Women Be­long in the Mil­i­tary—and the Draft

Fairness and pre­pared­ness de­mand that fe­males be re­quired to reg­is­ter

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Bloomberg View -

The Pen­tagon has struck a blow for mil­i­tary pre­pared­ness and sex equal­ity by open­ing all com­bat jobs to women. Al­low­ing fe­male troops who meet the same stan­dards as men to fight im­proves a na­tion’s abil­ity to pro­tect it­self and its in­ter­ests.

As the mil­i­tary takes this big step, it in­evitably comes up against a next one: equal­ity in Se­lec­tive Ser­vice reg­is­tra­tion. Fair treat­ment de­mands that young women—age 18 to 25—be re­quired to sign up. Men have to reg­is­ter within 30 days of their 18th birth­day, even if they’re dis­abled or wouldn’t re­al­is­ti­cally be suited for ac­tive duty. Fail­ure to do so is a felony, and though pros­e­cu­tion is rare, it can mean in­el­i­gi­bil­ity for fed­eral jobs and ben­e­fits, col­lege loans, and driver’s li­censes.

The U.S. hasn’t had a draft since 1973 and has never come close to re­in­stat­ing it, de­spite be­ing in­volved in ma­jor wars. But the Se­lec­tive Ser­vice re­quire­ment re­mains es­sen­tial to keep­ing the U.S. pre­pared for the un­think­able. It’s im­por­tant to have a registry of all po­ten­tially el­i­gi­ble par­tic­i­pants.

In re­cent decades, Amer­i­can women have demon­strated their abil­ity to serve through­out the mil­i­tary. They now make up 15 per­cent of ac­tive forces and 23 per­cent of new of­fi­cers. Last sum­mer two women grad­u­ated from the U.S. Army’s rig­or­ous Ranger School. In Iraq and Afghanista­n, more than 100 have been killed and al­most 1,000 wounded. Air Force Sec­re­tary Deb­o­rah James has said she has no ob­jec­tions to re­quir­ing women to reg­is­ter. Army Sec­re­tary John Mchugh said it is a mat­ter of “true and pure equal­ity.”

No fe­male draftee, if it came to that, would be forced onto the battlefiel­d, just as fe­male en­lis­tees won’t be. De­ci­sions about ex­actly what fe­male con­scripts would do need not be made ahead of time. All that’s nec­es­sary now is to ac­knowl­edge that, when it comes to mil­i­tary ser­vice, women should have the same op­por­tu­ni­ties—and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties—as men. <BW>

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