Ireland is recovering slowly from the biggest economic recession in its history. The Government looks for public means for clearing privately induced debt, which has us students worrying about the ever-present prospect of increased college costs.
What has this got to with conscription?
When the Lisbon Treaty was being sold to the Irish public, the lack of knowledge on this treaty in nearly all echelons of society gave rise to a number of conspiracies. Conscription was one of them.
The far Left attached themselves to these theories, stoking fear in mothers about the possibility of having to give their sons and daughters away to an EU army.
Conscription is a frightening word in an Irish context. Being forced by the State to defend the State with our lives? God no, would good would that do? More than you think.
In Israel, conscription comes into force when students complete secondary school, so usually when they’re 18 years old. A country which has faced conflict and turmoil from all sides of its borders, and internally, for the last century, conscription was a necessity in keeping the country with roughly eight million people safe from attacks from neighbouring Arab states, as well as disciplining a historically unsettled nation.
What good has putting the youth on the line for their country? A world of good. The Israel Defence Forces takes on roughly half of eligible conscripts, and that half usually wants to be in the IDF. Why? Because they get exposed to the most advanced technologies on earth, and they make lifelong connections with people, which last far beyond their time in the Force. You could argue these connections are stronger than any friendship you might make in college, seeing you often don’t even rely on your college mates for lecture notes, never mind your life. Elite sectors of the IDF are competed for the same way we compete for college courses: through academic excellence. This is not just an alternative for the academic under-achiever.
Israel also has a booming technology industry. Like Ireland, much of its tech sector are outlets for American companies. But Israel also has the highest amount of start-up companies per capita in the world, and the most foreign investment; ahead of Ireland and the US, who are second and third respectively. Recent investments in Ireland may even change those rankings. Pretty impressive for a country of eight million, though Ireland’s stat is more impressive.
Soldiers learn self-discipline and risk-taking like no other part of society. Irish college students, an increasing number of whom fail to choose the right course first time around in college, could do with some discipline training and patriotism in the years before they enter college, because a love of their country is something that will need to be instilled well in advance of graduation; when they have one foot on the plane to a better job, in a more prosperous country.
What better way to tackle a recession, than to give young Irish people the most rigorous training for life, and expose them to technologies that don’t even exist for consumers; with the long term view of creating employment through self-employment. This is how Israel has created its famous entrepreneurial culture in the tech sector. With the tech sector as probably the fastest growing industry in Ireland, we could do the same. We have the companies, but not same start-up culture. Technology is the calling card we won’t want to let go of. It’s an eternally relevant and growing sector.
You wouldn’t have guessed that much of Israel’s entrepreneurial spirit is coming from the army. Israelis come out of the army with the hands-on knowledge a college student could dream only of. They’re at an advantage.
Also, after two or three years in the army, you better believe they’re patriotic. The Israeli entrepreneurs don’t just leave their country the put their talents to self-interested use. They want their own country to prosper. They succeed both for themselves, and for the benefit of Israel.
Ireland, on the other hand, has the highest emigration stats it’s had in years. Maybe the Irish graduates will come back from their work abroad with new skills to contribute to Irish society. But patriotism here isn’t quite the roaring lion it is in countries like the US and Israel. With the lure of the States, Australia, Canada and other countries with brighter prospects and more positive cultures than our isle of four million, maybe those skilled Irish graduates will never come back.
To be patriotic, one has to feel tied to their country. With Ireland’s patriotism being diluted by EU legislation, misbehaving banks and clerical scandals, you could forgive the Irish emigrant for settling abroad. The first great exodus was due to the Famine. That famine starved the Irish people of its most relied upon food: the potato. This famine, of a different sort, is starving today’s Irish of opportunity and a feeling of prosperity, forcing us to look beyond our own borders.
Conscription isn’t even a necessary part of it. For those who can’t afford college, sometimes grants aren’t even enough. The US Government provides opportunity to young Americans, by giving them a simple trade-off: a college education they would never have otherwise been able to afford, in exchange for five years of service. This may be a clear risk in American terms, but not in neutral Ireland. We could do the same, if we weren't cutting everything state-owned for short term gain. They should be offering education grants for years in the service.
Young Irish people will come out this trained both academically and practically, physically fit and self-disciplined, calculated risk takers. Will it make us more entrepreneurial? Possibly. If they say it works in Israel, it could work here too.