Conservatives Need to Stand Strong Against Draft Registration ... for Women AND Men

AP Photo/John Bazemore, File

The U.S. Senate's inclusion of a mandate that women be registered for the Selective Service in Fiscal Year 2025's National Defense Authorization Act has sparked debates about conscription, equality, and gender roles. 

Principled, Not Feminist, Opposition to Conscription

Personally, I'm against conscription and want to abolish the Selective Service. This isn't a position I recently adopted out of convenience or fear that I could be drafted. Plainly, I'm not eligible today, anyway. It's what I believe our natural rights and liberties are. I believe that conscription is antithetical to liberty, that the government does not "own" people, and that the government's right to exist doesn't supersede the sentient citizens' right to exist. Certainly, the founding fathers didn't think the British government's rights to existence were more important than their own pursuits of liberty. 

Inconsistencies in Argument

In a society where right-of-center ideologies demand freedoms of conscience and autonomy over mask mandates, vaccine requirements, and even which schools children can attend, the idea that those same individuals feel that it's acceptable for a government to send civilians into a war against their will requires jumps in logic that I cannot make. At a minimum, they do know the military has extensive vaccine requirements, right?

I was pleased to see Republicans like Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) take a stance against the idea that we should include women in the draft system, but I wasn't impressed by this position. For me, it truly stops short of the kind of large-scale liberty that should be a guiding principle in this country: Nobody should be drafted.

The draft supporters on the right often argue that this power should be reserved in case of a mainland United States invasion. I find this laughable, as that is the single scenario where there would be more volunteers than we knew what to do with, and many of those ineligible for service would end up poaching off the invaders in vigilante militia groups. The idea that Americans wouldn't be able to raise up an all-volunteer military amid a foreign invasion is absurd. 

The other side of the coin addresses a future dystopian reality that the Declaration of Independence doesn't preclude: If the government becomes so tyrannical that it isn't worth fighting for, then let it fall. I'm not advocating this in a modern context, but a purely theoretical one. Our nation wasn't founded on the idea that the government's mere existence was more important than the rights and liberties of the people. There is no founding principle that supports the unconditional continuation of a government. 

Virtue Signaling

The larger disappointment comes when conservatives or Republicans support the idea of conscripting women based on a tongue-in-cheek one-liner about "equality." They argue that women should be registered to be drafted because they want to be — or think that they are — equal to men. But, I find this to be a disingenuous argument and very much a virtue signal, albeit one that doesn't represent the espoused conservative value of protecting women.

This is a quick reminder that women are fighting to keep biological men out of women's spaces, such as their sports competitions, beauty pageants, and even prison systems. I don't think men and women are physically equal, and nobody on the right does. I realize that all military positions are not combat roles. Still, I'm unsure of what kind of alleged equality is being pointed to in these off-the-cuff "equality" musings.  

One such argument points to voting rights, suggesting that only people eligible for the draft should be able to vote or something similar to that. This argument hinges on the assertion that women are voting to send men to war but not accountable to that vote for their own gender. 

There are some flaws in that line of thinking, too. Green card holders can serve in the military voluntarily and also be drafted but are not eligible to vote. Voting rights have never been directly tied to military service in the United States. They were once tied to being a man, albeit a biological one, of course.

Another issue with this voting rights argument is that the population never gets a direct vote on the issue of war. It's never been on my ballot or yours. While we select representatives, in terms of the military-industrial complex, the partisan lines are blurred and turned on their heads. Anyone can be a hawk, and we don't always know what we are getting or have a choice at all. In the 2008 presidential election, the voters could choose between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain. Sixteen years later, I still couldn't tell you that either of those candidates was the more anti-war selection. 

Modern Realities and Historical Context

We didn't get a choice in any of the recent wars; nobody asked the voters. But the taxpayers are funding war efforts today in Israel and Ukraine. Not only did the voters not have a say in any of it, but Congress has abdicated its duty even to declare wars going back several decades. 

In the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, there are about half a million injured or dead, mostly conscripts, from both sides of the war. Mostly young men, although anyone from age 25 to age 60 is prohibited from leaving Ukraine because they are eligible to be forced into military service. I'm not sure what is going to be accomplished by those half million deaths, but I don't anticipate the Russians will vacate Crimea, as the Ukraine victory plan intends. 

Yes, it bothers me that they weren't volunteers, regardless of which military they were forced into. It also bothers me that the WW II casualty in my family may not have been a volunteer, although I don't have a clear understanding regarding whether he was or not. I do have a copy of my great uncle's draft registration card, which only raises more questions than answers. I feel both proud and conflicted about his military honors, often trying to imagine what this 22-year-old felt about his service and sacrifice and if his life was freely given, or taken from him. 

Yet, I find comfort in the fact that World War II was certainly a different era. It's most likely that our family's Silver Star casualty did see this as a civic duty, the prevailing ideology in America at the time. And the Greatest Generation didn't think women should be drafted alongside them. I sort of joke about our veterans being in these almost inconceivable historic battles and wishing they had brought their little sisters along with them. But in all seriousness, this idea of women's conscription is an ultra-modern viewpoint. I've never heard it discussed in terms of the Vietnam War of my father's generation. 

Instead of discussions of the "missed opportunity" to include women, what I have heard is that the lessons of Vietnam are still not fully implemented. Society seems perfectly comfortable with a symbolic pinky promise that we won't repeat the same mistakes without taking any tangible action to ensure it. The government promises it won't happen, everybody. They won't abuse their ill-begotten power, okay? Of course, that's not good enough. 

A Call to Uphold Liberty

The values conservatives and Republicans should be standing up for should take center stage amid this debate about women's roles and government powers. Men are supposed to protect women, not use the opportunity to pander about being aggrieved by "equality." 

I can't think that any man has an interest in protecting women at the same time they are saying that they should be put into a war against their will. Those mental gymnastics just don't add up. We aim to be equal, which isn't an inherently bad goal (re: all men are created equal with inalienable rights), but this doesn't mean equal in physical attributes or equal in injustices. People should be equal in liberty, not equal in conscription. 

Geopolitics is an election issue because Americans are footing the bill on multiple wars today. The Democrats will lean in on the Dobbs decision and make "women's rights," aka abortion, an election issue while stripping them of their ultimate sovereignty to make them conscripts. Amid this backdrop, I think it's particularly dangerous for Republicans to become apathetic about what happens to women in our society, waiving a flag of surrender and admitting that gender is meaningless to them and liberty is a peace-time concept that they half-heartedly believe in. 

Drafting women to war is such a capitulation on the fabric of this nation that doing so will change its collective identity. It's not a conservative position as much as an authoritarian one. It's not an admirable "dunk" on feminism to abandon core values to pursue ironic virtue signals in their place. It's not the time to give in to the neo-cons, warhawks, or those for increased government power. It's not the time to make war powers a hot-button social issue about gender ideology or gender equality. 

Instead, it's a good time to speak up and tell the government we do not trust them with this power. Therefore, now more than ever, it is crucial to stand firm and voice our dissent against the expansion — and even the existence of — the Selective Service. Our liberty and principles of self-determination demand nothing less, regardless of the bodies we are born into. 


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