In 1981, the Supreme Court faced a crucial decision in American military history, when a lawsuit was brought against the government (Rostker v. Goldberg) asserting that laws forcing men between the ages of 18-25 to sign up for a prospective draft were unconstitutional on the basis that women were not required to sign up as well. The Supreme Court ruled in that case that the draft was constitutional despite the inequality because the draft was designed to provide the military with citizens capable of entering into combat in times of dire need and women were not “similarly suited” to serve in combat.
Now that the Obama administration (and make no mistake about it, this is a decision by the Obama administration), has decided that women should in fact be allowed to be placed in almost all combat situations, the decision in Rostker v. Goldberg seems to be completely invalidated. While it is unclear at this point whether women will be immediately required to sign up for the draft, it is, in the view of many legal scholars, inevitable that women between the ages of 18-25 will be required to sign up for Selective Service.
As soon as the Pentagon delivered it’s decision on women in combat (a decision reversing hundreds of years of military precedence) questions about the draft immediately surfaced as a chief concern from critics. But even should the military and Democrats oppose laws requiring women to register with Selective Service, courts will likely force the government’s hand on the issue in a push for equality. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; how could the Supreme Court in Rostker justify keeping women out of the draft for the very reasons that, as of yesterday, no longer exist?
Both sides present reasonable arguments as to whether or not women should be allowed to serve in combat roles and although it is unlikely, let’s hope the debate doesn’t devolve into the typical kind of gutter-politics we see so often when controversial issues arise in Washington. There is no denying that women have, in the past, been treated as second-class citizens, and although many of those issues have now been resolved, women in the military remain a part of our society where equality isn’t truly present. There is also no doubt that many women in the military do possess the physical talents necessary to serve on the front lines and that some portion of these women desire to do just that.
These benefits, however, must be viewed within their proper context. Although it is true the military’s position on women in combat created an inequality, it can also be said on equally established terms that women serving on the front lines creates numerous problems. One such problem is the issue of the draft mentioned above. If men are required to be in the draft and women are deemed worthy of serving in combat, it follows that women should and will be forced to enter into the draft eventually. Some women are surely capable of serving in combat, but as a proportion, there are far more men not in the military who are capable of serving than there are women, and it’s likely that there are many more women than men who would seek to avoid combat roles.
To deny that there are in fact differences between men and women is to deny human nature completely, and it can’t be ignored that the way men and women react to one another will also likely change dynamics on the front lines. What, for instance, will happen if a man and woman in a combat situation develop a secret romantic relationship? How will men react to a woman in their unit being captured or killed? What about the prospect of women being captured in battle and facing a very different kind of sadistic torture from the enemy? All of these concerns present problems the Obama administration has failed to address prior to making this decision.
Qualified women who wish to serve in combat should have the ability to be considered for combat duty, and should military leaders find proper “fits” for these brave female soldiers, they should be able to serve their nation in the manner they desire. But, women serving in combat may very well cause far more problems than the benefits such a situation creates, and it seems that this situation now makes it possible for women to be drafted into the military- a prospect most Americans, with good reason, likely oppose.
What is the purpose of this announcement then? Couldn’t avenues be established for certain qualified women without such a wide-ranging policy that puts women in danger in the future? Should a major war evolve, women who originally signed up to serve their country outside of combat may find themselves on the front lines. Why couldn’t the Obama administration formulate a position that takes that factor into account as well?
This policy seems more about promoting a political agenda that improving the military or aiding the rights of women, and the American people should question why all other options were not explored before arriving at such a radical conclusion.