Department of Defense (DoD) leadership testified before Congress this week that the Selective Service should be expanded to include females, requiring 18-year-old women to register for the draft. This comes on the heels of controversial decisions to force the military to allow women into all combat jobs despite very reasonable concerns voiced by Marine Corps leaders.
Whether you’re cheering women’s equality or opposed to the draft, there is reason to be excited about these developments: our country will be far less likely to engage in unnecessary wars.
When politicians commit to foreign entanglements, the military must find able-bodied volunteers to fight or they resort to a draft.
You think the Vietnam era protests were bad? Let’s see what happens when politicians try to draft unwilling 18-year old girls and young mothers to fight our nation’s wars.
There are a couple of checks and balances for our country to commit forces to something as serious as war. Congress must approve and fund it and the American people must support and fight it.
Until 1973, however, politicians relied on forcing boys into fighting unpopular wars by instituting a draft rather than convincing citizens of the necessity of committing lives to an effort.
The idea for an all-volunteer military became wildly popular in the 1960s during the Vietnam War. President Richard Nixon established a commission in 1969 to advise him on ending the draft. In 1970, the Gates Commission unanimously recommended ending the draft—and then military leaders argued that they would not have enough young people who would voluntarily finish fighting the Vietnam War, so they continued to use drafted servicemen until 1973.
9,000 Americans died during those years.
Despite not using a draft in recent wars, we continue the Selective Service today. Because in the event that we can’t convince Americans to fight a war, politicians and military leaders want the option to force 18-year old boys into the military.
It is no surprise that 80 percent of Americans are against the draft. It puts the power back in the hands of the American people to choose not to sign-up for military service if our civilian leaders are needlessly or recklessly sending our boys into battle.
Imagine, however, the outrage if politicians wanted to send our girls overseas without an extremely compelling case. If women are required to join the selective service, we can expect two possible outcomes: Either we will end the Selective Service once and for all or we will never use it.
Women have been serving honorably (and willingly) in combat and non-combat roles in the U.S. military for the past 15 years of war and the decades leading up to the longest war in our nation’s history. The Female Engagement Teams were a game changer on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq. Female participation in non-combat military roles has proven that competence, not gender, is the leading indicator of success.
Putting women into combat roles without requiring them to pass the same physical standards as men is problematic. We are, however, beyond the debate over whether females are capable and can contribute honorably in the military and in American society.
Women have equal opportunities in this country and it is time we share equal responsibility with our male counterparts who have shouldered the burden of draft registration for centuries.
As a female Marine who served in Iraq, I appreciate all the brave men along the way who told me that women should not be in the military and should certainly never be in combat. Making the Selective Service equal opportunity allows these men an opportunity to demonstrate their chivalry.
If these noble men don’t want their wife, daughter, or sister sent to an unpopular war, they must volunteer themselves or vigorously oppose the military effort. It certainly changes the debate.
America faces real enemies and our citizens recognize those threats. Sometimes these threats require an expanded military force.
But when young mothers and college girls are sent against their will to serve in a war that cannot attract a volunteer force, our citizens and politicians may reconsider their commitment to that war. And that’s a good thing.
Sarah Feinberg is a mother, wife and former Marine Captain who served a tour in Iraq. She currently works in the private sector and holds an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.