DOUBLE STANDARDS – Women in Combat and the Constitutionality of Male-Only Draft Registration

Here’s an interesting development, one that other people predicted. Now that women have been admitted to the maneuver arms the issue of the male-only draft has come up again.

The Volokh Conspiracy is a respected center-right law blog. Here’s an article that discusses the constitutionality of the draft in view of this change in policy and also of a court case in 1981 that the exemption of women from the draft was based on. In that case the court found that since women were excluded from combat roles, there was no good reason to draft them. That is pretty shaky reasoning, but even that excuse is gone now.

And then here is a post on Andrew Sullivan’s blog that consists of comments emailed in on the desirability of a draft. These commenters point out the various ways a draft and even just requiring registration for the draft is useless, unnecessary and wasteful.

Here is an earlier post at Sullivan’s that claims that in this perilous age it is insane to leave ourselves so unready. It’s a completely ignorant argument. A draft is on balance detrimental to military readiness and the national defense because it will saddle the military with swarms of sub-standard unusable people. This will sap resources from actual valid missions. So much for the national defense argument.

There are good reasons for a draft, but none of them are directly military. In a huge diverse nation common, residential national service does tow really big things. For one thing it puts people in close and continuous contact, the more arduous the conditions the better, who would probably never meet. It strengthens social bonds across all regions and classes. It also calls on people to invest a piece of their own selves, to or three years of their lives, to building up society, years that they are not investing in their own personal career advancement. This would be some kind of civilian service. There are lots of things that need to be done in this country, and by now it ought to be clear that yet another government contractor in northern Virginia leaching off the taxpayers is not the most efficient way to get all this done.

Draft people – everyone without exemption – if you must, but use them in roles and in jobs where their sacrifice of a couple of years out of their lives will do the nation some real good.

EDIT: Commenter dungone makes soem very good points in a comment below:

In all honesty, this is not the time to be talking about the merits of the draft. Just start drafting women. Period. And I don’t really care what anyone thinks about the implausibility of making this come to pass. If the Supreme Court wants to twist itself into pretzel for the whole world to see and laugh at, then let them. It would just be free publicity for men’s rights.

This is absolutley correct. The need for the draft as a mechanism of social equality is so compelling that its military uselessness is secondary. A draft can fill other needs in public service anyway. He continues:

With all of these recent developments, I have actually changed my stance on being generally against the draft before to being generally for it, now. The reason is that a gender-neutral draft would probably improve the quality of life within the military while also serving as a greater driver of public opinion against war. Whereas on the other hand, an all-volunteer force continue to serve as a stealth draft for men as it always had.

The stealth draft. Exactly. The all-volunteer force has become a stealth draft that selects on the basis of gender and class.

In the interests of social justice and gender parity, the draft should be used to adjust the end-strength of the military – set recruitment targets for class and gender and then fill shortfalls against those targets with the draft. Who could object to a social justice initiative?

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  • Aych

    Women will not be required to sign-up for selective service just because the basis for not doing so has been removed. There is no political profit in doing so. White Knights in government will bend over backwards to make it not happen. They will create elaborate & inventive justifications. The Obama adminstration does not want to be remembered by its most loyal voting bloc as the presidency which inconveninced young women by making them sign-up for a draft.

    You watch. SS will be male-only for a long time to come.

  • Wilson

    While the US doesn’t need to draft the standing army, in an actual defensive war there is no getting around mass conscription. We had to stop-loss soldiers to deal with a bottom-tier country like Iraq!

  • http://marjaerwin.livejournal.com Marja Erwin

    Even if I didn’t have ethical objections to conscription, whether military or ‘civilian’ conscription, I know I could not survive being conscripted. I would be beaten half the time and struggling with that the other half, and a lot of other autistic and neurodivergent people would suffer just as much. My grandfather never recovered from the damage he suffered in the military and in the war and in the rebuilding work, and self-medded to the end of his life. Unfortunately, epigenetics being what they are, this probably killed my father too, and inflicted a great many health problems on us all.

  • Ginkgo

    “I know I could not survive being conscripted”

    You’d be rejected. I am sure that would trouble you not at all. Part of this that seems to get forgotten is the practicalityies of a draft. It costs money to transport and train and feed and house recruits. It makes no snese to trawl indiscriminately. And then there is the cost – thank God! – of abusing recruits. families do not stand for it anymore, and they have remedies at thier disposal, and those remedies hit the service both financially and politically, and they should hurt.

    “While the US doesn’t need to draft the standing army, in an actual defensive war there is no getting around mass conscription. We had to stop-loss soldiers to deal with a bottom-tier country like Iraq!”

    Wilson, I get what you are saying, but you are mixing some things up. First – mass conscription – what I said above puts a spike in mass conscription. If we get invaded, that presumes a force of some sophistication, just to project across these oceans and get onshore, or even just to cross the Sonoran Desert, which is no joke either. And a force like that is not going to be stopped by a ragatg Home Guard rabble slapped together in three weeks. If we need conscription for that defense, we’re fucked.

    It’s not an option for any force even slightly more sophisitcated than what we had 50 years a go in ietnam, and while it’s not obvious form what you see on TV, the gulf between that force and a modern force is gaping. And then there is Iraq and stop loss. Stop loss was to keep soldiers already in, ie, desirable soldiers. That’s not what conscription is about, that’s not what you get with conscription

  • thefish

    @Wilson/Ginko: Invading America? America fighting a defensive war? Consider North Korea. Its nuclear arsenal is tiny compared to America. Its delivary systems are primitive and unreliable compared to Americas.

    Invading North Korea would be out of the question for a coalition of every other country on the planet. Its not even a remotely reasonable option because of that primitive, unreliable tiny nuclear arsenal.

    America has a huge arsenal. America has delivery systems that cannot be avoided. If we have time to institute a draft. In fact, if Congress even has time to authorize a draft the war is over. The enemy country is no more.

    Whats more is we have more naval power than the rest of the world combined. And we have the most advanced technology. An invasion force would never make it across the ocean. The rest of the Americas don’t have nuclear weapons and can be crushed without worrying about nuclear retaliation.

    And we possess smallpox and the vaccines to protect our people.

    America will not have to fight a defensive war in any foreseeable future. Its possible America might massacre the people of another country, but that doesn’t call for a draft.

  • Copyleft

    As we saw with women accepting the hazards of frontline combat duty, there IS a way to make them shoulder equal responsibility to go along with their equal rights: you just have to frame it as a privilege that they’re currently being denied.

    As with frontline combat duty, you’ll see women lining up in droves, DEMANDING equal access to Selective Service registration. It just needs the right phrasing and presentation.

  • dungone

    The “social justice type” in me wants to say, but men have been getting conscripted for thousands of years… it’s only fair that women get conscripted for the next thousand! Funny how the shoe lands on the other foot, no?

    In all honesty, this is not the time to be talking about the merits of the draft. Just start drafting women. Period. And I don’t really care what anyone thinks about the implausibility of making this come to pass. If the Supreme Court wants to twist itself into pretzel for the whole world to see and laugh at, then let them. It would just be free publicity for men’s rights.

    With all of these recent developments, I have actually changed my stance on being generally against the draft before to being generally for it, now. The reason is that a gender-neutral draft would probably improve the quality of life within the military while also serving as a greater driver of public opinion against war. Whereas on the other hand, an all-volunteer force continue to serve as a stealth draft for men as it always had.

  • Ginkgo

    The fish, you whole comment is gold. It is totally true. If even hopeless little N Korea is so impossible to invade, why even talk about it wrt to the US.

    And dungone, most of yours is appearing OTL as an edit

  • gwallan

    @thefish…

    The US is also the world’s foremost terrorist organisation.

  • Jupp

    In Germany young men were drafted until 17 months ago. One of the reasons to suspend the draft, was that in the end only half of the men of a given birth year were required to do any service. Before that the main reasons to uphold the draft were
    1.The cheap labor of the conscientious objectors in the alternative civilian service.
    2.The function of the obligatory military service to recruit professional soldiers.

  • thefish

    “The US is also the world’s foremost terrorist organisation.”

    Don’t see how that changes anything. One of the key points of terrorist organizations is that they are willing to kill civilians. That makes a nuclear arsenal a more effective deterrent.

  • Ginkgo

    “The US is also the world’s foremost terrorist organisation.”

    Terrorism is a tactic. By thefish’s definition most states are terrorist.

    The modern era of terrorism started in the US, with the KKK as a domestic terrorist organization resisting occupation, and the IRB, later IRA, the same thing in Ireland. Both came out of the US Civil War.

  • thefish

    “By thefish’s definition most states are terrorist.”

    I feel some clarification is in order. This:
    “One of the key points of terrorist organizations is that they are willing to kill civilians. ”
    is not the whole definition. But if you only target the military you aren’t so much a terrorist as a rebel at that point. Nor do I agree that the U.S. government is a terrorist organization. My point was merely that arguing that the U.S. is a terrorist group would support my argument not diminish it. If the U.S. is willing to say… target civilian population centers of an invading country nuclear weapons are a much more effective deterrent. (And I have no doubt our country would use every weapon and tool available to stop an invasion regardless of the death toll in the rest of the world.)