In the recent New Hampshire Republican debate, the question was asked, “should women be required to sign up for selected service systems” in the United States military, meaning conscription or the draft. The question comes on the heels of two leading generals saying they should and after the U.S. military approved women-in-combat roles.
Why some people say ‘yes’
The supporting arguments appear to be: 1) Now that women can do all military roles, the right should come with the responsibility; and 2) Men and women are equal therefore everyone should be required to sign up for the draft.
Before I say my reasons against requiring women in the draft, let me address these. The cement is still drying on what women-in-combat roles will look like, and we need to give it time to develop before making another change. For example, if there are, heaven forbid, women prisoners of war, will they be exposed to the harms and dangers even more pronounced than men? Also, just because a new right comes into being doesn’t mean a much larger responsibility comes with it. Just because everyone of a certain age is able to apply for a driver’s license doesn’t mean everyone is required to get one. I realize conscription is a different matter altogether legally, but I am only referring to the logic.
As for the entire equality argument, we cannot buy into the claims of an egalitarian view of men and women. Men and women are of equal worth but are not the same. Men cannot, for example, carry babies in the womb. It is okay for there to be differences.
Moreover, women are now allowed to serve in any capacity they wish in the military, so we have equality of opportunity now. To keep that equality of opportunity, we do not need to add equality of obligation.
Why we should say ‘no’
There are at least three reasons that I see to say “no” to this policy.
Since the War for Independence to the Vietnam War to today, the draft has had a changing role in American society. Sometimes it was a major factor, while others, it was not needed. Before the present debate, the most recent major revisions to conscription policies came under the Carter Administration.
President Carter, who reinstated the draft, specifically wanted women to be drafted but for non-combat roles (though history shows a draft comes into play only when more combat soldiers are needed).
An all-volunteer and professional military currently meets our needs. If ever a day came that we needed more people than volunteer and existing draft standards could supply, then we could revisit this conversation. Currently, it is unnecessary.
Historically speaking, there is virtually no precedent for conscripting women into military service. Women have played a vital role in each civilization, but almost without exception, other nations and generations have chosen to respect women’s right not to be drafted.
You will sometimes hear people point out that Israel drafts women for service. While they do have a draft, it does not appear their women are put into combat roles, like what is being proposed here. Also, America’s needs are vastly different than Israel’s.
From the book of Genesis forward, the Bible recognizes that men and women are different. The most noticeable difference is that women, not men, carry children in the womb and give birth to every child that comes into being. Pregnancy and childbirth is a huge factor. To ask all women, ages 18-25, who might become mothers, potentially to serve in the military is asking too much and is unfair to women as a whole.
Next, the more you integrate women into military service, the more you must take into account the consequence of a co-ed military. We already must account for changing rooms, quarters, bathroom facilities and showers for military members of the opposite sex. To influx millions of men and women together will complicate matters further in ways we are not thinking about now.
Also there is a strong anti-draft sentiment in American history as it is already. Why would we expand a practice that is already compulsory to men and controversial in other ways? While I personally believe the draft is necessary and just, to expand it only compounds the societal disagreement we have now. For these reasons and more, it is unwise to pursue this course.
In summary, if women want to serve in the military, it is their choice, and they should be applauded and supported in every way. To force it upon them anew, however, is unfair, unwise and unnecessary at this time.
Let’s hope our president, the Congress and our military leaders heed the voices of caution, before the possibility of another draft turns into the reality of one.