National Security & Defense

Drafting Women Is Reckless

Army Private First Class Troy Wooten, 24th Ordnance Company, 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion, Third Division Sustainment Brigade, pulls security during a squad-level situational training exercise at Fort Stewart, Ga., June 23, 2021. (Staff Sergeant Joel Salgado/US Army)

‘The system of conscription,” Captain Basil Liddell Hart wrote after the Second World War, “has always tended to foster quantity at the expense of quality.”

Well, leave it to today’s Senate Democrats — and compliant Republicans — to insist on the chimera of equality at the expense of quality.

Late last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted the National Defense Authorization Act out of committee on a bipartisan vote. In their wisdom, senators included a provision in this “must pass” piece of legislation that would amend the Military Selective Service Act to require the registration of young American women for a future draft.

Apparently, that this provision is reckless, imprudent, and unnecessary matters little when weighed against the fact that it is a groundbreaking move toward “gender equality.”

Should we ever need one again, a draft would be instituted under conditions of grave national emergency. Let us be blunt: The purpose of conscription in modern warfare is to provide replacement manpower for soldiers killed, maimed, or captured in a war of attrition. In such a circumstance, the need to quickly process and train fresh cohorts of soldiers would be needlessly complicated by the necessity of sifting through twice as many young Americans to find those qualified to serve in the armed forces.

Drafting masses of young women during such an emergency would do nothing to improve America’s combat readiness. It would weaken it.

In 2015, exhaustive Marine Corps-commissioned studies demonstrated that, under the brutal conditions of ground combat, women are generally more prone to injury, less accurate with their weapons, and less capable of evacuating the wounded. Indeed — outside of a few outliers — the most physically gifted women were on average as strong as the weakest cohort of men. Anyone watching the Olympics this week can see the obvious fact that even elite female athletes are no match for their male counterparts in size, speed, and brute strength. Why should American women compete in the cruel death match of war against men, when everyone agrees that it would be unfair to pit women against men in the 100-meter dash or Olympic Rugby?

Proponents routinely point to the Israeli or Russian experience with female conscription as proof that drafting women need not be a detriment to America’s ability to wage war. It’s true that the Soviets and Israelis, during wars of national survival, implemented female conscription. But an examination of the evidence — not wartime propaganda or action-movie camp — shows that the Israeli and Russian militaries today limit the role of women in ground-combat units after the unforgiving school of war revealed that mixed-gender units were less effective and sustained higher rates of casualties than all-male units.

Knowing these facts, if the United States were to insist on drafting young women and placing them in combat units, it would not only be ineffective, it would be immoral.

Some advocates, however, contend that a gender-neutral draft would give the U.S. a leg up in the pursuit of soldiers in high-skilled, technical domains such as cyberspace. But the draft is a blunt instrument if the goal is to find a small number of highly qualified individuals. Truly, there is no need to register millions of young American women for that purpose: The military could simply recruit those who are both qualified and interested.

Americans must decide: Is the draft a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency measure of last resort? Or is it a tool of social engineering? Is conscription a means to foster national unity and give women more opportunities for career advancement? Or is the draft a loathed, but sometimes necessary, mechanism to raise armies and wage war on an industrial scale?

Unfortunately, some in Congress seem to think that military service is closer to summer camp than boot camp. They are wrong. As always, young Americans will pay the price in blood.

As we have previously warned, when the Army did the inevitable and loosened its “gender neutral” fitness standards when too many female soldiers were predictably failing to make the grade, “the Army is not a social-engineering NGO, a jobs program, or an institution set up to allow its members to achieve their highest self-actualization. It is an institution whose only purpose is to kill people and break things on the nation’s behalf.” Moreover, “any policy, however benignly intended — such as the arbitrary desire to increase the number of women in the Army — that interferes with the goal of attaining maximum lethality for the unit or individual is a betrayal of the nation.”

The lamps are going out across the Far East, and the world grows darker and more dangerous. As great-power competition returns and ominous clouds swell in Eastern Europe and the China seas, it seems that many in Congress are content to virtue-signal and sleepwalk toward a less capable, less lethal military.

And too many Republicans are willing to go along. To his credit, the ranking Republican member of the committee, James Inhofe, tried to rally his colleagues to oppose the measure. But of the 13 GOP members, only five voted “no,” including Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley. The “yes” votes that one assumes would know better include Thom Tillis, Dan Sullivan, Kevin Cramer, Rick Scott, Marsha Blackburn, and, incredibly enough, Tommy Tuberville, who prides himself on bringing his self-described common sense to Washington, but would never have attempted to recruit women for the Auburn football team. What gives, coach?

If Americans want their legislators to compel the nation’s daughters to register for the draft, that is their right. But a prudent, moral, and confident people would demand that their senators exercise some common sense and reverse course. The full Senate should block this foolish proposal.

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