My Timing Is Terrible

As some of my readers know, I ran for Congress in 1980. (I even won a Republican primary–and I was pro-choice and pro-gay-rights. That wouldn’t happen in the cult that has replaced the GOP of which I was a member!)

At the time, defense policy was an issue; among the positions I took was that , if we must have a  draft, it should include women. (You are beginning to see why I lost the election.)

Well, it is now 39 years later, and a court has concluded that I was right. Not that the army is rushing to comply with the court’s ruling.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The chairman of a panel considering changes to the U.S. military draft said Monday its recommendations to Congress won’t be influenced by a federal judge’s recent ruling that the current system is unconstitutional because it only applies to men.

The military has not drafted anyone into service in more than 40 years, but American men must still register when they turn 18. Recent efforts to make registration also mandatory for women have set off intense debate in Washington.

I have my concerns about our current all-volunteer army, which depends far too heavily on “contractors” (aka mercenaries), and enlists disproportionate numbers of poor kids who have few options while demanding no sacrifice from more comfortable ones. But that’s a post for a different day.

U.S. District Judge Gray Miller declared a male-only draft unconstitutional in his ruling late Friday, but he stopped of ordering the government to make any immediate changes. He said the time for debating “the place of women in the Armed Forces” is over. Women now make up 20 percent of the Air Force, 19 percent of the Navy, 15 percent of the Army and 8.6 percent of the Marines, according to Pentagon figures.

Among the many changes we have experienced since 1980, the nature of war and the identity of the threats America faces have changed rather dramatically. It will be interesting to see whether attitudes about the capacities and obligations of men and women have changed enough to enlarge the draft as well.

The decision comes as Congress awaits a report next year from an 11-member commission to study the issue of selective service. It is chaired by former Nevada Rep. Joe Heck, who personally supports that women also be required to register for the draft.

Heck said the ruling won’t influence its report or hurry along the eventual recommendations to Congress. He described a generational divide in public comments his commission has collected about women and the draft.

“If you talk to those who would be impacted, that is males and females ages 18 to 25, they say, ‘yes, women should have to register. It’s a matter of equality,’” Heck said. “If you talk to an older population, they’re the ones who seem to be reluctant.”

The lawsuit in Texas was brought by the National Coalition for Men, a men’s rights group. The Defense Department lifted the ban on women in combat in 2013, and Miller stopped of ordering the government to take any immediate action with the draft in his ruling late Friday.

The last major decision on selective service was the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1981 that upheld excluding women because they were not allowed to serve in combat at the time.

“While historical restrictions on women in the military may have justified past discrimination, men and women are now ‘similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft,’” Miller wrote. “If there ever was a time to discuss ‘the place of women in the Armed Services,’ that time has passed.”

My time, on the other hand, may be at hand…


  1. If ever there was an example of the slow workings of government this is it. That it has taken this many years for this issue to get to this point is beyond me. That said, congratulations, Sheila, for being right… again.

    IMO we should register all and re-institute the draft with very few deferment opportunities. No heel spurs to get you out of service for example. By ramping up the draft again the general population would have skin in the game and be forced to pay attention to foreign policy decisions and vote accordingly. The political use of “war without responsibility” might just come to an end.

  2. I tend to agree with Teresa Bowers assessment: only I would make it Mandatory Service of 3 years minimum for all able and capable citizens – let them have a two year free college and pay half for each year necessary for their degree to the Ph.D. level post service or during. Those that cannot serve essential protection (military action – combat – support) then assign them a Service to America term with like pay grades and full education availability. Trades are to be considered education as well. I think we would approach a more wholistic and educated society, people who make good money and pay their taxes – My bet is this would possibly spur innovation, such that we could recover a true economy that benefits all of us. When you have skin in the game – you own your government: don’t forget – paying taxes weakens the argument of capitalists and industrialist that they have the greater say! Because then you are paying in it is YOUR MONEY in there – when folks get back to building a true Middle Class that is when I personally think things will change – a time of service sure can’t hurt. (imho)

  3. I made my future mother-in-law very unhappy in 1974 or thereabouts when I expressed that same opinion. I said, “It’s our country, too. Shouldn’t we defend it?”

    She forgave me for that (and a whole lot more), and I have to confess I’m glad women weren’t drafted in the 70’s, because Vietnam (as all wars) was a meat grinder, psychologically and physically.

  4. But, yes, mandatory service of some kind ought to be required of every capable 18/19 year old, because that would show them why they should pay attention to politics.

  5. Will abuses of women in the military continue and continue to be too often ignored? The old “boys will be boys” cover up. Will child care be provided for single girls and women who would be required to register for the draft? Will medical care for all in the military improve or continue at its current abysmal level? Will the women receive decent medical care from the VA once they have served their required term? I support women in the military but enacting the draft will bring out those “conscience objectors” who will use the current evangelical control based on their religion or those with heel spurs be automatically classed as 4F. Watch the movie “Truth” for the story of George W’s “military service” and the connection to Dan Rather’s “retirement” which uncovered the political and wealthy clout to forego actual military service…even if registered Will those with political and wealth clout fight as hard to keep “their women” out of the military? Pro-choice and pro gay rights would come to the forefront on the women in military issue.

    “My time, on the other hand, may be at hand…”

    We can hope Sheila’s time “may be at hand” but don’t lose sight of the fact that the GOP she was fighting then was today’s GOP in its first stages of what we have in the White House today and will be much harder to overcome.

  6. I was drafted in September 1969 and sent to Vietnam as a combat infantryman in 1970. I was over in Vietnam for 13 months. The draft was certainly back then an economic – class draft. If your parents had the financial assets to pay for college or pay for a doctor to say you were unfit, you could avoid the draft. Once I was discharged the V.A. paid a monthly stipend for four years, plus the state of Illinois paid the my tuition if I went to a state school.

    Registration for woman go ahead. The chances of a draft being re instituted are virtually nil. The Wall Street-Security-Military-Industrial Complex is happy with the privatized military – Profits!! As we know for the most part our elected officials are wholly owned subsidiaries of Wall Street.

    Our McMega-Media has not in recent times seen a “War” they did not like. Good news though:

    Sanders, Warren, Ocasio-Cortez, and Other Lawmakers Sign Pledge to End America’s “Forever Wars”

  7. If you want to be equal, you have to be equal in the bad as well as the good. Whenever I would get into a debate about this, the question that I was invariably asked was, “Do you really want to send our daughters off to be maimed and killed?” My response was always, “Are you telling me it’s okay to send our sons off to be maimed and killed?”

    I agree with Manuel. Everyone should do a term of service to the country. We don’t need everyone to fight, but we do need people who can help us address issues of poverty, illness, and illiteracy.

  8. For the next war started by wingnuts, the first front line conscripts should include all able bodied members of congress that vote for war and all their able bodied kids/grands – no exceptions. Each shall be handed their very own monogrammed body bag with return instructions clearly printed on each one.

  9. I think three years is too long. Left to my own devices, I would require all 18 year-olds to do one year of military service, after which they would be entitled to a GI Bill for four years of college or vocational education, paid for from the military budget. This would include “rich” kids as well as poor kids, including draft dodgers such as Trump, Bush (who stayed out of Vietnam via the Air National Guard and his dad’s influence), and Ronald Reagan (who enlisted in the old Army Air Corps in WW II with the understanding that he would make war propaganda movies and never leave Hollywood for the duration – and he didn’t). Robert Mueller these people were not.

    I think it is particularly important for (as Theresa has noted) these people to “have some skin in the game” as aware citizens and (I would add) an opportunity to go to school for other reasons, one of which is that the pace of AI and ever more sophisticated human labor-supplanting robotry emanating from Silicon Valley is accelerating, and they need all the weapons they can muster to delaying being supplanted. Prospective workers in tomorrow’s economy are not going to be competing with one another so much as they are competing with the effects of innovation itself, and while in economic history we have had steam supplant muscle and other such innovations in their time, we have never had such a broad sweep of innovation as that of today, the enormous overall socioeconomic impact and effect of which I cannot predict other than to predict that it will be interesting.

  10. Rev. Manuel – I agree mandatory national service for everyone is a good thing, but there are plenty of national needs beyond the military. Catching up to deferred maintenance in the National Park system comes immediately to mind, hell just picking up roadside litter that people can’t be bothered to stick in a trash can. My main issue with military service is that it would likely lead to an expasion of the military, and the warmongers in Congress would say to themselves “wow, look at this cool hammer, what looks like a nail?”

    Monotonous Languor – the classist aspect of the 1960’s draft was acknwledged when it was replaced by the more egalitarian aspect of the lottery, from which only limited exemptions were possible (my number was 48)

  11. I agree with JoAnn – when the ‘enemy’ for women in the military is too often their comrades in arms, that’s an untenable position to put them into. I absolutely agree women should be registered the same as men are; my issue is that the ‘men’ are behaving like animals, and their commanders are at best ignoring it, at worst encouraging it.

  12. I agree with Theresa. Mandatory draft for everyone would hopefully encourage all to pay attention to foreign policy.

    Now, what else can we make mandatory to encourage all to pay attention to and be interested in politics and our governmental activities at home? Oh yes, civics education at school. We need to require civics education, perhaps starting in 7th or 8th grade, and continue with classes throughout high school so that children can truly ‘understand’ the importance of knowing what each level of governments does. They need to be aware of municipal, county, state and federal responsibilities. They need to learn that their participation will make the difference between being ruled by corporations and wealthy interests or having the right to participate in making decisions that are fair and in the best interests of all citizens.

  13. Rev. Manuel Colunga-Hernandez ~
    From your lips to the Creator’s ear! You should run for office.

  14. mercenaries, good thought, contracting to kill, and its spill over into public norms,at home? look at standing rock, tiger-swan,off shoot of blackwater.. the contracting to,influence desent,(by corprate enities)while operating to start trouble,and then lead it to arrest,or worse. the central american war, contras,etc,were a perfect example of contractors. the former spl forces,mostly retired,and staying in the loop, were the go toos for the wars effort, but look back at how they were paid? from allowing the flow of coccaine into the U.S. orchestrated by the CIA and ghwbush. many of the foreign legions,also,do,the same games. alot of them,are hired by arab contries to watch over the people,guard mines,and const projects,with a contract that allows them to kill with little question. this menace is more wide spread than the news will ever mention on any front. the all volunteer military what it is,and the think tank influences are the recruiter. who really wants to get killed in a foreign place? i was navy,vietnam era, did my part,left,and then seen what that war left us. our own people kicked to the curb(VA),after the horrors they left behind. if you never did war,up front, you havent a clue. why would someone want to join,in todays mercenary wars?it must be that think tank gang,paid to influence,and allow a certain percentage,to,well die, thats allowable.. honor,really? after ww2 theres been little honor in this world to support a change,thats so called, honorable.. the war mongers need a day at the ICC in The Hague, to be questioned,and eveidence,all of it, bought fourth, and judge by international court of inquiry. we have amassed far too many issues today,to be allowed to willy nilly go about running this worlds order.. time for change..

  15. I agree with you “mike from Iowa”. The second group of conscripts should be the captains of industry, millionaires and their off spring. I find this discussion about equal opportunity killing of women as well as men chilling.

  16. There was a time when the draft was useful because the military was such that they could find a use for everyone. As I understand it that time has past because the military subcontracts to civilians virtually everything but fighting. What they need are warriors who can do that job, male or female or “other”.

    To the degree that any of that is true the best answer may be no draft but open recruiting and hiring by the military.

    Since the American military has never drafted women and until it does, I, an American male, demand reparations from American women be collected by the IRS and disbursed equally to all American men who were ever enrolled in the draft. The amount of reparation to be collected from each American female shall be equal to three years pay at whatever job the woman worked during her first three years of employment. Amortization of reparations owed by American females may not be spread over more than ten years.

  18. There is ample evidence that “national service” type things, Teach for America, Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and the military brings people together from different “tribes” like almost nothing else. We need that!

  19. UMT is not going to happen but lets just imagine for the moment that it is the law. Who will play all the basketball and football game that we so depend on? 🙂 Irvin

  20. As odious as universal conscription may sound to some it does bond the American people with its military services which is extremely important since only perhaps 2% of them actually serve. Perhaps if we did have such a thing our Presidents and our Congresses wouldn’t be as prone as they are to get us involved in ill-conceived wars of choice as they have for nearly 60 years, none of which ended well for anyone. Demographics are working against the concept of a predominately male all volunteer force anyway. Still, the most essential question regarding universal conscription or the armed forces in general is what are they be used for? What kind of strategy would underpin their use and are we even capable of formulating a coherent strategy for the use of force. We have sixty years of military history that shows that we aren’t.

    We remain at loggerheads in regard to formulating policies and strategies for the use of military force in pursuit of our national security and also the maintenance of our various alliance postures throughout the world. This is made even worse right now given the incoherence of the current President and his Administration in regard to virtually anything and where he refuses to read or listen to anything or anyone and where his impulsiveness undermines attempts at working through the most basic tenets of how and when we might use military force appropriately. In order to properly construct and configure our military forces for war, which is and should always be their prime reason for having those forces in being, we have to know what they will be used for and how.

    In regard to expanding a potential draft to include women there have been examples of how that may or may not work. The Israelis included women in their national conscription program 40 plus years ago but when they went to war and had women coming home in body bags they suspended the drafting of women to their armed forces. The emotional load was too great for their society and it may be for us as well. While many look at our armed forces as a locus for social experimentation, which they have been over the last 70 years, it must be, again, remembered that their primary job is war fighting with all that that entails. We have a hard time facing that and we also have a tendency to be repelled by casually reports, our abortive adventure in Somalia during the Clinton Administration being a good example, and make no mistake about it if we have a major armed conflict with any of our major antagonists, that doesn’t go nuclear at its outset, our casually lists will be long.

  21. When they send out draft registration cards they should send out voter registration cards too

  22. While I support M. Languor’s proposals for education for those who serve, I disagree that prospects for the draft are nil. Modern weaponry, land mines, biological and asymmetrical warfare practically assure high death rates – possibly high enough to discourage an all-volunteer force. And since whimsical wars are irresistible to certain types of presidents (Nixon, Baby Bush, probably Trump), the need for the draft may well persist.

    As anyone who has ever served in the military knows, the ratio of non-combat to combat troops is quite high, probably around 4 to 1. That implies lots of non-combat work for women. Even if few women go into combat – and that should be their own decision – the Army I served in will become a stronger force when women serve in larger numbers.

    The issue of women’s safety however is difficult. In an institution which rewards high testosterone levels, those with rank must be held strictly accountable for the conduct of those serving under them. And women themselves must have a clear understanding of their requirement to resist male aggression and their responsibility to report men who lack control. There must be zero tolerance; they must also be taught techniques to fend off would-be attackers. The problem may never go away, but the military are best known for their discipline and must enforce that trait to make it possible for larger numbers of women to serve.

    In later years, when I worked as a contractor at a joint base near Stuttgart, the bigger problem was the vile language and levels of suggestiveness the enlisted troops were allowed to get away with female soldiers and contractors. Some of the officers at that base approved and adopted similar behavior. That’s history, but my guess is that the similar problems persist today and that until they are solved, military life will be problematic for women who serve.

  23. I was a draftee in 1969 and I spent almost a year in VietNam. I reflect on the disparity between those of us who were drafted and served and those who were connected and found openings in the National Guard and Reserve units or who had medical exemptions that prevented them from serving. In retrospect, many of those fortunate enough or well-connected enough to avoid the draft have become our current political leaders. I wonder if military service would have given them a better perspective not only on war but on the larger public-political sphere in which they now “serve”.

  24. Israel has required women and men not only to register, but to serve their country for some mandatory period of time. Nowadays, proficiency at using computer-controlled military equipment, airplanes and weapons are the more relevant means of combat readiness than drills, marching and shooting weapons. Physicality is not the main qualifier any more, but women can hold their own on that score now, too. There’s no reason why women should be excluded from the draft. We’ve already wasted enough talent and potential. I wonder how many women would have made fine sharpshooters, fighter pilots, signalmen and ships captains in WWII. I think for older populations, there was the concern that males lusting after females would neglect their duties, or that women captured by the enemy would be raped. We’ve moved past that now.

  25. We have not fought a war dictated by wisdom or true national peril since 1945. The tool of conscription was used foolishly and unjustifiably in the 1960s and 1970s. Thus being unconscionable except to repel actual invasion. I think the ruling is 100% correct. The equality premise is based on 14th amendment definition of citizenship. But, no one should be conscripted to fight trumped up wars for corporate interests or personal ego. According to recent publications , since our nation’s founding in 1776 , this nation has had less than 30 years of peace altogether. Ridiculous and shameful.

  26. Lets finally decide. Draft both sexes but they must be over age of 65. Why sacrifice the young that have so much to contribute? We also know wars are about resources and capitalism anyway let us old bastards pay the price for our opulence.

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