In 1991, when I was last in Chile, the military was a thing apart. Its rule over the country had only ended three years before. The Constitution of 1980 reserved it a special role. There was an organization called the National Security Council that consisted of the president, the heads of the Senate and Supreme Court, and the commanders of the four branches of the military. The NSC could determine its own decision-making functions. It selected four out of 36 senators, not including the seat reserved for Augusto Pinochet. It picked two out of seven members of the Supreme Court. The president couldn't remove military commanders without its approval. If it saw “the menace of war,” it could order the central bank to extend credits to any person or group that it saw fit. In addition, albeit not part of the constitution, a 1954 law granted the military 10 percent of Codelco’s copper revenues. It was all very undemocratic, save for one thing: the armed forces relied on conscription, and had since 1900. The annual take, however, was never more than 20 percent. In effect, it was fairly random and easily avoided, which undercut any chance that the military might become a citizen army.
Most of that has now changed. The NSC is now just an advisory board, and the non-elected senators are a thing of the past. The military continues to get its share of Codelco revenues, but tensions with the neighbors are very low, and civilians set policy. And ... perhaps inevitably ... conscription has ... well ... not quite ended ... it’s weird, and it raises a lot of interesting questions for the United States and elsewhere.
Details below the fold.
There is still a draft in Chile. Under a system introduced in 2005 (AFAICT) all young men have to show up at a recruiting office at some point during the month of April during the year they turn 18. They can bring their parents. There they receive information about the opportunities the military offers and a recruiting pitch. After that, they get a chance to volunteer, but they get no extra benefits other than what they would have gotten. If the military fails to achieve its manpower needs, then it holds a lottery. Should they be chosen in the lottery, and they also happen to be, currently enrolled students, then they can choose to wait until they graduate before serving ... unless the military is interested in the profession that they are going to study, in which case they can serve upon graduation as a civilian employee for six months.
To make the new system work, the military had to engage in a serious anti-hazing campaign, not unlike the way the U.S. reformed basic training during the 1980s. (I should mention here from experience that most of the reforms mentioned in the linked article were either rapidly abolished or were never applied to Fort Benning.)
Thus far, there has been no need for a lottery since 2006. What I don't know is whether the change has altered the composition and quality of the recruits. Can a non-draft draft get substantial numbers of people to enlist who otherwise would not have considered it? It is an interesting policy to consider, for any country worried about a social separation between its citizenry and its military.