Should women be required to register for draft?

Now that Defense Secretary Ash Carter has opened combat roles in the armed forces to women, the top generals for the Army and the Marine Corps told members of Congress this week that they believe women should also have to sign up for Selective Service at age 18. Even though, in 2016, it may be difficult for many of us to imagine a turn in world events that might bring back the military draft, this still signals a major social, cultural and political change in the country. We asked political science and other experts at local universities for their opinions, and also today present views on the matter from national writers. Your thoughts? Email rrollins@coxohio.com. — Ron Rollins

The time has come for women to sign up

From Cassie B. Barlow, Ph.D., Executive Director, Wright State University Aerospace Professional Development Center

It may seem kind of cliche to start with “We’ve come a long way, baby,” but that statement seems very appropriate right now. I write this piece today as a 26-year Air Force veteran and as a mother of a soon-to-be-19-year-old young lady. I believe we have come to the time and place in our history where all young people (women and men) should register for the draft. Allow me a few words to explain why.

I also write this piece as a personal witness throughout my lifetime to hundreds of firsts from women in our great United States of America. Most notably for me, I saw the first women to graduate from a Military Academy (1980), the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court (Sandra Day O’Connor, 1981), the first American woman in space (Sally Ride, 1983), the first woman U.S. Surgeon General (Antonia Novello, 1990), the first woman space shuttle pilot (Eileen Collins in 1995), the first women fighter pilot (Jeannie Leavitt, 1993), the first woman four-star general (Ann Dunwoody, 2008).

This is an incredible list of accomplishments. All of these notable events were only gained through hard work and perseverance, not only by the women whose names are mentioned, but by all of the women who came before them in history. It is more than appropriate in 2016 as we watch the proceedings in our government to allow all women to serve in any role they would like in our Department of Defense, to celebrate the hard work of many women who have gone before our current generation.

Added to all of the firsts listed above, the one that I didn’t see, occurred during the Revolutionary War, when women first donned a military uniform to serve our country. They served in disguise, as men, and eventually worked their way into full service for full pay over hundreds of years. Women can now serve right next to men in all roles based on recent direction from the Secretary of Defense.

With the capability to serve in all roles comes the requirement to register to serve. There are many details to be worked out that I’m sure our Congress and Department of Defense will tackle with due diligence, but the time has come for full equality that includes the draft.

Equal rights should mean equal responsibility

From Verb Washington, Ph.D., history lecturer at the University of Dayton

Recent changes by the Department of Defense have allowed women to serve in any role in the United States’ military. This includes serving in combat roles, a right that had been denied to them since women were first officially inducted into the military in World War I. This change is overdue, and I believe, welcomed by those who champion both women’s rights and equal rights.

However, this change does raise the question of whether women, having gained an equal right, should also shoulder an equal responsibility. I believe that allowing women to participate equally in the defense of our nation must also require them to meet the same responsibilities as their male counterparts. This means that just as young men have had to register for Selective Service since President Carter reinstated the requirement in 1980, so now should young women.

I don’t advocate this because I have some desire to see women conscripted into the military. If I’ve learned anything in my 30 years of service, it’s that part of what gives American soldiers the edge is the knowledge that we serve as volunteers, so I don’t want to see anyone conscripted. Requiring young women to register for the draft is, however, a sign for our country that we are serious about their equality. What’s more, we simply don’t have any legal justification to continue the discrimination. When women were barred from combat roles, the courts upheld the selective service exclusion because there was a fundamental difference in the service of men and women. Now that the difference has been eliminated, so too should the discrimination be ended.

At the end of the day, my prayer remains that no American, whether man or woman, would need to be drafted to defend our country. Still, we need to know that should we ever face a crisis too large for our all-volunteer military, that the country has an option. The Selective Service System is a prudent measure in a world that remains in turmoil. The time has come for that system to apply equally for all of our citizens.

Hard to imagine, when you consider your own daughter

From Jason K. Lee, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Biblical and Theological Studies, Cedarville University

My oldest daughter is a junior in high school and still several months from her 18th birthday. When I dream of her post-high school future, my thoughts start with a college campus followed by a graduation, first job in her career field, then follow some family choices including marriage and children. If I picture her overseas then it is as study abroad student or as short-term missionary. Her being drafted for military service in distant places does not appear anywhere on that dream horizon.

At this point, almost any position in today’s military is open to both men and women. One striking difference between the sexes currently is that my teenage sons will have to register with the Selective Service System in a few years, but my daughter does not. There are two elements of this scenario seem counterintuitive. First, it seems counterintuitive that any military position would be open to women, but they are not eligible for the draft. Second, due to the history of the draft being for men, it seems odd that my daughter might one day be required to register for the draft.

I understand the basic arguments on both sides of the issue. History stands against women being included the draft. There is little precedent in military history in America (or for much older civilizations) either for prescripted military service being applied to women. It is also true that there are restrictions placed on the draft that do not apply to other aspects of military service. For instance, though law requires registration with the Selective Service for males 18-25, males older than 25 could enlist and have access to military service duties similar to the 18-25 year olds. So, restrictions on the draft have always been narrower than restrictions on military service in general.

On the other side, now that most historical restrictions on combat positions and other military service slots for women have been removed, it seems that the appeal to history does not sway the policy move toward gender equity in the military. As long as there is a draft, it should apply equally to men and women. Furthermore, the draft has always been seen as a “last resort” of policy to solicit military service. If a widespread use of the draft were to return to America, then that would surely come at a time of building military intensity or open hostility. Since women would now be allowed in all parts of military response to aggression, then drafting young women into action seems like the logical next step.

When it comes to my own high school daughter, I hope she always has the courage to defend the weak and the humility to serve when the need is present. However, I also hope that she volunteers for life’s tough assignments before she is ever “drafted.”

What national writers are saying …

From Christina Cauterucci, at Slate: Though Congress is highly unlikely to ever resume active conscription, the purpose of a nationwide Selective Service registry is to enforce an equal distribution of the burden of war. Since the Vietnam War, when the wealthy and powerful easily avoided the draft, most easy-to-access deferments have been scrapped.

If the draft is to have its desired effect — forcing decision-makers in the federal government to personally grapple with the severity of sending combat troops overseas and lessening the disproportionate consequences of war borne by poor communities and communities of color—women must be implicated by its reach. Military officials can debate how and where drafted women will serve according to their merits when and if the unthinkable comes to pass.

For now, it’s up to Congress to align one of our country’s last remaining discriminatory laws with today’s military reality.

From Mark Antonio Wright, at the National Review: The progressive Left’s argument has always been that only those women who are qualified and can meet the high physical standards of the combat arms will be placed in combat units. Implicit is the admission that only a small minority of women would meet those standards. This is, of course, only evidence of continued sloppy thinking on the Pentagon’s part — influenced by politically correct ideas about the ‘equality’ of the sexes.

Conscription is intended to raise manpower (no microagression intended) in bulk. If only a small minority of women could qualify for the combat arms in ideal circumstances, why should the military be forced to sift through the tens of thousands of likely unqualified females thrust upon them in the event of a national emergency — the only situation in which a draft would be instituted? Missouri senator Claire McCaskill, a supporter of the idea, opined during the hearing, “Part of me believes that asking women to register as we ask men to register would maybe possibly open up more recruits as women began to think about, well, the military is an option for me.”

But the military, unlike almost every other path in life, is not about what is best for the individual. It’s not about creating “options” or “opportunities” for young Americans. It’s not about fairness or equality or college scholarships. It’s about what’s best for the nation, about defending the United States from its enemies by waging war and defeating them. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer Americans show evidence of grasping this basic point.

Proponents of this proposal should be asked to answer a simple question: In what way would registering females for the draft unambiguously improve the national security of the United States? It’s a shame that even our highest ranking military officers have declined to answer the question.

From Christopher Preble, at the Washington Post: When it comes to the draft, or any lingering vestige of it, it’s time for Congress to end it, not mend it.

The entire draft architecture is anachronistic and unnecessary. We’ve operated with an all-volunteer force for decades; no one, regardless of gender, expects that they’ll be drafted; and the wars that we fight don’t depend upon conscription. Future wars aren’t likely to, either. …

Compulsory service is even less essential today. America’s wars of the post-conscription era have been fought by far smaller forces, and our mixed track record in those conflicts hasn’t been a function of the number of available troops. Rather, the inability to achieve decisive victory in places like Iraq and Afghanistan reflects the inherent difficulty of nation-building, and our body politic’s understandable weariness with open-ended and costly missions in distant lands. Although in the wake of Paris and San Bernardino, there’s been an uptick in public support for deployment of additional ground troops to combat the Islamic State, having a draft, with one or both sexes, is unlikely to make the public more supportive of large-scale, decades-long wars.

Meanwhile, a draft would likely reduce the military’s fighting effectiveness. Today’s force is uniquely capable precisely because it is comprised entirely of volunteers, men and women who choose to join the military for a variety of reasons, including the desire to serve their country, but also because of the exceptional opportunities and benefits available to those in uniform. Overall compensation for troops is more than competitive relative to their comparably skilled peers, and Americans are willing to invest in their professional development because we are confident that many of them will remain in service long enough for our investment to be worthwhile. By contrast, draftees of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s weren’t expected to stick around after their obligation expired, and thus received minimal training. A conscripted military might be larger, but it wouldn’t be better. …

Finally, it is highly unlikely that we’ll face threats that require troop deployments on a scale that would necessitate another draft. Policymakers in Washington have chosen to fight wars in the Middle East with smaller, more nimble and highly-trained special operators, along with air power, manned and unmanned, in part because the capabilities are available to them, but mostly because these wars do not engage vital U.S. national security interests or threaten our survival.

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