Plan to recruit women unites unlikely political allies


The Chinese hawk, Senator Josh Hawley, normally has little in common with the anti-war group Code Pink. But the two are on the same side when it comes to keeping women out of the draft.

Congress is expected to debate this year whether women should register with the Selective Service, when it reviews the 2022 National Defense Authorization Tax Law. The fight unites advocates at opposite ends of the political spectrum, even though their reasons for supporting or opposing change are different.

“They’re a strange couple,” said Kara Vuic, an expert on women in the military who teaches at Texas Christian University. “They are united because they don’t want women to go to war, whether it’s because they don’t want anyone to go to war or because they think women should be at home… It brings together people for both pro and con who probably agree with each other on absolutely nothing else.

Objections are likely to fall flat. There is bipartisan support in the House and Senate for the proposal requiring women to register. The House has already approved the bill and the Senate Armed Forces Committee passed the law in committee with the support of Republicans.

“Joining it with the NDAA essentially ensures that it [pass], barring a massive Herculean effort to untie it somehow, ”Vuic said. “I think it will pass. It’s high time.

These Herculean efforts, however, are underway. Conservative media are pressuring officials on this issue. Code Pink is hosting webinars to lobby for the complete abolition of the project, arguing that it is not gender equality to force men and women into the military, said Carley Towne, co-director of the non-profit association.. And Hawley, R-Mo., Who led the Senate’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, introduced an amendment this week to fight the proposal on the Senate floor.

“It is wrong to force our daughters, mothers, wives and sisters to wage our wars,” Hawley said in a statement Monday. “Volunteering for military service is not the same as being forced into it, and no woman should be forced to do so. “

Despite this opposition, there are also GOP lawmakers who support it, including Representative Mike Waltz, R-Fla., A former Army Green Beret who sponsored the amendment to add this provision to the House with the representing Chrissy Houlahan, D-Penn.

“In fact, I see less conservative opposition than ever in the past,” said Amy Rutenberg, a professor at Iowa State University, adding that it is “absolutely the furthest” than the effort to compel women to register has been obtained at Capitol Hill.

Some non-traditional allies are joining forces to support change. The ACLU, which historically fights for women’s rights and against gender discrimination, worked with the National Coalition for Men, which fights to end discrimination and stereotypes against men, in a lawsuit, because both groups believe that a project that excludes women is discriminatory.

A legal effort in 1981 to force women to register failed when the Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional to recruit only men because women at that time could not serve in combat. But several experts have said that a conscription reserved for men is now unconstitutional by that same logic, since the ban on women serving in combat was lifted in 2016, although women had served in war zones long before that. .

The ACLU’s most recent lawsuit went to the Supreme Court, which declined to consider the case in June because Congress is actively reviewing the proposal.

Congress seems poised to approve the change. The National Defense Authorization Tax Law 2022, which contains the provision, was passed by the House by a bipartisan vote of 316-113. The Senate as a whole has yet to consider the bill, but the Senate Armed Services Committee approved the bill by a 23-3 vote, showing strong support from Republicans.

“My point is that we now have a force that would not be as effective or efficient without women,” Sen. Jack Reed, DR.I. the Aspen Security Forum. “I don’t think most women think they shouldn’t register. I think they should.

President Joe Biden also supports women who sign up for selective service. During his presidential bid last September, he told the Military Officers Association of America that he would “ensure that women are equally eligible to enroll in the selective service system so that both men and women be treated on an equal footing in the event of future conflicts ”.

And military leaders are also supporting change. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told the Aspen Security Forum that all women who can meet military service standards are welcome, although he added that no one was talking about bringing back the project, which was last used in 1972.

Congress last considered whether to force women to sign up for the project in 2016, as Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., Introduced an amendment to the annual Defense Policy Bill to stress that if members don’t support female editors, they shouldn’t support female combat troops either. To his surprise, the amendment was passed by the House, although it was withdrawn from the final bill. As a compromise, lawmakers instead ordered an independent commission to study the matter.

In March 2020, the commission released its report and recommended that men and women between the ages of 18 and 26 be required to register for selective service.

Women will have to register for the project within one year of the bill being passed, if the language remains in the legislation after negotiations. While the logistics of implementation should be easy – women will just check in the same way as men, which happens automatically in many states when obtaining a driver’s license – the public integration will take longer, said Rutenberg. She expects the government to need to launch an aggressive public relations campaign to raise awareness of the new law since, so far, the provision buried in the flawed defense authorization bill has failed. has not received much attention from the general public.

“I don’t think it’s been on the radar a lot,” she said. “Most people are totally oblivious.”

Public support for adding women to the project is declining. In 2016, when Congress last debated the issue, 63% of Americans supported drafting of both sexes. But an Ipsos poll in August found that number was only 45%. Support is even lower among women, of whom only about a third support change.

Just as the conflict looks drastically different today from what it was at the end of the Vietnam War, experts predict that the project would also be different if revived. For example, as cyber warfare becomes a greater threat, Vuic predicted that civilians with computer skills could be enlisted to aid the country, citing as an example an existing plan that could be activated to recruit civilian medical personnel in the event of a disaster. crisis.

Reed recognized that the evolution of conflict means that different people may be best suited for the mission.

“We’re going to need a lot more people who can drive autonomous vehicles. You don’t have to be 6ft 2in to do this, ”he said.

Even in this form, restarting the Selective Service process and adding conscripts to the volunteer-only force is highly unlikely and would require national emergency and Congressional action. But, Vuic said that regardless of whether women are actually recruited, adding women to the system is important for its symbolism alone.

“This is the last legal distinction between the obligations of men and women as citizens,” she said, adding that both sexes are expected to act the same in other ways, such as sitting in juries or pay taxes. “On paper, men and women will be completely equal.”


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