How can Americans allow women in combat roles but not include them in the Selective Service?
President Obama became the first president since Jimmy Carter to support universal draft registration for both sexes, instead of continuing to force only men to register for the Selective Service. In a recent statement to USA TODAY, Obama’s administration ended their neutral position on the issue and confirmed that they believe that including women in the draft would be beneficial for a number of reasons.
Of course, at this point in time, this announcement is nothing more than symbolic and something that can be evoked in future arguments for the issue because of Obama’s limited time in office. Not to mention the fact that the House already voted earlier this month to preclude women from registering from the draft.
Though it hasn’t been taken up with either party officially, it’s unlikely that a Republican-controlled legislative and executive branch will vote in favor of such a measure in the next 4-8 years. Some conservatives have already likened the proposed draft expansion with the blurring of gender lines and akin to allowing trans people to use the bathroom of their elected gender. One Republican Rep. Pete Sessions said ahead of the vote,
“I have the utmost respect and deepest appreciation for the young women who bravely volunteer to serve our country, but I am adamantly opposed to expanding the draft and coercing America’s daughters to fight on the front lines.”
Debate on the matter truly opened up at the end of 2015, when the military decided to open up all combat roles to women. President Obama supported this move and said that including women in the draft would display a continuous commitment to gender equality and encourage a universal sense of public service and patriotism that is currently only felt amongst young men.
Obama is certainly still in favor of an all-volunteer military force, which is how it’s been since the end of the Vietnam War back in 1975. However, the Selective Service is kept around just in case a war breaks out that the current forces can’t handle alone. If women were to be included, it would also be a symbolic maneuver until something pressing caused the draft to be invoked once again. Of course, with Donald Trump’s lack of finesse with foreign affairs, that could happen sooner rather than later.
Senator Jack Reed best explained why women should be added to the draft, for anyone who’s uncertain about why it matters when the draft isn’t currently in use:
“We need to remove arbitrary barriers to service by women in our armed forces. There is no draft in today’s military, but it is difficult to say we have true equality if we continue with a Selective Service system that only requires compulsory service from men.”
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