Politics & Policy

Draft Registration Should Remain for Men Only

Security Force Marines train in southwest Asia, October 2015. (Corporal Jonathan Boynes)

On Tuesday, the commandant of the Marine Corps and the Army chief of staff proposed requiring women to register for the draft. This is a destructive idea, one that would serve only to embed acceptance of less-effective mixed-gender combat units more deeply into the American political system. Indeed, the very idea is a fantasy in service of a fiction.

The fiction, of course, is the notion that mixed-gender combat units do anything but degrade American combat power. The Marine Corps conducted exhaustive studies comparing mixed-gender units with their all-male counterparts and found that mixed-gender units were less accurate with their weapons, more prone to injury, and less capable of evacuating the wounded. To no one’s surprise, even the allegedly “physically qualified” women were only as strong as the weakest cohort of qualified men.

These results mirror common sense and lived experience across thousands of years of human combat. Is systemic sexism the explanation for the fact that across all cultures and all time, grueling ground combat has been a male preserve? Even the exceptions prove the rule. When Russians and Israelis threw small numbers of women into the fray during their own wars of national survival, experience quickly proved that though women did not lack courage, they lacked the physical strength and stamina to keep up with their male peers. Today these armies limit the role of women in ground-combat units.

EDITORIAL: The Obama Pentagon’s Disastrous Decision on Women in Combat

The fantasy is the idea that requiring women to register for the draft would do anything constructive. Instead, it would mainly provide the military with a new bureaucratic burden, one that would grow particularly acute in a time of national crisis.

#share#The military pledges — for now — that it will not lower physical standards for women in combat. Yet only the smallest fraction of women have the physical stamina to complete infantry training. Even when they do make their way out of initial training, they injure themselves in service at an alarming rate. Moreover, a draft would be instituted only in the midst of a true national emergency, and during an emergency, do we want the Army and the Marines sorting through vast numbers of physically unqualified women in search of a needle in a haystack, or do we want them efficiently focusing on a male population that will yield a far higher ratio of qualified candidates?

RELATED: Women in Combat Endanger Their Fellow Soldiers’ Lives

And speaking of fantasies, supporters of female draft registration seem to view the Selective Service as some form of national team-building exercise. Senator Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) said, “Part of me believes that asking women to register as we ask men to register would maybe possibly open up more recruits as women began to think about, well, the military is an option for me.” This is absurd. Registering with the Selective Service is an annoying act of bureaucratic box-checking. It hardly awakens the patriot in American young people.

Feminists have shown that there is no “logical extreme” when one seeks to transform core American institutions.

Indeed, the idea of female draft registration is so bad that one wonders if the service chiefs aren’t engaged in a bit of public trolling. After all, the Marines were steadfast opponents of mixed-gender combat units, and it’s startling to see their apparent quick and enthusiastic endorsement of female registration. Perhaps they actually seek to slow or reverse the cultural transformation of the military by immediately taking that transformation to its logical extreme. If so, then they are playing a dangerous game. Feminists have shown that there is no “logical extreme” when one seeks to transform core American institutions.

RELATED: Putting Women in Combat Is an Even Worse Idea Than You’d Think

At the end of the day, however, congressional debate may prove meaningless. Federal courts are more than capable of imposing their own radical gender politics, and already at least one Ninth Circuit judge, hearing arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of the all-male draft, has noted that “things have changed.” If Congress doesn’t broaden draft-registration requirements, look for the issue to reach the Supreme Court — where nine military novices may well have the last word.

For the time being, however, it’s incumbent on conservatives to do what they can to preserve military effectiveness and cultural common sense. The next defense secretary should immediately reverse the Obama administration’s social engineering. Mixed-gender combat units harm American national security, and conservatives must vigorously oppose any effort to normalize their existence. Draft registration should remain for men only.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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