National Post Barbara Kay: Congratulations, women, on being eligible for the draft!

National Post - Tuesday March 5th, 2019

A U.S. Army recruit — one of a handful of women training at the time to become infantry soldiers — practises building-clearing tactics with male recruits at Fort Benning, Ga., in a file photo from Oct. 4, 2017.

On June 30, 1982, “STOP ERA” campaigners in the United States celebrated the expiration of the Equal Rights Amendment’s constitutional ratification, finally killing it 10 years after its 1972 passage in Congress.

Their sticking point was that the ERA’s ratification would have forced women into registration for the military draft, to which they were strongly opposed. In 1981, a Supreme Court decision (Rostker vs. Goldberg) had affirmed the constitutionality of the Selective Service System’s male-only registration policy on the grounds that the two sexes were “simply not similarly suited for purposes of a registration for a draft.”

Culturally, much has changed in the meantime. Nobody has been conscripted into the U.S. military for 40 years, but since 2015, all military roles, including direct combat, have been open to women. However, while women have the right to choose combat, they are not obligated to register with the Selective Service, as men must at age 18 (eligibility for the draft ends at age 25), with serious penalties for failing to do so, such as fines, denial of federal student loans and even imprisonment.

While women have the right to choose combat, they are not obligated to register with the Selective Service

The National Coalition for Men, a men’s rights group, brought a case forward, arguing that the exclusive drafting of men violates the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause. A Houston Federal District Court judge agreed, writing that men and women are now “similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft.” (The ruling is “declaratory,” meaning it does not specify what action must be taken.)

The words “similarly situated for purposes of a draft” do not settle the thornier, more existential question of whether both men and women are similarly situated to perform optimal combat duty.

Neither in the U.S. nor in any other country have women shown significant interest in actual combat. Some years ago, I interviewed military historian Martin van Creveld of Hebrew University, who told me that in the 30 or so wars that were currently in progress around the world when we spoke, women invariably chose, as from time immemorial, support roles far from the front.

Capt. Nichola Goddard, who was killed in a firefight in Afghanistan on May 17, 2006, was the first female Canadian combat soldier to be killed in combat. Canadian Armed Forces/CP

Even in Israel, where military service is compulsory for women, and where women have their own battalion, they serve shorter stints, enjoy greater exemption advantages, and are not assigned to “intimate killing” theatres. After three generations of female conscription, and full access to combat training, Israeli women still self-select for traditional, but invaluable support roles, such as firearms instruction and intelligence work. Of 1,300 Israeli military pilots, fewer than 20 are women, van Creveld noted.

We know, therefore, that women who choose combat are the exceptions that prove the rule. But that knowledge has not influenced ideologically inspired wishful thinking at the policy level. In 1997, banking on a robust recruitment campaign directed at women, Canadian Gen. Maurice Baril predicted that by 2009, women would comprise 28 per cent of the Canadian Forces (at the time it was 14 per cent) and a full 25 per cent of front-line infantry troops (at the time, 0.6 per cent). Nothing in the experience of the Canadian military — or any other Western force — supported such a projection. In 2018, women comprised 15 per cent of Canadian Armed Forces members, most serving in support roles. The goal is now 25 per cent by 2025 — that’s membership, not infantry troops. Pour on the benefits and women may join in greater numbers, but the evidence suggests that most of them will choose support roles.

A female Israeli soldier directs armoured personnel carriers during an army drill on March 16, 2016, in Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

In his 2000 book, Women in the Military: Flirting with Disaster, former decorated U.S. infantry officer Brian Mitchell points out that, rather than shortfalls in manpower being a reason to recruit women to combat training, recruiting women causes shortfalls: “The more attractive you make the military look to women, the less attractive you make it look to men.”

Feminists obsess over gender job “equality,” but the goals of their rights activism generally feature careers in which women wear power suits, spotlessly clean lab coats or tech-company jeans and tees. They have demanded the right of entry to all facets of military service as a matter of doctrinal principle, not because actual demands have not been addressed. So compulsion to register doesn’t sit well with them at all.

War is about defeating an enemy through superior power

War is about defeating an enemy through superior power, about achieving victory with minimal losses. It is a fact that men are better physically endowed for traditional ground combat than women. Of 36 women who have tried, only two have passed the U.S. Marine Corps’ legendary infantry-officer training course.

Apart from reasons of “political correctness,” why would our Armed Forces actually want an infantry in which a quarter of the troops were demonstrably more vulnerable than they have to be? It is only in countries where the danger of war is remote and battle readiness is a low priority that political and military elites indulge themselves in the luxury of policies based in gender dogmas instead of realism and the national interest.

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