Should Women Be Required to Sign Up for the Military Draft?

Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie say OK. Ted Cruz calls it "nuts."


Selective Service

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has ordered that all ground-combat jobs, including special-operations billets, be opened to women. All American men are required to register with Selective Service when they turn 18 years old. Since women are now able to serve in combat roles, is there any reason that they should not also be required to register with Selective Service? During the Republican presidential candidate debate on Saturday, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie all more or less agreed that women should be required to sign up.

According to CNN, Ted Cruz, however, later rejected the idea as "nuts" and noted: "I'm the father of two little girls. I love those girls with all my heart. They are capable of doing anything in their hearts' desire, but the idea that their government would forcibly put them in the foxhole with a 220-pound psychopath trying to kill them, doesn't make any sense at all."

The Sunday New York Times featured an article that reported that economists in general are against the military draft and in favor of a voluntary force. So far, so good. The article then also noted:

The Supreme Court in 1981 rejected a challenge to the registration requirement brought by men who argued that it was unfair to exclude women. The court said at the time that the registration system existed to provide a reserve of combat troops, and the military had the authority to determine that women were not able to serve in those roles. …

"The military now concedes that women can perform in combat roles, so the rationale for why they shouldn't be drafted doesn't apply," said Tim Bakken, a law professor at the United States Military Academy, adding that a new lawsuit could force a change. "The facts have overtaken the law."

Interestingly, a 2011 study in The Journal of Politics reported survey results that found that instituting a draft significantly reduced the public's support for war: "moving from an all-volunteer to a conscript army decreases support by 17% (from 54% to 37%)."

I strongly suspect that including women in the draft would reduce the American public's appetite for war even more.

Disclosure: My birthday draft lottery number was 320.