I salute the decision by the Ministry of Interior to start military conscription for Kuwaitis who turn 18. The decision was taken in 2015, but will be implemented from May 10. It’s a big move for young people in Kuwait. Instead of speeding in their cars on Gulf Road or sitting around cafes smoking shisha, developing bad habits and killing time, they will get real-world military training, and hopefully some personal discipline. When I see the way many of the youth here behave in the malls or on the streets, I say it’s good – let them be recruited and trained.
But there are some things on the other hand to be considered. Firstly, it’s premature to judge the system or the training and especially the quality of what these young men are expected to learn. Will it be the quality of Sandhurst or West Point? Will these young men emerge one year from now with a clear sense of responsibility towards their country and to themselves? Are we going to see all strata of society participating? Or will some use wasta and connections to avoid conscription?
Secondly, will these conscripts be allowed to serve past the mandatory one year if they choose and make it a career for themselves? Or is it only a yearlong program and bye-bye? Because once you bring back men who have served in the military, it’s not always easy to fit them into civil service or the private sector. Men who learn military ways often find it difficult to adapt and integrate into civilian life.
Thirdly, we don’t know if many of these young men would be planning to continue their education at university. Won’t this one year of service disrupt their enthusiasm for higher education? Already, we are suffering from having too few college-educated young men in Kuwait. We don’t want to discourage young men from becoming bankers, engineers, doctors, lawyers, mechanics, etc.
Also, some men who serve in the military adopt a mentality of total obedience to authority. So will the entire Kuwaiti nation stop questioning and criticizing its leadership in generations to come? Will we even have a parliament 20 years from now? Anyway, most developed, industrialized nations such as Japan, UK, Germany, France and Canada either don’t have conscription or have abolished it, like Sweden. Nevertheless, it’s not a bad idea to instill some discipline and contain these young men, but I hope that the standards and quality of training will be up to what Kuwait needs for now and the future. Only time will tell.
By Badrya Darwish