Should women be required to register for the draft?
Not everyone embraces the idea of women serving in military combat roles, particularly some Republican lawmakers as well as commanders of the nation’s most elite special operations units. The skeptics continue to question whether women are up to the task. They seem determined to squelch recognition of women’s battlefield participation any way they can.
Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Ryan Zinke of Montana introduced a bill Thursday to require all American women between ages 18 and 26 to register for the Selective Service — the draft — exactly as their male counterparts already are required to do. Yes, the draft still exists, even though we’ve had an all-volunteer force since the 1970s.
This bill clearly was a cynical move designed for shock value. Hunter and Zinke are both veterans. Both appear to believe the Obama administration has gone too far with its advocacy for women who want to pursue combat eligibility. They echo the concerns of various military commanders who contend that women’s presence in front-line combat jobs would destroy unit cohesion and erode performance.
President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Ash Carter overruled these objections, with Obama noting in December that 90 percent of military positions have opened to women during recent decades, and that they already serve — and some have died — while performing combat duties.
More than 280,000 women were deployed in the Iraq and Afghanistan combat zones, and at least 150 were killed. But because they haven’t been officially eligible for combat, they haven’t always received recognition in the same ways their male counterparts have.
In 2012, four service women, including an Air National Guard helicopter pilot shot down in Afghanistan, had to sue to get their combat service recognized. The pilot, a major, had been deemed ineligible for promotion at the time because the Pentagon couldn’t officially recognize her combat service.
That’s the background driving the effort to make their combat service official and establish a training regimen that adequately prepares them for battlefield challenges.
The difficult question is the one raised by Hunter and Zinke: If women want equality, are they prepared to accept the awesome responsibility that accompanies it?
The short answer is that not all women want to serve in the military, and not all women currently in uniform necessarily want to be on the front lines. Not all men want to serve, and many probably shudder when it comes time to register for the draft.
If Hunter and Zinke seriously want to pursue this bill, let them. It’s a good debate for the nation to have. Equality under the law doesn’t just mean equal pay and equal opportunities for promotion. It also means bearing equal responsibility, regardless of gender, when the call comes to serve our nation.
Reprinted from the St. Louis Post Dispatch
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