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Reinstating mandatory military service: Yes, but!

Nov 22,2018 - Last updated at Nov 22,2018

First of all, it is very good that Prime Minister Omar Razzaz has announced government plans for the coming two years.

A plan, any plan, is much better than no plan. With a plan, you head somewhere and arrive somewhere, hopefully where you want to be, and efficiently so.

Without it, as we have been for some time, you do not know where you are heading.

It is also significant that a budget has been allocated to the implementation of the precise ideas and projects within the plan.

Without a budget, all ideas remain ink on paper.

The plan has several noteworthy ideas and projects, but one which I would like to comment on is the reinstating of mandatory military service.

In the past several years, a number of people have been mulling over the idea: writers, scholars, politicians, etc.

Every time I heard people speaking about it, however, I had butterflies in my stomach.

I have had the chance to observe the experience first-hand, through a number of friends and relatives who went through the scheme several years back.

From observing them in action, and from discussing the experience with them and with their families, I always came up with mixed feelings on the actual outcome of the experience.

Aside from the three months of actual military training in the camp, which all had to go through without exception, the rest of the service was at best dubious in its actual impact.

During the first three months, all were subjected, more or less, to the same programme and all had to learn discipline, acquire crucial military skills, shape up and "man up".

As a matter of fact, when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Jordan, a long time ago, we took a course, it is still being offered, titled military science, which I enjoyed tremendously.

At the end of the course, we had to spend a week in a military camp, just like real soldiers do, and I found the week to be life-transforming, in a very positive way.

Three months would be even more life-transforming.

The problem is that after the three months, it all depended on where people ended up going or doing.

While some served in actual military camps or sites which instilled and nurtured in them the intended outcomes, others, including some friends or sons of friends I knew well, found ways to manipulate the system, evade the service and get zero benefit.

Two years, if not planned well and spent well, is a long time; and much of it goes to waste.

The good thing about the new scheme is that, from the little we know, it is shorter and more skill-oriented.

We understand that it will be months, not years, which is good; and that it combines military service with professional skill-building, which is an excellent idea.

If the scheme proves to be basic military training with some sort of a professional "internship", as I understand it to be, then it is a promising scheme.

The time of our young men and women, we hear it will also include women, which is a good idea, is too precious to waste on a scheme that is either not well-studied or carefully planned.

We live at a time where our young people need discipline, a lot of it in fact, but they also need skills, very many of them.

The so-called fourth industrial revolution has dawned on us, and we need to prepare our youth for it, with skills that help them in the job market.

In this very fussy, very competitive market, our young men and women will be competing for jobs, even here in our region and country, with other young men and women from all over the globe.

To survive and thrive in the market they need to have the right skills, and they cannot afford a scheme that fails to equip them with those skills.

So, what we have heard in relation to the new scheme so far is encouraging, and we hope it will be implemented fairly, squarely and successfully, avoiding the many drawbacks of the older scheme.

And indeed, yes to the idea of a "country" or "home" service, as the new scheme is called, but it has to be categorically different from what we have experienced before, about which there is a lot of nostalgia, but hardly any reliable studies.

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