Military service and empowerment: an expensive but useful association?

(To Gianluca Celentano)

How many times have we heard such phrases "Some young people would need military service" or their more colorful versions such as "If he had taken some kicks in the ass as a military man, now he would behave differently". In fact, when you read certain news or watch some unpleasant episode helplessly, this association arises spontaneously in many dismissed people.

We could argue that military service was more of a 12-month school of life and empowerment rather than one of warriors. First came respect for the flag and for one's country, then one learned hierarchical observance and seniority, but at the basis of this experience there was above all loyalty.

The compulsory military service for young males was officially established in June 1875 but actually dates back to 1861, coinciding with the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy. It was an institution that lasted 144 years until on 1 July 2005 the Senate of the Republic approved the suspension of military service, thus effectively abolishing it. The classes of those born in 1985 were the last groups to swear allegiance to the flag.

A book would not be enough to describe this experience, but I would like to propose some reflections that I hope will be shared. The approach to the barracks was often traumatic but, with the passing of days and months, we set ourselves aided by daily routines that were always the same and punctuated by trumpet blasts.

In fact, the military logic was curious because its main purpose was to train in obedience to rules, superiors and seniority. After all, military service was the antechamber to the world of work and, just behind the yellow walls, many of us have learned to know trades, habits and customs, to control emotions and to bear the choices, sometimes unjust, made by the 'high, and even to live with the ubiquitous phenomenon of paraculism.

Here it is not about being more or less militarist or having a political faith, but carrying that metaphorical and indelible tattoo that this formative experience has imprinted by instilling mutual respect in us. A respect that today unfortunately is lacking in a number of young bullies and violent and overbearing adults.

The military service, especially in relation to the assignment department, still gave an important training: you learned to live, but also to be cold in war actions, as our conscripts demonstrated in 1982 during the first out-of-area mission in Lebanon, ITALCON.

It must be said that today's working life is very much based on competition and less on the intrinsic qualities of the individual and his role in society and in the family. Even some ambiguous or unedifying political examples contribute to the educational dropout of many young people, creating anger and frustration in an important section of the population who sees wages go away in half a month ...

Here the analysis would take us far because there are many factors in the social framework to be evaluated. With the internet there is no longer the patience to wait and wait fake news often ride this anger, one is literally bombarded by a marketing without rules who wants to conform to us, while at work the best and most zealous colleague is seen as a threat to his workplace.

The collateral phenomenon of baby gang

The data are disconcerting, in fact joining gangs with precise rules (and not harmless groups of friends) already occurs at the age of seven, but adolescents are the most violent. Among the theories there is the absent family-affective context, a search for self-determination and esteem, as well as the proceeds from theft or drug dealing, rather than an uncontrolled externalization of aggression-frustration.

Here the failure of integration is as evident as that of social interventions. In fact, the largest percentage of these groups are attributable to young people born in Italy to foreign families.

From some articles it emerges, as well as from the belief of many people, that the lockdown has greatly influenced the worsening of society by creating mistrust between direct interpersonal relationships.

The regions most affected by the growth of the phenomenon would be Piedmont, Lombardy and Emilia Romagna and here the web has considerable responsibilities. In fact, in addition to the programmed aggregation between gangs, violent videos of rappers who propose lifestyles under the banner of vandalism and against the police are clicked from the smartphone of these guys. However, if you take them individually and try to talk to them, you notice their delicacy of character and, if you trust them, they will hardly make you regret having done so.

It is their pack leader in particular the element to be rendered harmless. Like all phenomena (it was also the case for heroin) or for fashions, also the problem of baby gang it is destined to dissolve in a civilized country at least, the faster national politics can convey realism and credibility. The speech is long, but the massive abstention from the polls is not too far from the malaise that pollutes our country.

I conclude the block on the social condition by recalling that, in the wealthy and "democratic United States" but also in the poverty of some periphery of Latin America or other countries, these phenomena have existed for years, but being substantially linked to poverty, those who govern do not seem give it too much importance. Both Europe and Italy will not have to get used to this reality given the great history of social and civil conquests that distinguishes them.

Leverage or professionals: what is more convenient?

Notwithstanding that in the event of a major armed conflict (see Ukraine) even a seventeen or sixteen year old could be trained quickly in the use of short and long weapons, explosives and guerilla techniques, I tried to ask at some general cost and benefits between leverage and professionalism. Putting aside the educational aspect of the experience, I must admit that the opinions are very divided between those who are pro restoration of the draft and those who are not.

An officer also puts his theory in terms of clothing to be changed every 12 months compared to VSPs for which, on the other hand, the costs are higher for salaries and for the many exercises. He understandably tells me that it would take the exact total figures to make a comparison that on the spot seems not to know ...

Another much more helpful officer informs me that the parameters are actually many to analyze. Claims that if a hypothetical training standard for cyclical service were taken into account, military professionalism would save money by not having to repeat everything at every level. He then focuses on the factor of wages and infrastructure costs, knowing full well that the cost of a VSP obviously exceeds that of a conscript soldier, who, on the other hand, has fewer demands for accasiramento. However, even infrastructures and barracks have costs and consumption that today would probably sink the defense budgets. At the staff level - continues the general - it is necessary to consider the repercussions on the rates: the performance of fifty personnel is far superior to an equal number of conscripts. He concludes by stating that: “In principle, the cost of an army of professionals is certainly higher than that of a conscript force. I don't want to go into the social, moral, educational and spiritual aspects of the two solutions ... which also have a great weight ".

It must be said that many historic barracks have now been closed or dismantled, so the question could also arise as to how to house thousands of young people for a hypothetical compulsory annual stop. It is true that many of these young people would no longer even be of Italian origin and that military experience could be an infallible system for handing down the history of Italy as well as for integrating them socially.

The Armed Forces are not school and family

I think it is necessary to make a clarification on any proposals launched by those who want to reintroduce military service. It seems obvious as a concept, but it is good to reiterate it: the armed forces, in the most secular expression possible, are an articulated hierarchical organization at the emergency service of the country where one learns to respect the flag. It is inadmissible to attach another "grain" to the military, namely that of educating our young people.

If there is a limit or a failure in school and family education as well as in civil integration, the problem is not with the armed forces but rather with risky political choices that are presenting the bill.

"Specialized" leverage or reserve

In this context, where the conflicting opinions and the cost assessment make it difficult to get an idea of ​​the advisability of restoring military service (I think we are at 50%), a concept in itself already tested in other States could knock on the door that could translate into in an interesting opportunity: "the military on call". We specify that it would have nothing to do with compulsory conscription for everyone, but it would be a system that goes beyond the current reserve by inserting civilian professionals to assist the military. The cyclical costs would be for initial training to military standards, but then "the resource" would remain available throughout its life.

In case of need, a doctor, a welder, a translator, a carpenter, a logistician, a driver, a computer technician, a plumber and who knows how many other professions could give temporal aid to the defense sector by lightening the burdens of soldiers on permanent service. Here at least, there would be an economically interesting exchange of opportunities without forcing the military to be educators.

So on the spot this solution could be the most convenient with respect to the reopening of the barracks; as long as someone thinks of our young people ...

Photo: author / web