"Conscientious Acceptance: The Impact of Public Support on Conscription"
Abstract: “What makes a state maintain conscription, especially during peacetime?” – Conventional wisdom argues that forced recruitment is a practical and efficient tool to increase a country’s security, especially during episodes of high threat. However, the policy loses its appeal in times of peace when its downsides become more evident. Consequentially, it should be expected that states would rid themselves of the draft when there are no security-related reasons to keep it. Yet, empirical reality paints a different picture, with more than half of all conscription cases existing under no active threat. This dissertation proposes that it is the support of the public, in the form of the Winning Coalition that is necessary to keep a leader in power, that allows for conscription to exist in times of peace. The basic principle is: When Winning Coalition Support for conscription is high, then it will be maintained. If it is low, then the draft will be abolished. I test my theory across three different papers: Paper 1 (Chapter II) demonstrates that the size of the Winning Coalition affects the tools that leaders can use to sell conscription to the people. In particular, large Winning Coalitions cannot resort to private goods but must rely on policies like Conscientious Objection that give the draft a more human face. It finds that larger Winning Coalitions have a higher likelihood of implementing Conscientious Objection. Paper 2 (Chapter III) highlights the impact of time on the support of the Winning Coalition for forced recruitment. The analysis shows that a drop in levels of Winning Coalition Support for conscription in the Federal Republic of Germany led to debates about its future. Lastly, paper 3 (Chapter IV) investigates how the salience of Conscientious Objection and Alternative Civilian Service during debates can influence the support of the Winning Coalition. It establishes that when salience was low in Germany, it suspended the draft. Nevertheless, when it was high in the Republic of Austria, conscription was maintained.