Should Women Be Drafted?

Heritage Explains

Should Women Be Drafted?

Before Congress blithely signs off on drafting our daughters, it first ought to consider the question—is that what Americans really want?

Lawmakers are considering adding women to the draft. This week, James Carafano, vice president of Heritage’s Davis Institute for International Studies and 25 year Army veteran explains why that's a bad idea—and if we should even still have a draft.

Michelle Cordero: From The Heritage Foundation, I'm Michelle Cordero, and this is Heritage Explains.

Cordero: Last year, with no debate and no real scrutiny, congress added to the annual National Defense Authorization Act, a provision to require young women to register for military conscription. The provision was dropped, but proponents are quietly trying to add it again this year.

Clip: An important hypothetical question today on Capitol Hill. If the United States should someday need to resume the military draft, should women be in the mix? Right now, federal law says only men have to register with the selective service. All U.S. citizens and immigrant non-citizens between 18 and 25, who were assigned male at birth are required by law to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday.

Cordero: The nation has not imposed the draft since 1973, during the Vietnam War. Proponents of adding women to the draft argue that it's about fairness, and that women are equal to men and should be included. But what are the implications of adding women to the draft? And should we even still have a draft? Today, James Carafano, vice president of Heritage's Davis Institute for International Studies and the E.W. Richardson fellow, and 25 year Army veteran explains. Our conversation after this break.

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Cordero: Let's start at the beginning. Does Congress actually have plans to add women to the draft?

James Carafano: The answer is yes. There's something called the National Defense Authorization Act. This is a bill that Congress does every year. It broadly provides guidelines and guidance to defense policy, and it includes kind of a whole basket of things. Last year, kind of really out of nowhere, no debate, no real discussion, they slipped in this provision to essentially say Draft Our Daughters, which is requiring women to sign up for conscription. So in other words, if there was a draft, that they could be drafted as well.

>>> Don’t Draft Our Daughters—or Anyone Else

Carafano: Look, this came out of nowhere. I mean, do you remember Trump and Biden debating this? I mean, this was not an issue. I mean, there weren't hearings on this. It just literally was creeped in there, and there was a kind of a blow back feed. What are you doing here? Nobody's talked about this. Nobody's asked the American people if they think it's a good idea. You're just slipping this in, and so it was pulled. Low and behold, this year there's a coalition of Senators which just are trying to slip it in again. No national debate, no real asking the American people, "What do you think about this?" Just doing this. Anytime Congress does that, that should raise red flags, the kind of red flags we really... Not like gun red flags, but real red flags.

Cordero: Well, I'm guessing the answer to this question is fairness and equality, but why exactly do lawmakers want to add them? Do they offer their reasoning?

Carafano: Yeah. So let's talk about the fake reasons, and then talk about the real reason. I think some people genuinely believe this to say, "Well, this is just a fairness issue. This is an equity issue. We draft men. We should draft women." Or, "Well, this is about promoting women in military service about giving them equality, and equal opportunity, and equal respect." None of that's true. None of it.

Carafano: First of all, women have equal opportunity in the military. If you've seen Top Gun... I don't want to give away the show, but if you see Top Gun Maverick, there's a woman F-18 pilot. That's not make believe. That's real. There are real women F-18 pilots. Almost every part of the service is open. Women make a significant part of the course. So the notion that somehow a draft makes women more equal, there's just no truth to that.

Carafano: Indeed, it really doesn't do anything for women. It just requires them to sign up for conscription. That's a meaningless exercise. There's no patriotism involved in that. It's just a law. Men sign up for conscription. It doesn't mean they're more patriotic, and doesn't mean they're better... and it doesn't give them more equal opportunity in anything. It's a completely paper driven exercise, so the notion that somehow this is about fairness, and equity, and equal opportunity, and diversity, that is simply a false claim.

Carafano: So what is it about? I mean, I can't think of a better metaphor. This is the camel nose under the tent thing. We've seen this time and time again with so many issues. People portray something as an innocent fairness, equality issue, and it's really just the precursor to a woke agenda, using the military for political indoctrination, to tell people they should act and serve a different way.

Carafano: We went from don't ask, don't tell, which for example, was a policy that says we don't care what people's sexual habits are. They have nothing to do with military service. We just push that aside. We've gone to not only accepting, but that's become this gateway to all these gender issues. I don't know if you've seen this ad, but there is recently on YouTube and Twitter, the show that the Navy is putting on, having somebody kind of explain people their alternative pronouns, and how to find safe spaces. Look, in the Navy, there's one pronoun in the Navy. It's called sailor. I was in the military. There's one pronoun in the military. It's called soldier. When you look out at somebody, you don't see somebody who's Black or White or tall, short, or fat, or thin, or a man, or a woman, or any one of 26 different genders. You see a uniform, and you respect the uniform, and you demand from that uniform the selfless service that's required when you give the oath.

Carafano: All of these, which I really think are just political indoctrinations, the woke transformation of America, by ordering the Pentagon, essentially to do this, this is destructive to good order and discipline. It's really an affront to the constitution. It is this stealth changing America, and then before we realize it, we're at a radically different place than when we started. So people to think that this is just an innocent thing, it doesn't really matter, who cares? It matters a lot because they're not going to stop there.

Cordero: Not a lot of people like to hear this side of this argument, but what are the actual implications of adding women to the draft? Does it weaken our national defense?

Carafano: Well, it actually does nothing for our national defense because it's virtually impossible that we would ever use the draft, in the sense that people think of the draft in like World War II, World War I for mass mobilization. The reality is in every conflict Americans have ever fought, the vast majority of people that fought in the conflict were volunteers. Even today, 70% of American military youth, aren't qualified for military service. If you had a draft, you wouldn't be drafting American youth. You could only really draft the 30% of American youth that actually make up the pool of people who already volunteer for military service, so it's unlikely to add any military capability. If you drafted people, what are they going to do? We don't have tanks, and uniforms, and missiles, and rockets, and forts around to train people.

Carafano: We are a nation, and the argument was where's the scenario you where you would need a mass mobilization? The likelihood of a draft actually being implemented is zero. I know a lot of people say a draft, it's about patriotism. Some people even say we should have mandatory military service. That's absolutely a terrible idea. That's not what our founding fathers envisioned. Voluntary military service that is completely disconnected from politics is foundational to not just military excellence, but to a healthy civil society. I'll give you another example very quickly because this woke stuff, this is just the little tiny shaving on the top of the ice cube at the tip of the world's biggest iceberg.

Carafano: Let me give you another example. At West Point, where I was a cadet, and I also taught in the military academy, there's been some news articles that they just revealed these classes that new cadets are forced to take on critical race theory. Look, critical race theory is political indoctrination, period. There is no real debate about that. It's not innocent. It's not teaching people about racism. It is giving them a political viewpoint that they must have to be accepted and get promoted. That is antithetical to West Point. I'll tell you know, the reason why West Point was founded is when Thomas Jefferson was the President of the United States, all of the military officers came from the other political party. The reason for that is the other political party had most of the rich people, and to be an officer back then it actually required some degree of wealth to able to support a commission. So what Jefferson did is he created West Point so you could draw equally from across the country.

Carafano: He gave every state, seats at West Point, every Congressman, energy center. The idea was we don't want a military that's from one political view and one political party. We want a military that reflects all of us, and eschews politics. That's the nature of military service. Teaching political theories, like critical race theory, are actually completely destructive to that. Not only is it destructive to our constitutional order and our freedoms, it's endangering to the fundamental principle of why we have a military, to fight in win nation's wars. We take our very best, loving patriotic volunteers, and we put them in harm's way. Every moment, second sent that we distract from getting them trained and ready to do that, we are putting them at risk.

Carafano: They call these guys new cadets, and the reason is unlike every other university, where you show up in September to go to class, at West Point, you show up in June and you go through something called new cadet barracks. That is three months of bootcamp, of physical and mental training, and pressure to make sure that you demonstrate that you are worthy to be a member of the core cadets, and worthy of the United States, investing in you for four years to give you a college education and a military degree. It is not about, that is three months for the Biden administration to enforce political indoctrination on you. Detracting from that, it makes them... Every second that's less time you're spending on preparing them to be an officer, preparing them be a leader, preparing them to defend their country, and it's not just political indoctrination. It's putting lives at risk. It's putting the freedom, and security, and prosperities of Americans at risk, and it's just flat out wrong.

Carafano: When people say, "Well, what's wrong with Draft Our Daughters," it doesn't stop with Draft Our Daughters. It becomes this. It becomes the recent ruling by the Biden administration that we are going to enlist people who are HIV positive in the military. Look, I have nothing against people with debilitating illnesses and chronic diseases, but they don't belong in the military. The people in the military ought to be deployable and able to fight. It's not about creating a rainbow coalition. If you have diabetes, you can't be in the military because it's a chronic condition.

Cordero: Yeah.

Carafano: So this is just so wrong.

Cordero: Yeah. It sounds like this really is about a woke agenda and DEI politics, all at the cost of the defense of our nation. So in conclusion, Jim, you touched on this, but I think it's important to hear you say it from this context. If proponents of drafting women were to say to someone that it's sexist not to include women, how would you respond to that charge? Or, how should our listeners respond to that charge?

Carafano: Yeah. My answer is look, the whole concept of conscription is stupid. It was something that was created for the last century, which actually arguably didn't even work terribly well. There's no reason to have conscription in a modern society. First of all, if you really need to... Ukraine is attacked, and they rally the people of the Ukraine to defend themselves. You have a constitutional authority to do that in the United States. You don't need to have a system of conscription to do that. As a matter of fact, today, with would all the access we have to information, it'd be much easier to just register people. Conscription is an anachronism. It doesn't really do anything. It doesn't create patriotism. It doesn't create combat power. It doesn't scare Russia and China. It's a nothing burger. The fact that many are making a big deal out of a nothing burger shows you that there has to be an alternate agenda.

Carafano: So, my answer would be twofold. If you really care about America's military, we should just get rid of the draft and forget this thing, and you ought to focus on two things. One is only 30% of American youth are qualified to serve. That's because of health issues, education, or moral issues. You know, the answer to that? You go out there and you help build better families and build better communities, get kids to graduate from high school, tell them to get a job and then get married, and they'll be way more better qualified for military services, and for everything else for that matter. Americans should be addressing the issue about why our youth are not even physically, mentally and morally capable to do hard things.

Carafano: The other thing is, look, if you want more opportunity for women and men, and everybody else in the military, then make ways to make voluntary service more easily to do so. For example, people join the National Guard. They should be able to switch between the National Guard and the active duty. There are lots of things you can incentivize. I think you could even incentivize voluntary registration. If somebody really wants to serve their country in time of crisis, let them volunteer to be put on a list to say, "Hey, if you need more people, call me." Let them say when they do that, "Yeah, I volunteer. I'm not going to be overweight, fat, diseased, and stupid." If you want to give them a benefit for that say, "Okay, we'll give you some relief from college loans." Fine. But this is nonsense. This is such nonsense, and the fact that is it's so unexamined, so undated, so under the radar, and so typical Washington, "Just trust us. There's nothing to see here. Just go along what we're doing, you Americans."

Carafano: The fact that there are officials in the USF government who don't think that men, and women, and mothers, and fathers, and brothers, and sisters, and grandparents should get a vote on whether somebody should be required to serve or not, that we should just do this, and we know better than they are. Boy, does that remind you of every other issue that they've screwed up from telling us that they know how to fix energy, and inflation, and the border, and everything else? I think this is a sign of a sickness in this town. If people ignore this, it's like the untreated rip in your arm that just inflames, and then you get your arm cut off.

Cordero: Jim, thank you so much for your thoughts on this issue that is actually really difficult for people to articulate. We appreciate you.

Carafano: Well, thank you. Thank you for having me. It is just so important, and it's difficult to look and see a picture of a soldier, or a military person, or a coffin coming home under an American flag, and not be shamed by people that just don't take these incredibly serious issues with the purposefulness they deserve. Thanks.

Cordero: That's it for this week's episode, we hope you liked it. Jim Carafano's oped on this topic is linked in our show notes. Tim's up next week, and we'll see you then.

Heritage Explains is brought to you by more than half a million members of The Heritage Foundation. It is produced by Michelle Cordero and Tim Doescher, with editing by John Popp.