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Military service comes to an end in Sweden

AFP/The Local · 1 Jul 2010, 14:46

Published: 01 Jul 2010 14:46 GMT+02:00

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Introduced in Sweden in 1901, military service had been winding down for several years, with only those expressing a wish to serve picked during for conscription.

Sweden remained neutral during the two world wars, but with the Soviet Union nearby, wanted to have the capacity to call in 500,000 soldiers at short notice during the Cold War, out of a population of about eight million at the time.

At the height of the East-West tensions, nearly 85 percent of Swedish men carried out military service, with some 50,000 conscripted out of an age group counting 60,000 men.

The numbers have fallen dramatically in recent years, with only an average of about 5,000 conscripted soldiers, including several hundred women since 1980, serving each year.

"The military service ends in Sweden as of today, It was really about time," Sweden's daily of reference Dagens Nyheter wrote in an editorial, insisting that with Cold War finished, obligatory military service was no longer needed.

"The obligatory military service had become both old-fashioned and ineffective," it said.

The Aftonbladet tabloid however lamented the end of an era of social responsibility.

"There is good reason to fear that with the end of military service yet another level of collective conscience will disappear," wrote Kennet Andreasson in an editorial.

"The connection between obligations and rights has become less and less clear," he added.

Some of the country's last conscripts received medals during an official ceremony at the royal palace on Wednesday.

Story continues below…

The centre-right government decided last year to end military service, which on average had lasted about 11 months.

At the same time, it decided to loosen the country's traditionally strict neutrality to allow participation in more international military operations, like the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

The Swedish military, which last year employed 34,000 people as well as 38,000 National Guard reserves, has in recent weeks been running a large recruitment campaign with television ads and large street billboards.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:29 July 1, 2010 by Audrian
This change is tragic for Sweden. In due course, public oversight over professional military will weaken. This has two major disadvantages. One, Swedish elite rulers (right wingers) will find it easy to participate in international wars (led by fellow right wingers in the US). Two, professional army esily turns ino a pressure group for rising military budget and one that will act a go between defense industry and parliament.
15:52 July 1, 2010 by Cage
For alot of men and women military training is their first and only opportunity to live in a disciplined, structured environment and to pass that on to their children via parenthood. However, I think an all volunteer force is appropriate for the times. I also believe if the consultants pictured here http://www.thelocal.se/gallery/stockholm/1750/10/ were available for comment they would agree with me.
15:57 July 1, 2010 by Kevtravels
You think so? I actually believe an all volunteer army is the way to go. Conscription has no place in the 21st century especially in the climate of world issues at the moment.

Also a professional fighting force would servce more efficiently in say Afghanistan.
15:59 July 1, 2010 by rufus.t.firefly
I agree with you Audrian. Though the military tends to attract right wingers, and it is the right that has ended conscription, whoever is in power at a given time will find it easier to commission the use military force. There is a caveat, though. As in the U.S., a voluntary (mercenary) army with its over-representation of certain political types will, over time, develop an antipathy toward civilians and civilian control of the military. if the government in power is not to their liking. We have seen disturbing signs of this under both Bill Clinton and now, Barack Obama. Clearly, universal service mitigates against this, as it does against most wars.
16:13 July 1, 2010 by babychuma
"The connection between obligations and rights has become less and less clear," he added.

Boy you said a mouthfull there, excellent.

"As in the U.S., a voluntary (mercenary) army with its over-representation of certain political types will, over time, develop an antipathy toward civilians and civilian control of the military. if the government in power is not to their liking. We have seen disturbing signs of this under both Bill Clinton and now, Barack Obama. Clearly, universal service mitigates against this, as it does against most wars."

I have to disagree, the tradition of civilian control of the military is too strong in the u.s. for that, it began with Washinton, and continues today. If your refering to the episode with McCrystal don't forget he got his job by being an avowed Obama supporter and his aides comments were leveled mostly at the cabinet and Biden, not Obama, also bear in mind everyone b_tches about the boss, just human nature.
16:38 July 1, 2010 by Vietvet

"As in the U.S., a voluntary (mercenary) army with its over-representation of certain political types will, over time, develop an antipathy toward civilians and civilian control of the military. if the government in power is not to their liking."

Male bovine fecal matter! (buy a dictionary and work it out)

I was going to be drafted in the last draft held in the US, and decided to enlist. Sure the draft was rough, it let in drug addicts, criminals, and the majority of the rest did not want to be there. The result was an antipathy toward civilians and civilian control of the military. I stayed in for the transition to an all volunteer force and the morale, professionalism, and support of civilian control INCREASED. It is obvious you have never served, or even discussed this rationally with those men and women who do and have. Often these same men and women give their lives defending civilian freedoms.

If you use that dictionary I recommended, you would find that fails to meet the definition of antipathy. It does however meet the definition of hero.

It is obvious you have not only not served, but have not really bothered to discuss this issue with those men and women who defend our (US)
17:15 July 1, 2010 by GefleFrequentFlyer
So, Sweden will have the highest paid, smallest army in the world?
17:22 July 1, 2010 by memyselfandi
Now the Muslims will invade Sweden......LOL

Don't worry, we will come and help you like we always do for our allies.
18:04 July 1, 2010 by ccnyberg
Boys, boys. Well it really depends who gets voted in. The military to this day pressures the government for funding, its we who vote wither they get it or not. Enlisting rather than "lumped", seems a great idea to me. That way we get to seperate the willing from the unwilling. Sweden always had a problem with a weak militarty force, or should I recall a past artical in the local?

Anywho, a strong army is great cuz then we can take back Norway!!! Oil for everyone!
18:12 July 1, 2010 by rufus.t.firefly

First, I'll ignore the gratuitous invective. I served during the same transition time you did. I have a dictionary and know how to use it, but what I need here is a DSM IV.


I know McCrystal said he voted for Obama. Previous to the Rolling Stone article, which was somewhat overblown, McCrystal engaged Obama in a surreptitious debate through the press regarding Afghanistan policy. During Clinton's presidency, a colonel on active duty in North Carolina (I think) menacingly warned him not to visit that state as serious harm could come to him.
18:35 July 1, 2010 by babychuma
Rufus, frankly I think your in search of facts to fit your theory. Complaining is a long way from a coup, Bill Clinton accused the spec. forces at Bragg of racism in a speech based on a hoax incident where the alleged victim of racism was chaged with perjury. At no time has any American soldier refused a direct order from either President Clinton or President Obama. Don't you think there should be something other than hersay required to make a blanket judgement about a million and a half Americans? Also I know personally that there are plenty of Democrats in the ranks, and political affiliation is not a requirement for service in any branch, I don't worry about a theoretical right wing bias in the service any more than I worry about a left bias in academia or entertainment. And Swedes shouldn't either, a smaller motivated professional army with modern gear is more effective than conscripts any day.
18:52 July 1, 2010 by Mr. Puppy
I'm glad about this news... involuntary military service is wrong, period. This is one more step towards the emancipation of humanity.
19:39 July 1, 2010 by d_s
Eh, I actually did my military service as a conscript (as men do as they turn 18), and I surely did not enjoy that year, but again, what was said about rights/obligations and general fitness of the voting population (from a certain mental perspective), is very true. So true, I think, that letting go of the conscription may save money but comes at a considerable price in other ways.

If enough voters do not have a sober view of all things related to warfare, it alone creates a harmful mood to the nation. Tsk tsk Sweden!
19:54 July 1, 2010 by saab
Remarkable that Audrian and Rufus never give up an opportunity to attack the US or Israel or both. So the right wing in the US controls the military and has its eyes on taking over the government. Interesting. Also paranoid. And what does that have to do with the story at hand? Sweden will now be a military power (ha!) overrun with right wing zealots who plan to attack.... who again?

Why do I have the feeling that if the story was "Mandatory service to be instituted in Sweden", we would hear that a draft means certain war, since you have so many soldiers hanging out with nothing to do... just take the US in Vietnam and Israel in Lebanon.
20:02 July 1, 2010 by rufus.t.firefly
Babychuma, I don't remember that the officer's remarks were connected to the event you describe. I don't remember Clinton making those remarks, but I am sure you are correct. Nevertheless, my point was that a military officer threatened the president. It's hard to say how far that is from a coup, but it is entirely unacceptable under any circumstances.

Moreover, my statements were not based on hearsay. They were based on completely authenticated reports of the officer's statements. As for theories, we all have them. Yes, there are Democrats and Republicans and soldiers in secret Aryan Nation cells whose agenda at any given time does not comport with that of the President or most Americans. It has been acknowledged in and out of the military that this problem has grown considerably with the all volunteer military.
08:54 July 2, 2010 by Keith #5083
abolished UK 21/12/1960..professional armed services ever since. Haven't they made a bad job of it??? Like hell! Brilliant servicemen and women, thoroughly dedicated and reasonably rewarded by the society they serve.

Of course, all the 'discipline' brigade will be out, bemoaning the loss of respect in society because young people are no longer taught the value of respect. What was that value in Sweden, Sek 50 or Sek 100 per day? (allowance whilst on lumpen). The Secretary of Defence's children gets more allowance per day (sourced 6 years ago).

Neither discipline nor respect are taught with hypocrisy, nor do 'professional attitudes' develop under systems of enforced 'slavery'. 'Disciplined and structured environments' to pass on to their children usually meant, in the UK, the binge-drinking, gambling, swearing and brutalising. Oh, and that wonderful quality of 'national-servicemen' - the ability to always look busy whilst doing nothing. This was discipline???

You gotta be jokin!
16:11 July 2, 2010 by wenddiver
Probably worse for society, but better for the Army.

As an employe,r I always try to hire the US Veterans, out of simple economic self-interest. They tend to be better able to handle emergencies, more loyal, more physically fit and way more mature, more likely to show up for work and better able to give a decent opinion and follow instructions. Of course they are coming from an all volunteer Army and a very Professional Reserve system.

Our kids we hire off the street are a ussually a problem. Rude to the customers, not coming to work, stealing, lots of inapproptiate behaviors like drinking at work, dressing retarded. Basic problem, Zero self-discipline.

Sweden will gain from a proffessional Army, but her youth will probably lose that discipline advantage. Army's are also very good at uniting a people, after the service in my country everbody is an American, but many of us were foreigners or immigrants. or thought of themselves as some racial group before.
16:16 July 2, 2010 by iona
A professional army in the United States has proved to be a disaster. The types who volunteer are the lesser educated and middle class people are less certain to protest unjust wars as long as their children are not in harms way. The last ten years is proof in point.
16:49 July 2, 2010 by useronthenet
Alas Sweden will join the ranks of other countries who now face huge problems:-

Youths having no direction in their lives

Youths having no base for self constraint

No respect for the older generation

No sense of duty or penance to one's country

Loss of moral values and lack of self esteem

So Sweden can look foward to a higher crime rate, youths strolling the streets making a nuisance of themselves to the general public

Many countries I'm sure wished they turned the clock back given the crime rates

There are distinct advantages in moudling the young to ensure that they will

pass on the skills that they have learned through the armed forces

Hope you are prepared for it .. other countries were not and now are facing a delinquent generation .. you only have to look at the UK

Rise in murders by youths, stabbings, and other nasty crimes

Growing yob culture,

Gangs roaming the streets

Is Sweden prepared for this ?

Probably not

Seems the politicians didn't bother to pop their head outside to see how other countries were coping ... well in my opinion not very well ..

Very sad
23:39 July 2, 2010 by Coalbanks
I suspect the advantages of conscription outway the disadvantages esp with an increasing % of the pop made up of immigrants whose attachment to their new home might be enhanced by the experience. Will Sweden have a militia/reserve system where part-time soldiers can be mobilized for short-term deployment similar to the system in Canada? A lower cost alternative to a full-time soldiery with the advantage of not creating alienation between military & civilians.
07:57 July 3, 2010 by Keith #5083

I would respectfully ask where you obtained your list of social ailments? Was it a 1950's, 1960's, 1970's or even 1980's newspaper?

If young people (both sexes) lack direction and most of everything else on your 'gripe list' we could perhaps ask the question about the 'leading by example' basis of role modelling. What example has been set? None of the major institutions, whether democratic (I see you are also in the 'blame the politicians for everything' club), religious (become a priest???), legal (police chiefs, lawyers, judges charged with depraved offences), or even the institution of family (many relinquishing their responsibility to the state or abusing their role - thinking they own their children).

Your answer to right all these inherent hypocrisies is to conscript young people so that we can teach them the arts of killing???

Yes, it's sad. It's sad that we older generations can only stereotype young people as thugs and villains - whereas the vast majority are caring, compassionate and fairly well motivated individuals - given the restraints within society.

How can we as societies take bundles of human joy as babies and turn them into.....conscripted soldiers..as a penance for being born in this or that country???

No wonder thinking young people often despair of the stereotyped thought patterns of the older generations.

It's very sad...for human progress.

Do you really think that govs have got rid of conscription out of some noble reason? Defense monies are better spent on technological improvements - not apathetic manpower.
15:50 July 4, 2010 by Marc the Texan
@rufus.t.firefly - You are right. However, you left out the most important part. Its the fact that people in power will have their children serving. In the US that's congress. In the past few decades the US Congress has had very little skin in the game. That makes it a much easier decision to go to war... Or to allow a chickensh.t President go to war.

My family has been scarred by the casualties of war. And it didn't have to be that way.
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