Last Thursday’s announcement that Defense Secretary Ash Carter opened all combat roles in the U.S. military to women led to a Republican debate question Saturday night.
“This means that as long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before. They’ll be able to drive tanks, give orders, lead infantry soldiers into combat,” Carter said at a news conference.
Moderator Martha Raddatz followed up on this at the debate, and Sen. Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush, and Gov. Chris Christie approved of Carter’s decision, which all agreed should lead to drafting women in the event of war.
RADDATZ: …Just this week military leaders of the Army and Marine Corps said that they believed young women, just as young men are required to do, should sign up for Selective Service in case the draft is reinstated. Many of you have young daughters. Senator Rubio, should young women be required to sign up for Selective Service in case of a national emergency?
RUBIO: First, let me say there are already women today serving in roles that are like combat. That, in fact, whose lives are in very serious danger, and so I have no problem whatsoever with people of either gender serving in combat so long as the minimum requirements necessary to do the job are not compromised. But I support that, and obviously now that that is the case I do believe that Selective Service should be opened up for both men and women in case a Draft is ever instituted. (emphasis added)
It’s a bit shocking to not see Rubio understand the difference between opening combat positions to the women who wish to compete for them versus seeing all women as combat-ready and thus eligible for a forcible draft. Raddatz moved on to Jeb, and Jeb’s answer was even stranger. He managed to dismiss the idea that we would ever need a draft while saying he would not get rid of the Selective Service.
If a Draft Isn’t Likely, Just Abolish the Selective Service
RADDATZ: Tell me what you’d say to American people out there… Who are sitting at home, who have daughters, who might worry about those answers, and might worry…
BUSH: … Why would they worry about it…
RADDATZ: … if the draft is reinstituted?
BUSH: … Well, the draft’s not going to be reinstituted, but why — if women are accessing…
RADDATZ: … Are you saying you’d do away with it?
BUSH: No. I didn’t say that. You — you asked a question not about the draft, you asked about registering. And if women are going to be…
RADDATZ: You register for the draft.
BUSH: If — but…
RADDATZ: If it’s reinstituted.
Jeb’s answer, while not as bad as claiming his position was the “sweet spot” on abortion, is very dismissive of a callous elitist institution informing its citizenry that their daughters are all subject to government-mandated conscription.
There’s a better way to push back at Raddatz’s premise. While this question is being spun as a trap for Republicans, the next president will likely have to decide it after military leaders of the Army and Marine Corps said young women should sign up for Selective Service just as young men ages 18 to 25 now must, which would enter them into the pool should Congress institute a draft.
It makes one miss the presence of a Rand Paul on the stage. He might have been the only one brave enough to suggest that if we do not believe we would ever institute a draft, as Bush says, why not follow through and abolish the Selective Service? Military commanders believe that an all-volunteer army is much more effective. If Republicans are going to push for a more powerful military, why not take this opportunity to overturn President Wilson’s expansion of the law in 1917 instead of being so cowed by the “war on women” that they abandon women.
Women Generally Don’t Make Good Soldiers
While videos like that for Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” tie female empowerment to combat and Hillary appears to be itching for a “fight” since she uses the word every five minutes, no one sane is under the delusion that the average woman or Hillary or Taylor would be combat-ready. To have Rubio support conscripting women while demanding a more robust and powerful military seems contradictory.
While there is no interest in denying combat roles to qualified women, and we all thank them for their service, it is a different discussion to assume that women should be seen as an equal option in the event of a draft. While many will craft this as an “equality issue,” one has to be daft to not see that women and men have fundamental physical differences.
The Marines tried to make this point with data and asked for a waiver that Carter denied, saying “We are a joint force, and I’ve decided to make a decision that applies to the entire force.” With these words, he waved away a compelling study that evaluated differences between male and female military performance over a period of year found the following:
Marine teams with female members performed at lower overall levels, completed tasks more slowly and fired weapons with less accuracy than their all-male counterparts. In addition, female Marines sustained significantly higher injury rates and demonstrated lower levels of physical performance capacity overall, officials said.
Newsflash: Men and Women Have Different Bodies
The full report is worth a read, and makes it clear that mixed-sex units are going to have more challenges and be less effective than single-sex units. The primary cause is biology, not sexism. The report notes that women have biological challenges to fighting in battle that cannot be trained away. Women in combat get hurt more easily and cannot sustain fighting for as long as men, simply because their bodies are different.
Even physically gifted women are profoundly physically less capable than men. Mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey recently refused to fight transgender fighter Fallon Fox because of these differences in bone structure and build. Tamikka “Boom Boom” Brents, who did face Fallon, noted: “‘I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not because I’m not a doctor. I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life, and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right.’ Fox’s grip was different, Brents continued, ‘I could usually move around in the clinch against other females but couldn’t move at all in Fox’s clinch.’”
This Is About Sanity, Not Discrimination
Despite all logic and evidence, at the debate Christie upped the ante and made this an issue about discrimination.
CHRISTIE: Can I — can I be really — can I be really clear on this, because I am the father of two daughters. One of them is here tonight. What my wife and I have taught our daughters right from the beginning, that their sense of self-worth, their sense of value, their sense of what they want to do with their life comes not from the outside, but comes from within. And if a young woman in this country wants to go and fight to defend their country, she should be permitted to do so.
Part of that also needs to be part of a greater effort in this country, and so there’s no reason why, one, young women should be discriminated against from registering for the selective service. The fact is, we need to be a party and a people that makes sure that our women in this country understand anything they can dream, anything that they want to aspire to, they can do. That’s the way we raised our daughters and that’s what we should aspire to as president for all of the women in our country.
As a woman myself, I can tell you I do not feel discriminated against by not having had to register for the Selective Service at age 18. I feel grateful for the role men play to defend this country. It’s folly to pretend that I or my daughters are going to be better candidates than the majority of men if it comes down to a draft. The data also proves it.
The military isn’t a place where career advancement should trump unit lethality and peak capacity to clear our wounded during battle in order to to save more lives. It would be morally wrong to put female ambition and feminist caterwauling before troop safety and effectiveness. It’s even worse to watch Republican candidates abandon any pretense of defending women because of political expediency.
The Military Is More Effective When People Opt In
A better answer is to question the validity of the Selective Service as a valuable tool in creating a lethal and effective military force. As Dirty Harry said to a man who proudly noted he had never drawn his gun, “A good man always knows his limitations.” Those who volunteer are already more combat-ready than the rest of us.
Congressional reports show our all-volunteer force is effective: “Quality is far better than under a draft. A volunteer military can be choosy and set higher standards. Even when the army was reducing its requirements during the worst of the Iraq years, its quality standards remained well above those of conscript forces….The end of the draft also has dramatically improved commitment and morale in the armed forces. The difference is simple: recruits who want to serve and succeed are likely to perform better than draftees who want out, the sooner the better. The AVF also enjoys higher reenlistment rates, which reduce turnover and enhance experience.”
There are many reasons like this to challenge the premise of Raddatz’s question and consider the elimination of the selective service all together. Instead people were treated to cowed party that is so fearful of “the war on women” its representatives are now willing to make our daughters draftable. The candidates might want to consider that 82 percent of women don’t see themselves as feminists and that a majority of decent folks in this country, per Raddatz’s point to Bush, worries we are losing more than a debate in New Hampshire.