"The current disparate treatment of women unacceptably excludes women from a fundamental civic obligation and reinforces gender stereotypes about the role of women, undermining national security."
Go on, fancy national commission, tell this #GirlDad more!
"After extensive deliberations, the Commission ultimately decided that all Americans, men and women, should be required to register for Selective Service and be prepared to serve in the event a draft is enacted by Congress and the President."
Go f-f-f-f-f-f-lush yourself.
Last Thursday, the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, a body created by Congress in 2017 to reassess the oxymoronically named Selective Service System and brainstorm ways to increase public participation in the military, at long last presented its final recommendations to the Senate Armed Services Committee. In a nearly year-old report whose official delivery was serially delayed by COVID-19 and other distractions, commissioners reacted to our newish reality of having fully integrated female combat troops by urging Congress to ungender President Jimmy Carter's 1980 reinstatement of compulsory draft registration for 18-year-old males.
And, because this is the world we live in now, they did so in the name of equity.
"That women register, and perhaps be called up in the event of a draft, is a necessary prerequisite for their achieving equality as citizens, as it has been for other groups historically discriminated against in American history," the commission concluded. "Reluctance to extend the registration requirement to women may be in part a consequence of gender stereotypes about the proper role for women and their need for special protection."
There is indeed a compelling moral and legal case for women and men to be treated equally under the law when it comes to military obligations. Which is why I, like The Volokh Conspiracy's Ilya Somin and most libertarians I'm aware of, prefer the equality of no military obligations whatsoever.
In consequentialist terms, the draft has not been used since 1973, and military capability has improved markedly since switching to an all-volunteer force. But the root argument against pre-conscription is moral: We do not truly own our own lives if the state can lay theoretical claim on them between the ages of 18 and 26. The Declaration of Independence elevated first among our unalienable rights "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness," not "Death, on-call Servitude, and whatever else you can Manage in the margins."
The most common rejoinder to registration refuseniks is that, c'mon, it's just a piece of paper; no one's going to jail for not signing up, and most importantly no one's getting drafted (Congress would have to pass additional legislation for that, after all). To which I would respond, 1) if you don't sign that paper, goodbye college loans and probably also your driver's license; and 2) the state does not share your no-one's-getting-drafted confidence, at all.
Let's look at some more of the commission's verbiage, shall we? "The next time America must turn to a draft, it will need to include everyone who is capable and qualified. It would be harmful to the Nation's security to leave out the skills and talents of half of the U.S. population." That's a when, not an if.
Hippies during these debates tend to overuse such phrases as "cannon fodder," but the military establishment that seeks to extend more control over the civilian populace has some dehumanizing metaphors of its own (bolded):
Should future circumstances become so dire that a draft is required, it is in the national security interest of the United States to be able to draw on the best talent in the country for military service. Roughly doubling the pool from which the Nation might obtain conscripts would improve military readiness by raising the quality of those who might serve, as some women would be more qualified to serve than some men. Defense officials in recent years have noted that changing national demographics and low eligibility trends for qualified military recruits do little to alleviate future uncertainties. Indeed, these trends exacerbate concerns over meeting military personnel requirements in the event of an emergency. The population growth rate in the United States is at its lowest point in more than 80 years, and 7 of 10 young Americans—male and female—are currently ineligible to serve because they fail to meet physical, moral, educational, and health standards, including mental health criteria. Consequently, the number of young people eligible for military service in the country is shrinking. Of those eligible, data from DoD's Joint Advertising, Market Research and Studies (JAMRS) suggests that young women are on average equally likely to qualify for military service as young men—29.3 percent of female qualified military applicants versus 29.0 percent of male qualified military applicants.
Because the existing registrant pool may prove inadequate to meet the personnel needs of DoD if a draft is required, it is critical to create a broader pool that includes women.
Feel empowered today, punk?
The commission took pains to emphasize that it solicited the full gamut of opinion—from those who believe "that women and men should have equal obligations under the law to register for the Selective Service System," to those who "support women's right to serve voluntarily in the military but oppose requiring women to register for a potential draft." Allow me to gently suggest that there are some other views across this great land.
A military that openly brags about "playing shell games to not make clear to our [civilian] leadership how many troops" we have in Afghanistan is a military that has lost any claim to treating U.S. citizens like droplets in its water supply. The Founding generation would likely be sickened by our current status as hegemon-on-autopilot, forever indifferent to legislative influence on the power to wage war. The federal government was supposed to secure our rights, not our blood loyalty.
Congress should take the commission's recommendation as an excellent opportunity to dismantle Jimmy Carter's late-term Cold War panic once and for all. As the report—titled "Inspired to Serve," natch—makes clear, "The current practice of registering all men—even those ineligible for military service under today's All-Volunteer Force standards—is intentionally designed to limit potential inequities in the draft process."
The best way to remove inequities in the draft process is to remove the damned draft. Hands off my daughters, Washington.
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