By Leah Bolger, World BEYOND War
1. Wrong question. The argument that extending the Selective Service registration requirement to women as a way to help reduce gender-based discrimination is specious. It does not represent a move forward for women; it represents a move backward, imposing on young women a burden that young men have had to bear unjustly for many decades – a burden that no young person should have to bear at all. The real question to be decided is not whether or not women should be drafted, but whether the draft should exist at all. Women already have the full right to enter any of the military services of their own free will. Opening the draft to women doesn’t grant a right, it denies a choice.
2. Public doesn’t want it. The purpose of the Selective Service System (SSS) is to provide the means of initiating a draft of civilians into the military service in a time of war. In every poll since the Viet Nam war, reinstatement of the draft is overwhelmingly opposed by the general public, and even more so by veterans.
3. Congress doesn’t want it. In 2004, the House of Representatives defeat4ed a bill that would have required “all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security.” The vote was 402-2 against the bill
4. The military doesn’t want it. In 2003, the Department of Defense agreed with President George W. Bush that on modern, high-tech battlefields, a highly-trained professional military force made up totally of volunteers would fare better against the new “terrorist” enemy than a pool of draftees who had been forced to serve. In a DoD opinion that remains unchanged today, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield noted that draftees are “churned” through the military with only minimal training and a desire to leave the service as soon as possible.
5. In the Viet Nam draft, deferments were easy to obtain for people with connections who could be exempted completely, or given plum stateside orders. The decisions to grant deferments were made by local draft boards and involved a good measure of subjectivity. Deferments for on the basis of marital status is simply unfair on its surface.
6. Viet Nam draft boards gave deferments to “Conscientious Objectors,” who had well-documented histories as members of one of the so-called “Peace Churches”: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Quakers, Mennonites, Mormons, and the Amish. Arguably, killing someone would bother the conscience of most people whether or not they were members of any church. Forcing someone to do something that violates their moral compass is in itself immoral.
7. Preys on the underprivileged. Currently we have a “poverty draft” meaning those without money for education or a good job find few options other than the military. In an actual draft, people enrolled in college are exempted, thus creating privilege for those with money. President Biden received 5 education deferments; 5 each for Trump and Cheney as well.
8. Not feminist. Women’s equality will not be achieved by including women in a draft system that forces civilians to participate in activities that are against their will and harm others in large numbers, such as war. The draft is not a women’s rights issue, as it does nothing to advance the cause of equality and functionally limits freedom of choice for Americans of all genders. Moreover, women and girls are the biggest victims in war.
9. Endangers women. Sexism and violence towards women are pervasive in the military. A study done by the DoD in 2020 showed that 76.1% of the victims did not report the crime for fear of retribution (80% of the perpetrators are either of higher rank than the victim or in the victim’s chain of command,) or that nothing would be done. Despite a 22% increase in sexual assault reports since 2015, convictions have plummeted by almost 60% in the same timeframe.
10. At $24 million/year, the cost of operating the SSS is relatively small, however it is $24 million that is completely wasted and could be used for something else.
11. Upsets the domestic employment/economy. Suddenly removing tens of thousands of people from their jobs causes major headaches for employers in small businesses. Veterans coming home may have difficulty returning to their previous employment. The families of draftees who held lucrative employment may face significant financial hardship as their income is slashed.
12. The law says that registration must be made within 30 days of turning 18, however there is no way for the government to enforce the requirement, or to know how many have complied. The only thing that can be done is to punish those who don’t register by denying them federal employment or citizenship.
13. Predictably useless. In addition to the requirement to register within 30 days of turning 18, the law also requires notification of a change of address within 30 days. A former director of the Selective Service System called the current system of registration “less than useless because it does not provide a comprehensive nor an accurate database upon which to implement conscription…It systematically lacks large segments of the eligible male population, and for those that are included, the currency of information contained is questionable.”
14. Likelihood of resistance. An activation of the draft is certain to face major resistance. Public opposition to the draft has been measured to be as much as 80%. The American public’s indifference to the current wars has been attributed to the very small number of U.S. fatalities. Massive troop deployments into combat zones will not be supported by the public. It is undeniable that antiwar groups will oppose an activation of the draft, but major resistance can also be expected from those who do not believe that women should be drafted. Litigation can also be predicted due to the many inequities and civil rights violations created by the draft.