Saying No to Military Service - Obligation, Killing and Inequality As Experienced Problems in Conscription Army

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Jarkko KOSONEN, Finnish National Defence University, Finland
Alisa PUUSTINEN, Finnish National Defence University, Finland
While studying citizen-soldiers their dual identities as a soldier and a civilian have been highlighted. The phenomenon is closely associated with relation between armed forces and society. Finland's defence is based on general conscription of men and voluntary-based conscript service for women. The majority of Finnish men are citizens but reservist also. Because of this, there is a specific interface in the relation between citizens and Defence forces in Finland.

In recent decades an average of 75 percent of each male age group has conducted their mandatory conscript service of around 6-12 months and 6 percent have conducted civilian service in Finland. General conscription enjoys widespread and increasing support. Lately there has been debate, and also political support, to introduce a gender-neutral, mandatory civic service system to supplement the conscript service.

Reserve soldiers are transmigrants between civil society and armed forces. Citizen-soldier´s role is linked to citizenship and its obligation. The dual identity or critical voices of the conscription or reserve forces have not been recognized neither in research nor in the public debate in Finland. The aim of the paper is to analyse the reasons why some conscripts raise critical voices concerning their relation to conscription and their role as reserve soldiers.

The main problems with regard to conscription and armed defence relate to inequality of the conscription system, obligation and lack of discretion. For individual conscripts as citizen-soldiers, the problem of killing has special weight when they reflect upon their own role in the possible act of war. Conscripts and their expertise could be used more extensively in a wider range of security related issues than in armed defense alone.

The study is based on interviews of 38 civil service men and 33 men resigned from the reserve in 2017. The data was analyzed using content analysis.