What If Instead Of Making Selective Service Gender-Neutral, We Abolished It Entirely?
In the United States, it is the law that all men must register for Selective Service within one month of their 18th birthday. If they do not register, it's a felony for which they can be fined $250,000 or be sent to prison for up to five years. Now, sure, no one has actually been prosecuted for being a refusenik since 1986 — but there are other repercussions that can ruin a person's life. If one refuses to sign up for the draft, they aren't eligible for student aid, they can't get a job in the government, they can't get United States citizenship if they don't already have it, and in some states they can't go to college at all. If they fail to sign up for the draft before they turn 26, there is nothing they can do to ever become eligible for those things.
It is a horrible, cruel, and weirdly outdated system. The question now, however, is do we expand this horrible and cruel and weirdly outdated system to include women?
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States rejected hearing a lawsuit challenging the male-only draft — not because it was without merit, but because Congress is already considering a measure to make the draft gender-neutral.
Via Washington Post:
The American Civil Liberties Union, representing two men and a group called the National Coalition for Men, called the requirement that men, but not women, register with the Selective Service System at age 18 "one of the last sex-based classifications in federal law."
The Trump administration had defended the policy. President Biden's acting solicitor general Elizabeth B. Prelogar had advised the court not to take up the issue now, because Congress is considering a national commission's recommendation that women be included in draft registration.
"Any reconsideration of the constitutionality of the male-only registration requirement … would be premature at this time," Prelogar wrote in a brief to the court.
This is one of the very few issues on which I, weirdly, totally agree with Men's Rights Activists. It is absolutely unfair and wrong that men have to sign up for this but women do not — particularly given the fact that refusal to do so can so greatly impact one's life.
That being said, perhaps there is a better way. Like not having it at all.
The United States hasn't actually drafted anyone since the Vietnam War ended in 1975. In fact, many Americans are probably under the impression that the draft itself ended that year as well. And it did! Unfortunately, five years later, Jimmy Carter signed Proclamation 4771, Registration Under the Military Selective Service Act, which then required all men from the ages of 18-26 to register for Selective Service — and that's what we've been doing ever since.
Since the end of Vietnam, the United States has fought in approximately 20 other wars, all with an all-volunteer military. Even during the height of the Iraq War, when all of America outside of the anti-war Left was totally gung-ho for war and awash in tiny flag pins and Freedom Fries, only 27 percent of Americans wanted to reinstitute the draft. Since then, support has mostly stayed at around 20 percent or less.
If for some reason we "needed" a draft, the draft could be reinstated, just like it was before WWII. It's not really necessary to keep it going all of the time, particularly when the only function it serves is to punish men who don't sign up for it — many of whom didn't do so not because they are personally opposed to war, but because they actually didn't know they had to. This, like practically every other crap thing in our country, disparately impacts low-income men.
It doesn't seem like there is enough of a "plus-side" to keep this going. I'm sure it makes some people feel good, but it doesn't seem as though that's a good enough reason to keep doing it or to do more of it. Maybe they can find some joy in other things we only do because they make people uninvolved with them feel good, like the death penalty and putting people on the sex offender's registry for public urination.
The fact is, Iraq and Afghanistan changed a lot of shit for a lot of people, and it's harder to find people who are super jazzed about invading other countries and killing the people in them than ever before, or of spending so much on the military when that money might be better used to improve things in our own country. Even Republicans are not that into it these days. It seems as though it would be a much bigger crowd-pleaser for the Biden administration to push for abolishing the Selective Service entirely than to push for including women in it so we can screw up more people's lives for basically no reason.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse