In a bizarre misinterpretation of gender equality, many feminists now seem to think that requiring women to register for the Selective Service is some sort of victory for women’s rights. Because men do it, women should do it too, the logic goes, without stopping to think about whether the underlying policy is something that should apply to either gender. Thankfully, some 11,500 people have stopped to think about it, and have signed a petition calling for the end of the draft, a sensible request if ever there was one.
The military draft is such an outdated and nonsensical policy that even major presidential candidates struggle to grasp it. In one of the Republican primary debates this year, Jeb Bush stumbled over a question on this issue, asserting that yes, women should register for the Selective Service, but not for the draft, apparently unaware that those two terms mean the same thing. “We don’t have a draft,” he said, looking puzzled.
Actually, we do. While it’s true that the U.S. military is not currently conscripting people into service against their will, the whole point of registration is so that they can draft able soldiers from the population if it ever becomes necessary. As long as registration is mandatory, the threat of involuntary military service is always there.
Sending a wayward teenager through boot camp and handing him a rifle doesn’t do much good when what the military really needs are drone pilots and computer programmers.
But such a threat seems like an anachronism in an era when choice is king among young people. Millennials curate everything in their lives, from the music they listen to, to the friends they have, to the clothes they wear. Despite the popularity of Bernie Sanders and some of his socialist ideas, consumer choice has really never been more popular. It therefore seems strange that anyone would still defend a program that strips people’s choice of career away from them, forcing them into military service instead of whatever other aspirations they might have.
A draft is also not terribly practical in the modern age of warfare. Scooping up large populations of young men and sending them off to fight may have made some sense when warfare was conducted through large-scale ground invasions, but today’s battles are fought largely with technology operated by skilled technicians. Sending a wayward teenager through boot camp and handing him a rifle doesn’t do much good when what the military really needs are drone pilots and computer programmers. These are not things you can reasonably expect unwilling draftees to pick up and excel at.
And then of course, there’s the moral argument against involuntary service. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime. This is famously the amendment that ended slavery, but the wording seems pretty clear in its exclusion of other types of involuntary service as well, including conscription. In a moment of what can only have been blind panic upon realizing the unintended consequences of the amendment, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in 1916 upholding the draft used in World War I, using some of the most tortured and circuitous legal reasoning I’ve ever seen, along with an appeal to tradition (as if slavery wasn’t once a tradition as well.)
It’s strange for the “our bodies, our choice” crowd to ask for military enslavement as a form of empowerment. There’s nothing empowering about being legally compelled to serve at someone else’s pleasure. If feminists really care about women’s rights, they should wise up, sign the petition, and demand an end to the draft for all Americans, not just the ones without a Y chromosome. That way we will have both equality, and freedom, and isn’t that really the goal?
The article originally appeared on Conservative Review.