DraftCardBurningNYC.jpg

From Burning Draft Cards to Drafting Women?

It was 22 or 23 years ago, I think, that I wrote in the Air Force Times a cautionary article on the combat exclusion that prohibited women from joining front line combat units. My concern then, as now, was that lifting the combat exclusion would removed the only remaining barrier to our daughters, wives, moms, and sisters being eligible for a military draft.

Asked about the issue yesterday, outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta conceded that his lifting of the combat exclusion could indeed make women eligible for the draft. With characteristic grit and determination, he added that he doesn’t know who runs the Selective Service, but predicted that they will, “…have to exercise some judgment based on what we just did.”

In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled in Rostker v. Goldberg, that the requirement for males to sign up for Selective Service was constitutional precisely because women were excluded from serving in front line combat units. “The court ruled that the Selective Service process is designed to assemble combat-ready people, and right now women are excluded from combat arms,” said Professor Anne Coughlin, of the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville. “Therefore,” she said, “they can’t participate in the very thing that the draft is for.” But that was then. Now, retired Colonel Peter Mansoor, a former US Army brigade commander and veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq, currently a professor of military history at Ohio State, says, “If women are acceptable to serve in combat, they are acceptable to serve whether they volunteer or not. You can’t have the frosting on the cake and not the cake underneath.”

Say, does anyone remember the part of President Obama’s little presentation of The Life of Julia, where she gets her draft notice? What about the part where draftee Julia is involuntarily deployed to some hellhole in the Mideast where the beneficent and diligent attention of Secretary of State John Kerry has germinated a fresh crop of Islamic fanatics? I can’t remember seeing the slide of her poorly defended position being overrun by said fanatics while her commander pleads for assistance that, pace Benghazi, never arrives. But, as Hillary Clinton said, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” It’s merely a bump in the road of progress.

It speaks volumes that the party of young men who once gleefully burned their draft cards has degenerated into the party of old men who declare their daughters and granddaughters eligible for the draft. But to do so in Orwellian tones of, “…moving forward with a plan to eliminate all gender-based barriers to service,” adds injury to insult. Progressives, who once accused Republicans of waging a war on women for declining to force others to pay for Julia’s sexual proclivities, now wage a literal war on women complete with the possibility of involuntary combat assignments. 

Were the American people consulted on this? Did their representatives in Congress have a chance to weigh in on an issue that affects over half the population? To echo Ms. Clinton, “What difference does it make?” What difference indeed, to the man who, at his inauguration only a few days earlier, described us as, “…a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.” But apparently, this generation can’t be trusted to choose its own light bulbs or toilets, let alone deal with weighty issues like making our daughters eligible for involuntary military service.

Personally, one of the reasons I spent 20 years in uniform and volunteered to go to very unpleasant places was so that my daughter, my sisters, my mother and grandmothers might never have to taste the bitter cup of life under such inhumane and inhuman conditions. It seems now that my service in that regard might have been squandered. Which brings me to the question of what has become of our military leaders?

The peculiarities of my work on active duty required that my immediate supervisor had to be a colonel or higher. As a result, I worked directly for literally dozens of colonels, brigadier generals and major generals during my career. Of these senior leaders, there were maybe a half dozen that I felt routinely put the interests of their troops over that of their own careers. Of these half dozen, there were two that I would gladly follow to storm the gates of hell itself. They never made it beyond the rank of brigadier general. The worst of the bunch progressed to three and four-star rank. The problem, as I saw in the Air Force at least, was that promotions in the senior ranks were highly political affairs. Combat prowess and a devotion to duty as well as to the troops, took second place to checking off various requirements for progression through the ranks.

“Everything you write is correct, Sergeant Carter,” a colonel on the verge of retiring said to me one day when I presented a letter for his signature. The letter detailed the disastrous effects of a new policy and advocated a change in direction. “But I can’t sign it,” he said, “because it would put me in a ticklish situation.” The guy was two weeks from retirement and, even at that late stage, couldn’t be persuaded to take a stand. Such fecklessness, such foolishness from people who have been decorated for valor under fire, is as beyond comprehension now as it was then.

Where are the flag officers who refuse to take part in the further destruction of our force? Where were the commanders that refused to be complicit in our surrender and defeat in Afghanistan? What in the world has gotten into the heads of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that they give their imprimatur of approval to a policy that can’t help but detract from combat effectiveness and puts in jeopardy the very people our troops fight to defend? Is there not a single one prepared to resign in protest over the shabby treatment of the people under his command? Just once, I’d like to see a senior military leader actually lead something other than own career interests. Just once, I’d like to see them subordinate their interest to that of the troops who have trusted them with their very lives. The nation deserves better than this.

  1. Judithann Campbell

    Thank You, Mr Carter, both for your service and for speaking out on this issue.

  2. Pilli

    Dave,  Look to George Custer, etc.  Military leadership has always had its self-centered egoists.

    As to women being drafted into combat, that is already happening.  Women in the reserves and National Guard are often activated to Middle Eastern assignments.   Some end up in combat situations even though they weren’t assigned to combat units.

  3. Dave Carter
    C
    Judithann Campbell: Thank You, Mr Carter, both for your service and for speaking out on this issue. · 1 minute ago

    You’re very welcome.  I can assure you that it’s an honor to do both.  

  4. John Murdoch

    It seems to me that a petition to the White House would be in order….

    (Back in just a minute.)

    Well, that was easy:

    Petition: Require women to register for Selective Service Upon Reaching the Age of 18

    Personally, I’m sure that the White House will support this–and that this effort, with conservatives and “progressives” working together, can be the first step in the process of “coming together” toward “common sense ideas” that we “can all believe in.”

    Please help the cause of fairness and equality by sharing this link with all of your friends.

  5. Mr. Dart
    Pilli:

    As to women being drafted into combat, that is already happening.  Women in the reserves and National Guard are often activated to Middle Eastern assignments.   Some end up in combat situations even though they weren’t assigned to combat units. · 7 minutes ago

    But that’s different than the requirement that all male citizens 18-25 register with the Selective Service System which, I believe, was Dave’s point.  If women are not required to register it will end up before the Supreme Court again.

  6. SpatialD

    Dave,Spot on with the post; especially your assessment of what passes for “leadership”. I am to retire in the next few months from the Air Force and all I can tell you is the game is still the same. I have watched countless numbers of great leaders, leaders who one would as you said,”follow to storm the gates of hell itself” leave the service because of the ineptitude, hypocrisy, and politics of the military. Most never make it past the rank of Lt Col. The choice not to participate in that rat race has its consequences, hence my never having made it past the rank of Captain, but it is wonderful to know I have been able to serve for 20 years doing exactly what the American people trained me to do and have never had to prostitute my integrity in the quest to move up the political ladder. Would that we could find some officers who were happy just to be a squadron commander, or a group commander, or even a wing commander and would be willing to do as much boat rocking as it took to reform the military.

  7. Illiniguy

    Dave, as is often the case, when you say something, nothing more needs to be said. My experience with flag officers is much more limited than yours, but those whom I do know got there because of their political skills.

    The generation that’s now making these types of decisions came of age in the 60′s, and will soon pass from the stage. Perhaps we should take the long view and say that this, too, shall pass away.

  8. Benjamin Carter
    Pilli: As to women being drafted into combat, that is already happening.  Women in the reserves and National Guard are often activated to Middle Eastern assignments.  · 13 minutes ago

    As is stated above; While what you state is true, that isn’t the point argued here. This isn’t about women who volunteered for reserve units knowing they could be activated and sent anywhere. This is about the 19 year old college student who wants to work on Broadway one day being told that she now has to go to Afghanistan instead. Selective Service was a risk that we’d placed on young men, in hopes that young women wouldn’t have to.

  9. Mendel

    Thanks for the interesting perspective, Dave. 

    I wonder, though, if the utter politicization of the upper ranks is not an inevitable consequence of the (happy) fact that our military has no real competition at the moment.

    In the private sector, we would expect that a huge company with a de facto monopoly would quickly become bloated, inefficient, and begin to rot from within – competition is what helps keep companies lean and focused on their goals.  Why should it be any different with a military that currently has, for all intents and purposes, no true competitor?

  10. Crow
    Dave Carter: Where are the flag officers who refuse to take part in the further destruction of our force?

    Where indeed. Perhaps they’ve gone voluntarily to the madhouse.

    Meanwhile, I received an email today detailing the budget effects of sequestration, coupled with the failure of Congress to appropriate or budget for 2013, and the general inability of the Pentagon to distribute funds sanely, on maintenance, training, and readiness across the waterfront–east and west coast.

    The headline?

    Somewhere Mahan is rolling over in his grave.

  11. Dave Carter
    C
    SpatialD: Dave,Spot on with the post; especially your assessment of what passes for “leadership”. I am to retire in the next few months from the Air Force and all I can tell you is the game is still the same. I have watched countless numbers of great leaders, leaders who one would as you said,”follow to storm the gates of hell itself” leave the service because of the ineptitude, hypocrisy, and politics of the military. Most never make it past the rank of Lt Col. The choice not to participate in that rat race has its consequences, hence my never having made it past the rank of Captain, but it is wonderful to know I have been able to serve for 20 years doing exactly what the American people trained me to do and have never had to prostitute my integrity in the quest to move up the political ladder. …

    Captain, as a career mid-level NCO, you have my undying admiration and thanks for your service and genuine selflessness.  

  12. Dave Carter
    C
    Mendel: Thanks for the interesting perspective, Dave. 

    I wonder, though, if the utter politicization of the upper ranks is not an inevitable consequence of the (happy) fact that our military has no real competition at the moment.

    In the private sector, we would expect that a huge company with a de facto monopoly would quickly become bloated, inefficient, and begin to rot from within – competition is what helps keep companies lean and focused on their goals.  Why should it be any different with a military that currently has, for all intents and purposes, no true competitor? · 16 minutes ago

    Edited 14 minutes ago

    The Pentagon is no more immune to ineptitude and careerism than any other large bureaucracy.  That it is a constitutional and vital function doesn’t make it any less susceptible to human nature, unfortunately.  But I would like to see a few of these guys demonstrate the sort of valor their medals indicate they once possessed.  

  13. UreyP3

    Amen.  Worse, if possible, in this administration:

    Obama Fires Top General Without Even a Phone Call DANIEL HALPER    President Barack Obama fired General James Mattis, the head of Central Command, without even calling the general to let him know he was being replaced. http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/obama-fires-top-general-without-even-phone-call_697744.html Tom Ricks says Mattis was fired because: Pentagon insiders say that he rubbed civilian officials the wrong way — not because he went all “mad dog,” which is his public image, and the view at the White House, but rather because he pushed the civilians so hard on considering the second- and third-order consequences of military action against Iran. Some of those questions apparently were uncomfortable. What do you do with Iran once the nuclear issue is resolved and it remains a foe? What do you do if Iran then develops conventional capabilities that could make it hazardous for U.S. Navy ships to operate in the Persian Gulf? He kept saying, “And then what?” “National Security Advisor Tom Donilon in particular was irked by Mattis’s insistence on being heard. I cringe when I hear about civilians shutting down strategic discussions. “
  14. Nick Stuart
    Dave Carter

     Such fecklessness, such foolishness from people who have been decorated for valor under fire, is as beyond comprehension now as it was then.  

    Physical courage and moral courage are not the same thing.

    At the gym last night the three TVs were on network news. Arrayed before me were NBC, CBS, and ABC. All three came up with women soldiers who said they were good to go to be “infantrypersons” (I suppose “infantryman” goes onto the dustheap of history), the usual middle aged academics and advocates who’ve never served in the military proclaiming how good this would be. Etc. Etc.

    My reaction then and now is “These People Have Lost Their Minds.”

    My daughter is in the Army (Signal Corps). I would be as OK with her going to Afghanistan as I would be my son (Transportation Corps) but I would not want her there or anywhere as a combat troop. She’s a pretty fit, sturdy, young woman, but there is no way she could cope with the rigors of combat (although any Taliban that stepped into her sights would immediately be on his way to his 72 virgins).

  15. William Laing

    Women in  or anywhere near combat is an evil idea. I read in  in George Macdonald Fraser’s recent “Light On At Signpost” its wholesale refutation — I might almost say its utter destruction and damnation. This work of cultural hygiene is achieved wholly by rationale argument, buttressed by evidence, with the authority of personal experience of total war. 

    GMF was a writer of histories, romances, movies, sometime deputy editor of a great newspaper, the Glasgow Herald. He served as a soldier in the 14th Army that ejected the Japanese from Burma in the second world war, and as an officer in the Gordon Highlanders in Palestine (as then it was) and Egypt after the war. 

    He knew what he was talking about. 

  16. Pencilvania

    Dave, thank you for your service and protection.

    When I heard this news item I immediately thought ‘women in combat = women must register with Selective Service = daughters could be drafted =  U.S. support for entering any war ever again 0%.’  A progressive’s dream.

    O’Reilly had a male (con) & female (pro) officer on last night discussing this story, and when the talk turned to combat-readiness standards I noticed the female colonel kept insisting she did not want special treatment for the women trying to pass combat tests.  “Set the standards,” she kept repeating, “set the standards,” implying that if women couldn’t pass the same tests as men they would be rejected.  I noticed, however, she did not say “Retain the standards we have now.” And I think that was deliberate.  Standards will be reset, and we will not have the same caliber of soldier we have today.

  17. Dave Carter
    C
    Nick Stuart … My daughter is in the Army (Signal Corps). I would be as OK with her going to Afghanistan as I would be my son (Transportation Corps) but I would not want her there or anywhere as a combat troop. She’s a pretty fit, sturdy, young woman, but there is no way she could cope with the rigors of combat (although any Taliban that stepped into her sights would immediately be on his way to his 72 virgins). · 0 minutes ago

    Agreed.  My daughter would dispatch them with terrible efficiency as well.  Instead, she chooses to be a wife and a mom.  The Obama Administration, which ostensibly supports, “a woman’s right to choose,” has taken this most basic choice from women.  The hypocrisy is breathtaking in its audacity, and tragic in its consequences for civil society.

  18. Anne R. Pierce

    Harry Truman foresaw the mentality you describe.  He worried about it and said, “Nowadays, just about everyone seems concerned not with what they can do, but with what they can get away with. And I don’t like it. I don’t know what’s going to happen to our country if we think this way.”

    (quoting from memory because it sticks with me; might have a word or two wrong.)

  19. John Murdoch

    Heavens, Dave!

    I am aghast. This is a basic issue of fairness, isn’t it? Isn’t this an issue of equality for women?

    I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

    Your post makes it abundantly clear–the U.S. Supreme Court has held that since women are excluded from combat, they cannot be required to register for the draft. Now that the exclusion is gone, it is a matter of fairness and equality for women that every young woman register when she turns 18; and every woman between the ages of 18 and 30 register immediately. Fairness!

    Moved by your article, I have created a petition on the WhiteHouse.gov site–imploring the Obama Administration to show their commitment to true fairness, to equality for women, by adopting this simple, common sense proposal that we all can agree upon.

    Sign the petition!

    Objecting to yet another foolish political gesture by the Administration will achieve nothing. Using their own policies and schemes to force them to confront their own folly may–MAY–cause them to say, “oh, wait–did we focus-group this before we had Leon make that announcement?”

  20. Dave Carter
    C
    John Murdoch: Heavens, Dave!

    I am aghast. This is a basic issue of fairness, isn’t it? Isn’t this an issue of equality for women?

    I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

    Moved by your article, I have created a petition on the WhiteHouse.gov site–imploring the Obama Administration to show their commitment to true fairness, to equality for women, by adopting this simple, common sense proposal that we all can agree upon.

    Sign the petition!

    Objecting to yet another foolish political gesture by the Administration will achieve nothing. Using their own policies and schemes to force them to confront their own folly may–MAY–cause them to say, “oh, wait–did we focus-group this before we had Leon make that announcement?” · 4 minutes ago

    Nice to meet you, Mr. Aghast.  

    Interesting idea you have there.  The administration can adopt what it wishes, but I’m afraid this issue is now headed to the courts.  I’m pretty sure the law suits are being drafted even now, and the whole thing could yet again hinge on John Robert’s infamous concern for the Court’s “legitimacy.”

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