Women Should Be Eligible For The Military Draft

Meiling Laurence, Contributing Writers

To many Americans, the question of whether or not women should be eligible for the military draft is moot because mandatory military conscription has not existed in the US since 1973.  During the Vietnam War, the draft became acutely unpopular and controversial, especially several years after its onset, as the war seemed to press on endlessly.  Protests flared up around the country and hundreds of thousands of men dodged military conscription, prompting the Department of Defense to announce the suspension of the draft.  Since then, volunteer enlistees have constituted the entirety of the U.S. armed forces.

However, the draft still bears relevance today.  A legal case over this discriminatory law is making its way through the federal court system and will almost certainly reach the Supreme Court in the coming years.  According to federal law, all men, and only men, aged 18 to 25 (except for those who obtain deferments on the basis of health, religion, thought, or conscience) are required to register with the Selective Service System.  This agency is responsible for keeping a database of Americans eligible for military service.  While mandatory military conscription now feels like a relic of a bygone era, the US government has the capacity to reinstate the draft with the approval of Congress and the president.  Consequently, the scepter of military conscription perpetually looms over young men in the US, with many fearing that if a global conflict should arise, they could be forcibly marshaled to war by the government. 

Since the possibility of being drafted into the military persists only for men, it makes sense that this circumstance should exist for women, as well.  Our society should be held to its purported belief that women are intrinsically no different from men.  Women are just as capable as men of service and sacrifice for their country. 

“Sacrifice is not a construct of gender.  [Sheltering women from being drafted] implies a level of weakness and vulnerability — a side effect of misogyny that is outdated in 2020,” said junior Jacqueline Atchley.

This is not to say that there are no discernible physical differences between women and men because there certainly are.  

“[Different genders] are very, very equal as far as mental capacity goes, if you were to compare the physical exertion capacity of women in general to men in general, there would be disparate results.” said junior Matthew Pierre-Louis.

However, parity in registration for the Selective Service does not mean that male and female enlistees would be compelled to perform identical tasks should the draft be invoked in the future.  Conscripting women in the military would probably not entail sending them en masse to the front lines (though all combat roles have been open to women since 2015).  Due to technological advancements in recent decades, the contours of modern warfare have changed profoundly, and the age-old notion of battling in the trenches has finally been considered outmoded.  Now, wars are fought, in large part, off of the literal battlefield, and women can contribute in branches such as logistics, cybersecurity, and intelligence, in addition to traditional combat roles.

Expanding the pool of Selective Service registrants to include women would be a boom to military performance.  It would allow the Department of Defense to draw from a larger selection of competent applicants.  This is critical, given that only about one-eighth of the approximately 32 million Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 meet basic military service qualifications and are considered highly academically qualified, according to Dr. Joseph Heck, the chairman of the National Commission on National Military and Public Service.  Senior military leaders agree.  In 2016, Gen. Robert B. Neller, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army Chief of Staff, stated that all physically qualified Americans, including women, should be required to register for the draft.

“As a guy, I shouldn’t really have a say in making [military conscription for women] a requirement.  I think that encouraging women to sign up would certainly be beneficial for gender equality because there aren’t as many women in the military,” said junior Griffin Fielding.

A compulsory military draft for women is a novel and perhaps frightening concept to some Americans, and the prospect of military conscription is daunting for many.  However, this is no different from the trepidation that scores of eligible young men surely experience, and many women view equal military conscription as a necessary step towards equality. 

 “Of course I wouldn’t want to be drafted, but if it meant that women would have the opportunity to do everything men do and possibly be seen more as equals by all people, then I accept that possibility,” said junior Kayla Caplin.

The future of compulsory military conscription in America, including whether or not it will stand the test of time, is uncertain.  But as long as the draft persists, it should include women on the principles of fairness and equality.