Buss: Drafting women panders to true equality

Kaitlyn Buss
The Detroit News

Our military strategy in the fight against ISIS doesn’t include a draft, and rarely involves requests for more manpower. If anything, the proposal is fewer troops that operate with more finesse and flexibility.

So it’s odd the U.S. Senate last week passed legislation that would require women who turn 18 after 2018 to register for the draft, or rather for Selective Service, as men do now.

Such a substantial policy change is predictably being heralded by many as a victory for equality and women’s rights. But is it?

With our political climate what it is today — easily as combustible and combative as the last time the draft was used during the Vietnam War — lawmakers should revisit the idea of conscription altogether instead of shoving through legislation that panders to the notion of equality but achieves little.

This isn’t an argument about whether women should be allowed to serve in all military roles voluntarily, if they meet the physical requirements for battle. Roughly 15 percent of the military is female; I flirted with the idea of enlisting myself a decade ago.

But Americans overwhelmingly don’t support the draft, whether or not it includes women. A February Rasmussen Poll shows just 29 percent of voters think the United States should have a military draft – although that number has increased over the past five years.

Nationally, only half of voters — 49 percent — believe women should be required to register for the draft. Almost as many, 44 percent, disagree.

And the majority of women — 52 percent — oppose the requirement. Ten percent are undecided.

These numbers reflect precisely the response I received in casual conversation. Women didn’t praise the move. They said they’d rather get rid of the draft altogether than be added to what they consider an already poor public policy. Men, too, found it unnecessary.

Warfare isn’t what it used to be. With the advancement of drones, military intelligence, satellite surveillance and myriad other technology, it’s hard to imagine a situation in which the U.S. simply needs more bodies. It does need highly skilled translators, stealthy investigators and other skilled resources.

Further, 18-year-olds aren’t what they used to be. Our society increasingly treats them like children, and they conform to that standard.

If the country is going to conscript people at all, the age requirements must change. According to federal law, 18-year-old men and women are too immature to drink alcohol responsibly, which means they’re certainly not mature enough to yield artillery, forced to fight a war they likely don’t understand.

And what does it say about our lawmakers’ grasp on reality that such a substantial policy potentially affecting every U.S. family was passed essentially in the dead of night?

There are too many unanswered questions about this issue.

Is the United States going to draft both parents in a family? What about single moms? And if the answer is yes, it signals we have completely abandoned the notion that mothers provide any kind of unique nurturing for their children and need to be around them.

Will the physical requirements change?

Requiring women to register is hardly necessary, and if ever enforced, this policy would elicit the strongest acts of civil disobedience we’ve seen in decades.

There’s reason to believe the House won’t pass the bill as quickly. Several representatives from both parties have suggested studying Selective Service overall before adding new ranks to its numbers. That’s the right approach.

There are important issues women continue to battle to achieve real, tangible equality. But finally giving them the right to fight and die under a policy they and most Americans disagree with is hardly a win.


Twitter: @KaitlynBuss