Sit down, G.I. Jane

Should women be blocked from registering for the draft?

By Sarah Sidlow

U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson is the new guy in the office. Just a month into his new job left vacant by retired House Speaker John Boehner, Davidson snagged his first win: a block on the provision that would require women to sign up for the military draft.

The debate over whether to expand the Selective Service registration requirement to women in the event of a future military draft has been hot around the Congressional water cooler for the past few months.

The topic first came up last year, when the Pentagon pushed to open all front-line combat jobs to women. This prompted the logical extension that if women may now serve in combat jobs across the military, they should also be included in the draft, the purpose of which (if it’s ever used) is to staff the front lines of the U.S. military. So, a few weeks ago, the Senate passed an annual defense policy bill that included a special provision: a mandatory call to women to sign up with the Selective Service within 30 days of turning 18, beginning January 2018. (Reminder: the current draft registration requirements only apply to men ages 18-25.)

Davidson said the Pentagon’s decision to open up combat to women was a push to “make the Department of Defense America’s most progressive workforce,” rather than focusing on a mission “to fight and win our nation’s wars.”

His provision, which was approved 217-203, was attached to a spending bill that would benefit the IRS and the Selective Service, among other federal agencies. It would prevent the Selective Service officials from using any of their 2017 budget to open the draft to women. No money, no problems.

Those who agree with Davidson say Congress is wrong to require America’s daughters—who may have no interest in (or talent for) military combat—to register for the Selective Service. “Mission effectiveness,” they argue, should be prioritized above all else. Davidson and his supporters are also concerned that many Americans probably don’t even know that Congress is weighing the options of drafting women. They say that with little knowledge and less platform for input, the American people shouldn’t be left with “what could become yet another edict from Washington.”

But others are open to the idea of women undergoing the same rite of passage as men when they turn 18. For them, this is about gender equality—the benefits and the burdens of being treated equally to their male counterparts. In fact, after gender restrictions into military service were erased, top brass in each of the military branches expressed support during congressional testimony for requiring women to register.

“Given where we are today, with women in the military performing virtually all kinds of functions,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says, “I personally think it would be appropriate for them to register just like men do.”

Many on both sides seem to agree that regardless of who is required to register for the Selective Service, the all-volunteer force is working just fine, thank you, and they don’t want to return to a conscription anyway.

How likely is it that the outcome of this debate will have immediate impact on who can or cannot be drafted? Not super, since the institution of the draft officially ended in 1973. Yet, the argument is still divisive amongst party lines, gender lines, and probably a few more lines—and who knows what to expect years down the line.

Reach Dayton City Paper forum moderator Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com

 

Not the first draft

By Ben Tomkins

The Pentagon’s declaration that women were not only capable of serving in all combat rolls but would be allowed to was a massive step forward in equality for women in the military. From a philosophical perspective, the concession ends the argument about whether women should be required to register for the draft. In short, yes. The arguments about women registering for the draft today haven’t really changed since it became mandatory for all men ages 18-25 in 1980. The gentler nature of the female creature requires men to step up and protect them because they can’t be expected to do it for themselves.

Well, the majority of Americans don’t seem to think that women need to be locked in a glass case like fine china and occasionally dusted off so they don’t get to restless about their fundamental inferiority. Allowing women to serve in all combat rolls this year was an ideological advancement for a literal majority of the population of the United States, and it was one that entails the burden of service. If women are equally capable, then they are equally eligible to be drafted.

The oddity of the argument is that in recent polls, men make up the majority of people who think women should have to register for the draft. A poll conducted by the Economist in June indicated that 61 percent of men believed women should be required to register for the draft since they were granted equality of service. However, only 40 percent of women agreed. Although perhaps antithetical to the concept of equality, I can’t say I really blame young women for not particularly wanting to register for the draft. Most men didn’t want to get drafted into service during Vietnam, and in a way, the ability of our armed forces to fill its ranks is itself a referendum on the public’s belief in the war effort.

In World War II, getting men to volunteer for armed service after Pearl Harbor required nothing more than publishing the story in a newspaper and including the address of the nearest recruiting office. In fact, many men were disappointed when, like my grandfather, they were excused from service for health reasons. Jump forward to the second Persian Gulf War in Iraq and not so many people were particularly interested as there didn’t appear to be a literal connection between Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction and Al-Qaeda, 9/11 be damned.

This highlights one of the reasons, with desirable and undesirable aspects, members of Congress found not to volunteer for the front lines of equality of women in the military. Many Congresspersons don’t consider the draft to be something we should have at all, so the idea of including women seems to be a waste of time. This fairly pathetic point is nothing more than a diversionary tactic; nothing about women registering for the draft in particular has to do with a general argument about whether men shouldn’t. I think the flaw in the argument is obvious enough that even a delicate little girl should be capable of wrapping her brain around it.

That is a joke…please don’t send me off to the front lines for it.

The other argument was summed up fabulously by, ladies and gentlemen, Sen. Ted Cruz:

“The idea that we should forcibly conscript young girls in combat to my mind makes little sense at all … I could not in good conscience vote to draft our daughters into the military, sending them off to war and forcing them into combat.”

If you can explain to me what the hell the argument is in that quote, I will eat the World War I vintage Australian army helmet my relatives have passed down for several generations. It also betrays the underlying sentiments about the fundamental belief in the equality of women that some legislators seem to hold.

Warren Davidson, the representative who led the charge to remove the draft requirement from the Senate’s defense budget proposal, is a highly respected former member of the armed forces. He was in the Rangers, went to West Point, and this resume line has served his political career well ever since. And it should. That’s the kind of stuff leaders should be made of. However, Davidson also lived an idyllic tale of Midwestern love. He met his wife at a church function a month before he went off to serve, they exchanged many love letters while he was gone, and they have been married for 20 years and have a teenage son and daughter.

There are a lot of conservative cultural values bound up in that, which I’m not necessarily blaming anyone for having. It wasn’t necessary for there to be a draft when he began service in 1996, and it hasn’t been ever since. Why then, would he want his soon-to-be-old-enough-for-the-draft daughter to have to register if opting out can be bought for nothing more than a little of her perceived equality? Ted Cruz has two daughters. I see no reason why he would want them to be drafted either. It’s the same principle as why the majority of young women might not want to register if they don’t have to.

However, I doubt Davidson loves his son any less. In a modern world, if his son can guard us while he sleeps, then so can his daughter.

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. For more of his work, visit hillofathens.com. Reach Ben Tomkins at BenTomkins@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

Hell no – She shouldn’t go!

By David H. Landon

 

As recent events will bear witness, we live in an increasingly dangerous world. The reality of our modern world is that our nation needs protectors standing watch on our walls. Currently, an “all-volunteer” fighting force is guarding those walls. Despite cuts by the Obama administration, our armed services are still the strongest, deadliest, and most proficient fighting force in the world. There recently has been legislation in Congress to return to a draft military service, where in addition to those choosing to volunteer, some yet undetermined number would be drafted. Part of that proposed draft legislation included requiring women to be subject to the military draft.

Congressman Rangel of New York has been introducing legislation to reintroduce the draft going back a number of years. His motive has nothing to do with national security concerns. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Rangel believes that the draft would serve as an anti-war measure stopping the United States from committing troops to an armed conflict.

The theory is that if all Americans potentially have skin in the game when their children could be drafted and sent into combat, that it would have a deterring effect on U.S. involvement in armed conflict. Add to that perceived deterrence of all young men being subjected to the draft, the prospect of daughters and granddaughters being drafted and sent to war, and the full effect of Rangel’s anti-war legislation is obvious. Rangel believes that having our sons and daughters drafted into the military would ignite the type of anti-war opposition and protest that brought about the end of the Vietnam War.

The Selective Service draft ended in 1973 as the war in Vietnam was coming to an inglorious end. I remember those days well as my own draft class of February 1972 was the second to last to participate in the lottery and the last class to actually have members drafted into the armed services and sent to Vietnam. I received a very high lottery number and it effectively kept me out of the draft. There were few fans of the draft in 1973. The media had turned public opinion against the war. Although most of those drafted served with honor, many of them would have forgone the opportunity but for the draft.

If the draft were reinstated today, its popularity would not be any better. Subjecting women to the draft would make the pill even more difficult to swallow. There is really only one reason Rangel and his supporters have pushed legislation to reinstate the draft: War, and the loss of life it surely brings with it, would be more difficult to prosecute with an army of conscripts who didn’t choose to be there and with family members at home questioning the value of any U.S. involvement.

There is an argument that women are performing almost all of the tasks that their male counterparts perform in today’s volunteer military. And while there may be some women not physically capable for ground combat duty, the same can be said for some men. Proponents for the women’s draft also point out that in a technology-driven military environment, physical size and strength are not the only determining factors, as we see every day in our current volunteer military forces.

Some suggest that since a future draft is unlikely, there is little harm in including women in the Selective Service registration. That is a naive reading of history and of our current geopolitical status. Currently, the armed forces comprise about 2 million men and women, both on active duty and in the reserves. The potential pool of draft eligible young men (ages 18 to 25) on file with the Selective Service is approximately 16 million. In contrast, China has an available 100 million draft eligible men, with nearly 20 million men in China reaching military age every year. Although it has less manpower than China, Russia also has about 45 million men of draft age. If we were drawn into armed conflict with either and a woman-inclusive draft would be re-imposed, symbolic gender equality would face the harsh reality of battle.

If the U.S. were in Israel’s precarious situation, where the drafting of women is about survival and not a symbolic gesture, we would already have women draftees. Conflict of such scale is unlikely in the immediate future. With the grace of God, our children, whether sons or daughters, are not likely to be conscripted into service in the near future. But the long term future is uncertain. Proponents have little concern about forcing their granddaughters or great-granddaughter to be subjected to the horrors of war.
One woman named Alana made the following argument in the Atlantic magazine auguring against women being drafted: “Because only women can bear children, and the survival of the nation depends on it, this is an actual duty—not for the individual woman, but for women as a class. The sacrifice and difficulty of this duty is so great, and the physical courage required so real, and the survival of the nation (and humanity) so dependent upon it, that the duty of childbirth is equal in dignity and weight to the duty to defend one’s nation.”
I believe there is merit in her argument. Women are already serving their country in many other ways. Let’s not add the draft to their already considerable burden.

David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at DaveLandon@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

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Sarah Sidlow
Reach DCP editor Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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