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CIAO DATE: 11/03

Disenchanted Conscription: A Military Recruitment System in Need of Justification

Anna Leander

June 2003

Copenhagen Peace Research Institute


"Conscription: It's had its day."
Economist (Feb. 10, 1996)

The Economist's point of view is a widely shared one. It also seems warranted by current trends in policy-making in developed democracies. The US, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Po rtugal have abolished or are phasing out conscription.2 Even France, mother of citizens armies through the revolutionary levée en masse, just saw (literally as the event was broadcasted as a main feature of the evening television news) its last conscript leave the armed forces. The Nordic countries and Germany have not abolished conscription, but conscripts make up a shrinking share of the armed forces , which governments plan to shrink even further. For many observers this confirms that they simply lag behind. They will soon be brought to reason and abolish conscription. But this is a simplistic understanding of what determines the fate of conscription.

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