This seems to come up about once a year. Like flu shots. The military draft and the Selective Service are debated as either unnecessary relics, unconstitutional discrimination machines, or worthy backstops (just in case). Count us among those behind Door No. 3.
The papers say there is a provision in the latest military budget bill that would require young women to put their names on the Selective Service list alongside young men. The House has already passed its bill. The Senate is taking its time, as always.
Because the draft ended 50 years ago, and the United States military has done wonders several times as an all-volunteer force, some say the whole exercise is moot. But it isn't. There are still several scenarios that might could play out in the coming decades that would require mass mobilization and a draft.
And our enemies need to know that this is an all-American option. To do away with the Selective Service is to send the wrong message about the United States' state of military preparedness.
But--and this is where politics happens--should that Selective Service list include the names of young women?
We continue to stand athwart history, yelling stop. (Buckley, W.F.) In 50 years, or five years, or five weeks, the country may have changed enough that the possibility of subjecting our daughters to a draft is thought of as no big deal.
But it doesn't appear as though the country is quite there yet. This past week, Sen. Mitt Romney--not exactly a fire-breathing ring-winger--may have put it best: "I believe in the equality of women and I want to communicate that men and women are equal. At the same time, I don't want to put women in harm's way in a way which would impair their safety."
Nearly 20 percent of the nation's military force is already made up of women--"females," as the military puts it. All combat positions are open to those who can handle the physical requirements. If a young lady wants to join the Marines and carry a rifle, you go, girl. There's a recruiting station just down the street. But that particular young lady isn't the norm, and anybody with eyes to see will understand that.
There are hundreds of young, fit, hungry women who are serving in the Marines and Army in combat jobs that were once closed off to them. And we're glad they're on our side. But whether women should be included in conscription has always been another matter.
Certainly not all men are inclined to military service, either. But if the nation ever finds itself in a tight spot--a tough, choking, deadly spot--then a draft might be necessary again. And most young men at 18 or 19 or 30 can carry a full rucksack and a rifle up a hill a few clicks. Or can after basic training and Individual Advanced Training.
Even the oh-so-mod U.S. military acknowledges the physical differences between the sexes with its physical training tests. Women have much lower thresholds when it comes to push-ups (a test of the upper body) but about the same thresholds for both sexes when it comes to sit-ups.
Besides all the physical and practical problems, we don't think America is ready to watch her daughters sweat out a military draft.
Call us outdated, call us antique, call us conservative, but the nation isn't there yet.
SOME argue that the Selective Service is past its own service, and should be dismantled. It discriminates. It's not useful. It's unconstitutional.
Although the Selective Service is just a list of names (male names, for now), it's an important list. Not because there's a good chance that America will be mobilizing again on a 1942 scale, but because there's a chance. No telling what tomorrow will bring. There never is.
Remember when America went to fight a war that would end all wars? Only it didn't. Remember when America began dismantling its military because this was the only nation with The Bomb, and we'd never need tanks and bombers again? That was foolish policy. Remember when the Cold War ended and "experts" talked about The End of History?
Nobody knows what challenges this nation will have to meet in the coming years. And the all-voluntary military force has worked wonders since Vietnam. So a draft is highly unlikely. But not an impossibility.
Keep the Selective Service. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.