Faced with mounting Cold War tensions, communist insurgents and war in Korea, Prime Minister Robert Menzies began national service in 1951. Over 200,000 young men were trained by the Australian Army, Navy and Air Force throughout the next eight years. Fast forward to today, and many people are calling for national service to be restored.
In 2015, the world looks very different but our political climate is still tense. Islamic State threatens Western society, countries like China are being blamed for cyber attacks, and a clash of civilisations seems increasingly real.
Against this international backdrop, young men in Australia have been linked to a rising tide of violence in clubs, pubs and at home. The use of ice, methamphetamines and other drugs is creating a host of social problems, whilst youth unemployment sits above 12%.
In response to a recent Starts At Sixty article about coward punches, which are typically perpetrated by young men aged 15-25 years, one reader said “two years national service should teach them some respect, if not fear”.
Whilst another reader added, “national service never hurt anyone, it would make men of them”. She also said “my husband did national service one month after we were married… didn’t do him any harm”.
The idea also has royal backing. In an interview earlier this year, Prince Harry said “bring back national service”. He added, “I dread to think where I’d be without the army… and more importantly to me, what I’ve seen the army do to other young guys”.
“You can make bad choices in life, some severe, but it’s how you recover from those and which path you end up taking. And the army has done amazing things for me”, Prince Harry went on to explain.
Starts At Sixty readers have been quick to highlight that national service in 2015 shouldn’t mean fighting overseas. Instead, readers believe national service could instil respect and discipline in wayward young men.
“They have no guidance at home”, one reader said. “It’s always been easier to ignore your kids than to pick up their behaviour with consequences and positive reactions! (Young men) need to realise that the world doesn’t owe them anything!”
Do you think national service should be restored? Would military service teach young Aussie men respect and discipline? Or would it place them in harm’s way, given the instabilities abroad?