Essentially, the language would require women to register for the draft – excuse me: ‘Selective Service’ – just like men have to do now. It’s one of those amendments: the nominal sponsor is Rep. Duncan Hunter (R), who largely put it in there, honestly, to cause trouble. Rep. Hunter doesn’t think that women should be drafted – and for that matter, he also thinks that they shouldn’t be allowed to serve in combat. On the other hand, Rep. Jackie Speier (D) wants this amendment, because she’s the sort of person for whom ‘universal conscription’ isn’t a particularly nasty swear word. At any rate, the amendment has cleared the House Armed Services Committee and will be part of the larger defense bill.
Assessing the larger implications of women serving in combat positions is… tricky, not least because there are emotional arguments in play for many people*. Moving away from whether women should serve in combat at all, there is a question here: is it equitable to essentially force young men to risk getting themselves killed while deliberately avoiding imposing the same requirements on young women? I would argue that putting the question this way highlights the real problem here… which is, why are we doing things like this to young men in the first place? Like Bob Heinlein, I don’t care what the Supreme Court thinks: the draft is unconstitutional. If we didn’t make anybody register for it, the question of whether we should make women register for it would be moot.
But I suppose that the real question for a lot of people is actually whether women should serve in combat. In which case, I wish that our legislators would not try to shroud the issue in other ones like the draft. Because the basic morality of a military draft is in fact a legitimate policy question, and one that should be independent of the equally legitimate policy question on the exact status of women in the military. Combining the two questions like this annoys me.
(Image via Shutterstock)
*What’s that? Oh, no, of course: not you. I don’t mean you at all. But there are some people who do let their emotions get the better of them in this discussions, right?