The French Army played a decisive role vis-à-vis the country’s youth at the end of the nineteenth century. Following the defeat of 1870, the thinking, composition and influence of the military evolved both in France and its colonies. Universal military service, introduced in 1872, played a central part in that change, giving the Army a decisive social role. Today, ten years after the ending of conscription, the armed forces play a less prominent social role, whereas the youth of today, particularly the less privileged, are facing increasing difficulties. So is there a new need for social regeneration, and can the armed forces play a role in this?