In 2012, a rather spectacular thing happened. A man with no legs ran faster than most with two could ever dream of running. Oscar Pistorius (no matter what the facts of his recent troubles) did a remarkable thing. Overcoming the real barriers which his disability gave him (and with the help of some truly remarkable technology), he ran in the Olympics for his country.
Now there were some legitimate questions about whether it was proper to allow Pistorius to compete. Not erasing any accomplishment, there is an unobservable line where human athletic prowess ends and technological innovation begins. Regardless, it was a high honor and inspiring story, no matter what the finish. It was a story that inspires certain emotions.
Now, here’s a different story: a P.E. teacher requires a double-amputee student to don his prosthesis, get onto the track, and run the required 1 mile distance for the national physical fitness test. The young student protests. The teacher says that if Pistorus can run hundreds of miles to get to the Olympics, he should be able to get up and do his duty. The student, uncomfortable with the idea, but not wanting to be found lacking and knowing the authority that the teacher has over him, reluctantly complies.
That inspires emotions, too. Different ones, no?
And that is my best analogy to expose the ridiculous argument that has come from the Department of Defense: now that women are ALLOWED to be in every part of the armed forced, therefore we can REQUIRE that women be in every part of the armed forces, too.
And I am not even conceding the ground that it is a good thing to allow women to serve voluntarily in combat roles in the military. Just because it happened before, that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing to recommend going forward. Just because something is inspiring to some people, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is good and fair. Take Oscar Pistorius’s light carbon-fiber legs, for example. Inspiring? yes. Fair to the system as a whole if it becomes regular practice? Good question.
What I’m really saying right now is that anyone who does not see the significant difference between allowing someone into the military and drafting someone into the military is a fool.
The Terrible Responses Of The Republican Candidates
Or maybe someone could be like one of the three Republican candidates who addressed the question at the New Hampshire Debate: dodging based on political correctness and deflecting with bad arguments. The candidates were asked by Martha Raddatz, “Should young women be required to sign up for Selective Service in case of a national emergency?”
Case number 1 is Marco Rubio who said:
“First, let me say there are already women today serving in roles that are like combat. That, in fact, whose lives are in very serious danger, and so I have no problem whatsoever with people of either gender serving in combat so long as the minimum requirements necessary to do the job are not compromised. But, I support that, and obviously now that that is the case I do believe that Selective Service should be opened up for both men and women in case a Draft is ever instituted.”
[pivots to rebuilding the military]
So, let’s get this straight:
- First, I (Rubio) will assume that since something that some people call bad (women serving in roles that are like combat) is already happening, we should therefore treat it as “given” in arguments going forward.
- Now, of course we must ignore the difference between “roles that are like combat” and “combat itself” in order to make that equivocation even make sense. But if you’ve already given in on point number 1, capitulating to number 2 is not very difficult, either.
- Next, let me insert the bumper sticker that “minimum requirements necessary to do the job are not compromised,” even though they certainly are and already have been.
- Now that “that is the case,” I can support women in the draft, with the “that” being “the change in the fundamental differences between men and women” which formerly sent men off to war while women were not sent off to war. I will spend the least amount of time on this, because, boy, that’s messy. But yes, now that that change has been made, I will support women in the draft
Case number 2 is Jeb Bush, who gave a thin answer, and who was called out on it by the moderator. Jeb said:
BUSH: I do, and I do think that we should not impose any kind of political agenda on the military. There should be — if women can meet the requirements, the minimum requirements for combat service they ought to have the right to do it. For sure. It ought to be focused on the morale as well. We got to make sure that we have readiness much higher than we do today. We need to eliminate the sequester which is devastating our military.
. . .
RADDATZ: Tell me what you’d say to American people out there who are sitting at home, who have daughters, who might worry about those answers, and might worry…
BUSH: Why would they worry about it?
RADDATZ: …if the Draft is reinstituted?
BUSH: Well, the Draft’s not going to be reinstituted, but why — if women are accessing…
RADDATZ: Are you saying you’d do away with it?
BUSH: No. I didn’t say that. You — you asked a question not about the draft, you asked about registering. And if women are going to be…
RADDATZ: You register for the draft.
BUSH: If — but…
RADDATZ: If it’s reinstituted.
BUSH: … we don’t have a draft. I’m not suggesting we have a draft. What I’m suggesting is that we ought to have readiness being the first priority of our military, and secondly, that we make sure that the morale is high. And right now, neither one of those are acceptable because we’ve been gutting the military budget.
So, let’s get this straight. Bush’s argument seems to be:
- First, I will not try to impose any political agenda on the military, and what I mean by that is “I will not resist when a political agenda is being imposed on the military.”
- Second, I will try to tread the same ground as Rubio, mentioning “military readiness” and “morale” instead of Rubio’s “the same standards.”
- And I will assure people that they should not be worried.
- Except, when pushed, I will take it for granted that the draft is never going to be re-instituted, which is the only plausible reason that people with daughters should not worry by this change. I will pretend that selective service is some sort of sham, as if the mere signing up is some patriotic theater, and “registering for the draft” can just be shortened to “registering” to remove any controversy.
- After all, the draft is silly, and I will never use it to call up our citizens to serve to defend our country. I simply won’t suggest it. I mean, it’s not like our allies are shooting down Russian planes or anything.
Or maybe they’re like Chris Christie. He said:
CHRISTIE: Can I — can I be really — can I be really clear on this, because I am the father of two daughters. One of them is here tonight. What my wife and I have taught our daughters right from the beginning, that their sense of self-worth, their sense of value, their sense of what they want to do with their life comes not from the outside, but comes from within. And if a young woman in this country wants to go and fight to defend their country, she should be permitted to do so.
Part of that also needs to be part of a greater effort in this country, and so there’s no reason why one — young women should be discriminated against from registering for the selective service. The fact is, we need to be a party and a people that makes sure that our women in this country understand anything they can dream, anything that they want to aspire to, they can do. That’s the way we raised our daughters and that’s what we should aspire to as president for all of the women in our country.
Let me say that this starts out as a very good argument. This requires a longer response. He is entirely correct that a woman’s self worth comes from the inside and it does not come from outside ideas about what a woman should be.
Second, it seems quite clear that Chris Christie has come down on the side that combat roles should be open to women. I applaud him for not saying “Well, that seems to be the way things are.” The argument is that if you want to, then you should be able to. I guess that’s a plausible position, but many people are born with things other than their gender that keep them from doing good and honorable things they really want to do. It isn’t really clear why this argument transfers to gender when it doesn’t transfer to age.
This is not a solid argument more than it is an opinion or a wish. But that’s okay. People are entitled to their opinions and hopes, even if they aren’t very convincing.
But next, this is where it gets crazy. We can’t discriminate against women by excluding them from the selective service? What on earth!? Not only does this once again ignore the difference between being “allowed” and being “required,” it ignores what “discrimination” is.
Current policy doesn’t discriminate against women. It discriminates against men. And men can take it. That’s what makes us men.
The Philosophical Question That Is Impossible To Ignore
Where we are right now, debating a female draft, is the logical conclusion of accepting a different falsehood long ago. There is a very revealing thing in the dodge of Rubio, the dismissal of duty in Bush and the confusion of Christie. They have come to an answer by ignoring the assumptions of their thought.
You cannot answer the question of the draft without answering the question of combat. You cannot answer the question of combat without having a preexisting belief about the nature of men and women.
The knowledge of this difference in nature between men and women is there, even if it is willfully ignored. Back when the debate was about whether women should be allowed into combat roles, I took a “no” position. Someone else took a “yes” position, believing that women are just as good as men. Arguing with me online and, branding me a sexist for my exclusion of women, he said (in a friendly and joking manner), “I’m going to find a female body builder to kick your ass for that.” My response was “The fact that you’d have to find a female body builder to do it instead of a random woman proves my point.”
He laughed, seeing his mistake, even though he did not admit defeat. He knew of the real difference, even if in his chosen position, he willfully ignored it. This is the dangerous mental disconnect I’m talking about.
The change in our military mindset is a consequence of the real issue. The real issue is political and philosophical; it is not data-driven. Christie hinted at the real issue, even if he didn’t realize it: “The value of a woman does not come from the outside. It comes from the inside.” But what exactly is inside which gives women their value?
People firmly believe (on both sides) that men and women are equal. Unfortunately, that is where the agreement stops.
Among the side that favors the draft and combat for women, that idea of equality is developed no further. Equality becomes “same-ness.” Men and women are equal because they are the same, except for a few biological quirks. This belief in equality is so strong, that those biological quirks and the consequences of them can be willfully ignored. In fact, as Christie showed, ignoring them is seen as a virtue: “We should not discriminate against women.” This belief in equality is so strong that it causes its champions among “equal-means-sameness” camp to ignore other facts to make this value a reality
On the anti-draft and combat for women side, there is a fundamental distinction between “same-ness” and “worth.” Men and women are equal. But men and women are equal because they have equal worth. They are not at all the same. The biological quirks that are different are just the surface. There are other differences in how we relate and experience life that is very much “male” and “female.” And neither is more valuable, neither is “correct,” despite their extreme difference. Asking which sex, male or female, is more important in society is like asking which hand, left or right, is the best at clapping.
And this difference in fact requires a difference in treatment. Here’s an analogy. Pretend I have two items in my job as a geologist: a truck and a computer system. Each each cost $35,000. They are of equal worth monetarily, and they both contribute equally to the productivity of my vocation. Despite this equality of importance, each requires fundamentally different treatment. If I were to subject my computer to mud, flatten brush and brambles with it in the open field, wash it with a hose, and leave it in the parking lot when I do not use it, then I am not treating it equally. I am treating it worse. Even though I do all the same things with the truck, the equality of treatment on the surface I give my computer system would be its inequality in fact. And this “equality in treatment, inequality in fact” in our society is not only something that hurts women.
And this required difference in treatment comes to a head in resistance to a female draft. The physical differences between men and women are just the differences that are easily visible. There are difference more subtle and more difficult to communicate than the clear differences in strength. You can feel it if you are in a relationship and do the hard work of navigating those differences. I have never gotten into a fight with my girlfriend because I could beat her in arm-wrestling or in a footrace (even though I can). But millions of couples get in fights because they see the same things, endure the same hardships, and react in completely different (and often predictable) ways.
There is an internal difference which can’t be ignored in the way we treat men and women. To forcibly put a woman in combat is worse than leaving a $35,000 computer system in the rain in a parking lot. After all, a computer can be replaced. You can’t say the same of your daughter.
Selective service discriminates against men, not women. And that’s the way it should be. At least, that’s how it should be if our nation wants to retain its dignity. When a husband and wife are laying in bed and they hear a window break and a door fling open downstairs, only an incapacitated man could allow and only a coward could say “Let’s flip a coin to see who calls the police and who gets the baseball bat to guard our children.”
Such is a female draft.