Women in the Draft

The Female Veteran

By Kersley Fitzgerald

The Series

The Millennial Theologian
The Apologist Father
The Female Veteran

Let me see if I have this straight. Combat roles are opened up to women in the US, and the ensuing integration is studied. Results aren't stellar, but no one can say if that's an inherent problem or a we're-just-beginning issue. DoD Secretary Ash Carter (who, if his history is any indication, appears to be one of the best-qualified to hold that position) turns to the military branches and says, "What do you think?" Army, Air Force, and Navy say, "Yeah, that's fine." Marines say, "Uh, we would like these positions exempt: infantry, armor, recon, some special ops." Carter says, "Meh, close enough. It's a joint force* issue. All combat positions should be opened to women."**

The Marine Commandant and the Army CoS testify to the Senate, "Fine. If women can fill combat roles, why aren't they eligible for the draft?" Two Republicans, one a former Marine and the other a former SEAL, say, "Good point. We didn't want women in combat positions, anyway, but if we put out a bill about the draft, at least Congress will get a part in the discussion."

Did I get that right? Two congressmen who are against women in combat introduced a bill to make women eligible for the draft — a bill they hope will lose — so that Congress can have the chance to officially talk about it?

It's an attempt at reduction ad absurdum that I fear will backfire.

Should women be eligible for the draft? Should women be eligible for combat positions? Should there be a draft? It depends on where you're coming from.

Scripturally, the Bible doesn't say. The Bible tells husbands to treat their wives as "weaker vessels," but it also talks about a couple of female war heroes (Deborah and Jael). The civil law of Israel was that men, 20 and older, could be drafted, no notice, no compensation, unless they'd been married less than a year (gotta get that son!). An argument could be made that it was obvious women would not go to war, so injunctions against it were not necessary. Then again, war back then (for the Israelites) didn't mean multi-year campaigns thousands of miles from home.

Morally? That's sticky, since the only absolute moral law is from the Bible. I think any moral law against it would lead to a deep morass of confusion. Is it moral to draft anyone? Is it moral to go to war? Is the war just? Is your side just? In the cold light of day, those questions matter more than the gender of the combatant. In general, I believe it's the right of a sovereign nation to conscript citizens to fight for the defense of that nation.

Subjectively, this is where I come from. We have not had a moral war in my lifetime unless you count the Cold War. If we were fighting a war on US ground or in defense of our closest allies, I wouldn't be averse to a draft if absolutely needed. It's hard to know if a war is justified before you get into it unless you're attacked first.

If the war was that hard-core necessary, I wouldn't have a problem with women being included in a draft — with a whole long list of caveats and guidelines. Physical and psychological ability. Option to serve in a non-frontline role. Option to serve in a civilian capacity. Effectiveness of the unit. But I've heard some arguments lately categorically reject drafting women not matter the circumstances:

"It isn't right for a nation to send its daughters into combat where they could get killed or injured." If the war is just enough to send our sons, how is it different from daughters? If the war is so frivolous that it's not worth risking our daughters, how can we justify sending our sons?

"Women aren't built for combat; they're physically weaker, so they shouldn't be forced into it." Agreed. I think the spate of movie and TV characters like Lady Sif and Melinda May make us forget this. But it irks me to no end that I work out much more than Dev but will never be as strong. And the guidelines for positions available to women should reflect that and be religiously enforced. This is a needs of the mission issue, not an equality or a theological/scriptural argument.

"It's the man's job to defend the woman; women shouldn't fight." You'll have to back up pretty far for this one, all the way to women volunteering for the military. I was in ROTC for four years and active duty for four. In that time, I received about 10 hours of firearm training, 0 hours of tactical/combat/hand-to-hand training, and maybe 100 hours of drill which I didn't actually use on active duty. Although I did know how to put on chem gear and dive under a desk, so there's that. The training for my male co-workers wasn't any different. It was Eowyn who said, "The women of this country learned long ago, those without swords can still die upon them." There's nothing wrong with a woman learning how to fight.

"Women are more vulnerable to sexual assault if captured." So do you want to protect women from sexual assault? Or from sexual assault by members of a foreign army? Because there's a sexual assault in the US about every minute and a half. If preventing sexual assault is a serious consideration, then maybe start educating boys here that it's not okay before you start worrying about men from overseas. That should help with the in-military assaults, as well. But being a non-combatant didn't help the Chinese women in WWII or the Iraqi women more recently, and being male didn't help the men in Congo and Iraq.

So, do I think women should register for the draft? Probably. But only under the conditions that combat roles are voluntary, that serious checks are followed to properly place individuals (male and female) in appropriate positions, and that no 20-year-old man is drafted unless the situation is so dire that drafting a 20-year-old woman is necessary.

Do I trust that such reasonable caveats would be followed? Nope. This is a fallen world, and the military is a microcosm of that world. So if you're going to talk about whether or not we can trust the military complex with the draft of women, you need to consider whether drafting men is a good idea, either.

* When someone says "joint force," they mean the way in which the several branches are supposed to work together cohesively. In this case, it could mean that the Army and Marines need to have the same standards regarding women in combat.

** With stipulations.

Images: The author as a cadet and as a captain.

TagsControversial-Issues Current-Issues  | Political-Issues  | Womens-Issues

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Published 3-7-16