classical realist approach has turned into a liberal direction. Military conscription is no longer used as the best model for securitizing the military system. However, the Timorese government in (VIII Governu Konstitusional) has revived this old fashion classical realist model to equip its citizens with a mandatory military system. Although the argument behind mandatory military services derived from the idea of civil education’s motivation (Cidadania Civica Patriota), there is still no visible reason for implementing the system..
he question is, does educating people through military services is the last option and the best model to be applied in Timor-Leste. This military conscription’s motivation is to increase military power with an old classical realist approach, which has been no longer used by Europe and other regions. For the Timor-Leste case, it is not clear yet. The argument behind this political product of military compulsory is controversial. The government should further conduct in-depth studies with best practices, lessons learned from the history of this system’s multi-dimension impact before implementing it in these democratic societies.