Draft women? Let's Abolish the Draft

(photo: Photo credit: U.S. Air Force illustration/Senior Airman Micaiah Anthony/Released)

Yesterday, the Senate voted to extend the draft to women who turn 18 during or after 2018. Obama has promised to veto such a bill, but there is probably enough support in congress to override a veto. 

This development was inevitable. Once women were allowed to serve in combat positions, there's no logical reason to say that they shouldn't be subject to the draft.

I opposed allowing women to serve in combat positions. I hold the monstrously retrograde opinion that women are different from men. Women can fight, and many women are stronger and more agile than many men; but, as C. S. Lewis says in The Last Battle, "Wars are ugly when women fight."  Wars are uglier still, and so is the home front, when women are forced to go to war. I find myself at a loss to explain why, to those who don't find this truth obvious. It's like explaining why buttered toast smells good, or why bottomless holes are terrifying. What can I say?

I have many female friends who have served honorably in the military, and I am grateful for their service and their sacrifice, which has kept us a relatively free nation. If women want to serve in the military, I would thank and support them. 

But requiring women to serve is an entirely different proposition. Women in the military already face a host of problems, which they can overcome with tremendous effort. Imagine increasing their numbers exponentially, and then imagine that most of these women do not want to serve. Here are just a few of the issues we'll face:

  • If you're one of the small minority of women who can pass the same physical tests as men, and you are put in a combat role, you'll be one or two women in the company of many, many men. Most men are not rapists, but some of them are, especially if you add the stress and exhaustion of combat. 
  • Sexual abuse and misconduct is widespread even within our own ranks. What do you suppose happens to women who are captured by ISIS or other hostile forces? They understand very well that systematic rape is a devastating weapon of war.
  • What if women get pregnant, through rape or through consensual relationships? A general recently explained that he tends to punish pregnant women soldiers, sometimes with court martial. He was glad to see that the military now provides abortions, because now they can more quickly put themselves back at his disposal as commander. In theory, the military gives women twelve weeks' leave if they become pregnant. In practice, they are pressured to abort. 
  • Men and women serving together, especially under stressful situations, will naturally fall into romantic and/or sexual relationships, and these will naturally fall apart, sometimes in ugly, contentious ways. Even if no one gets pregnant, imagine what would happen to the group's cohesion once there are angry exes living side by side.
  • Men can pee anywhere. Women are much more vulnerable when they have to go.
  • Women menstruate. How will that work in the field? The answer is, of course, that there will be tremendous pressure to go on contraceptives that halt menstruation—contraceptives that are often disastrous to their health, not to mention immoral for Catholics. 
  • Even strong, fit women tend to be smaller and less powerful than strong, fit men. Ask a woman in the military if this has ever created a problem for her. Just ask. 

These are all problems that exist when women serve voluntarily. Now imagine if these are women who have been called up with little warning, and with little desire to serve.

And what about the effect on the families of women who are drafted?

What if you were homeschooling? That's out. 

What if you wanted to breastfeed? That's out. 

What if you have a lot of responsibilities at home and you were already struggling to find help, and have no idea who could possibly care for your duties if you were to leave? Too bad.

If you think that military families are respected and accommodated when they have difficult home situations, then you are immensely naive.

But what about countries like Israel and Denmark that already require women to serve? How do they manage? Well, they have long-established cultural structures and expectations in place. Young people already know that a certain period of their life will be in the military, and they make plans well ahead of time, excluding women from combat and permitting religious exemptions. The United States has no such structures in place, especially if the service is unpredictable, as it would be with a draft. 

The military is already overwhelmed and failing to support military families at even the most basic level, at accommodating families with special needs, at giving veterans medical and psychological care in a timely way, and at following up with veterans who come home with PTSD, suicidal tendencies, and anger problems. All of this is dreadful and shameful. 

Do we want to double it?

The draft has always disrupted the lives of young men, sometimes in disastrous and horrifying ways. The draft has always snatched people out of their lives and wreaked havoc on plans and desires. The draft is a terrible thing, which historically disproportionately affects poor, uneducated, minority citizens

But, as I said, adding women to the draft is completely consistent reasoning by today's standards. If we want to argue that men and women are interchangeable, then there is no reason not to subject women to the draft. It's just logical.

Even more logical? Abolish the draft. Warfare has changed so much, there is no longer any advantage to feeding as many bodies as possible into the inferno of war like so much firewood. There should be no draft, and we should quash our national habit of leaping headfirst into every unfinishable war that whispers our name. 

But even if none of that changes, women should still not be drafted. We do not want all men to learn how to stamp out that instinct that makes them want to protect women, whether those women are by their side in the field, or at home keeping the peaceable world from falling apart. We do not want women to learn how to briskly turn their kids over to the first warm body who doesn't refuse them. We do not want women to be treated and to behave just like men.

A good many of my friends have crankily observed that this is exactly what women do want. And some women do. Some women have been striving and struggling to persuade the world that men and women are only different through an accident of biology, and that we can overcome even that with the right pharmaceuticals. 

But many more women have been striving and struggling to persuade the world that men and women both have rights and responsibilities, and should both be treated with dignity and respect . . . but that these rights and responsibilities don't always look the same for all men and for all women. 

Men are better suited for combat. Biologically, psychologically, and emotionally, you will find countless more men than women who endure and even thrive in combat roles, and in military roles in general. Anyone who says otherwise is willfully blind. Men and women are not interchangeable. You can squeeze society hard enough to make them pretend that it is true, but it will always be women and children who suffer; and when women and children suffer, the whole world bleeds.