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The magic of military service: Do we expect a comeback?

Jul 18,2018 - Last updated at Jul 18,2018

Perhaps those who support the return of some form of mandatory military service, dubbed locally "banner service", have been reluctant to say it loud because they know the answer in advance: lack of funds at very difficult times facing the national economy. 

Even when Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said recently that the government "must reconsider the military service", his remarks went largely unnoticed because there are bigger files that deserve our utmost attention under the circumstances.

The premier was quoted as saying that the goal behind reactivating the service, which has been frozen since the early 1990s, is "to contain youth", without elaborating.

But there is more to that, much more. Find me just one person in this country who would not agree that the new generation needs some kind of discipline and toughening up in an institutionalised manner. 

The generations of Jordanians who have served the national banner clearly remember the lessons they learnt in the military (the factory of men) and affected their lives in a positive way, when they were prepared for civil life as more mature citizens ready for the fight for success and achievement.

What I remember from my personal experience went even beyond that. The army created in my generation a strong sense of national unity. There is no place in the world better than the barracks for Jordanian youth from every corner of the Kingdom, every background and walk of life, to meet, interact and understand each other.

During the few minutes we were allowed to rest, we had a chance to chat with peers from the Badia, the remote villages of the south, refugee camps and upscale west Amman neighbourhoods. Friendships were made, visits were exchanged during leaves and understanding of the problems faced by Jordanians in their local communities ensued. In army fatigues and with shaved heads, we became one, and not strangers anymore.  Where are we now? Social media would not connect people the way the army does, so drop that argument. 

Serving the banner in the 21st century would certainly be different from the way it was in the seventies and eighties of the 20th century, yet the core values will stay. 

Razzaz said that the duration of the service would be modified. That makes sense — so should the nature of the training programme and stakeholders involved. However, regardless of the changes to be introduced, conscripts should be reminded all the time that they, first and foremost, are soldiers being prepared to defend their homeland and people against external threats. 

At the same time, they could be taught skills they would deploy while carrying out, say, maintenance work at an old school in some village somewhere, building roofs over the heads of impoverished families in a desert town, helping farmers collect olives or planting a strip of trees along the sides of the Desert Highway.

If the plan materialises, here is one tip: the Vocational Training Corporation is an army in itself with a huge and unique experience of what the country needs of these skills and it can help a lot. Municipalities, local NGOs, the Youth Ministry and other entities can be useful partners, too.

Another important tip; if you choose to take youth to army again, none should have the privilege to serve in offices or headquarters. All, with no exception, should be in the field.

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Comments

This is the type of moronic thinking that has kept Jordan in the pathetic situation it’s been in. Primitive words coming from a primitive mind, this man is a product of what needs to be fixed, a voice for the stupid.

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