Conscripts ?should be made to serve abroad?

The head of Sweden’s armed forces has said that overseas service should become obligatory for conscripts. Håkan Syrén has told Dagens Nyheter that those who are not interested in serving in places such as Liberia, Congo, or Afghanistan should not start military training.

The current law says that all Swedish young men can be called up to serve in the armed forces, although in practice only 36 percent of those eligible for call-up actually end up doing their military service. At present, the army’s aim is for thirty percent of conscripts to sign up for service abroad. Conscripts cannot be forced to serve outside Sweden; all Swedish missions for the UN are manned by volunteers.

Now Håkan Syrén says that in the future only those young men interested in serving in missions abroad should be allowed to join up, so that all soldiers in the Swedish army could be sent on foreign missions.

“I don’t want to train a single soldier who is not interested in doing international service,” he told Dagens Nyheter.

This puts him on a collision course with the National Service Administration (NSA), the organization responsible for conscription. Björn Körlof, director general of the NSA, said that he would be very unhappy if he had to reject people who were interested in doing national service but did not want to serve abroad.

He said that to do this would be strange, given that the armed forces’ principle duty is defending Sweden’s territory.

Syrén’s proposals also raise the question of how the army would handle reluctant conscripts. Körlof pointed out that men are still recruited to the army, navy and air force against their will.

“Five to seven percent of recruits are not strongly motivated,” he said. “Without them, it isn’t possible to find people with sufficient qualifications.”

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Sveriges Radio, Aftonbladet