Women and the US Draft

A correspondent, whose name I have withheld pending permission to use it, has asked me to consider whether or not women’s exemption from registration for Selective Service contributes to the glass ceiling in this country, and whether or not I think women should have to register for Selective Service.

In good, ambiguous fashion, my answer is yes and no. 

Bottom line up front:  military conscription is a legitimate policy tool, and I believe that when in the future a draft becomes necessary, men and women should both register and be drafted.  Also, the combat exclusion laws that govern servicewomen’s assignment policies jeopardize military efficiency and lessens militarily-useful (not social) cohesion between servicemembers of both sexes, and the Obama Administration should seek their elimination. 

Yes, exclusion from Selective Service (and the combat arms and units ) is an issue in the glass ceiling but fixing this issue is not simply a matter of having women register for the draft.  I oppose registering women for the draft because at this point in time, I oppose registering men for the draft, and I would still be opposed to registering men for the draft even if the serious underlying issues governing women’s military service were resolved. 

I say this as a woman who was sent a draft registration card back in 1984, in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  The status of women in the United States twenty years ago was not what it was now, and the status of servicewomen was also very different as well.  There were a lot of men of all ranks  who dealt fairly with servicewomen and they were probably in the majority.  But the military’s institutional attitude towards servicewomen was so confused, counter-productive, often stupid and sometimes deliberately cruel, that in its dealings with servicewomen, it resembled an institution for the criminally insane—run by the inmates.  Nevertheless, I thought that women had a stake in the survival of our society and that any Soviet invasion of Western Europe was going to go nuclear pretty quickly.  And I thought the best way to avert that was not to try to levitate the Pentagon, but in some way help present my society as too obviously dangerous to be safely provoked.  I also understood that when the state issues people arms and provides the training to use them in a disciplined and effective manner, it is that much harder to withstand their legitimate demands for political and social freedom and equality.  So I filled out my draft card and sent it in. 

Fast forward 24 years and a very different geo-political situation.  Draft registration drives a serious wedge between young men and young women, especially in a society where young women quite reasonably expect equality at home, raising children, every much as at work.  If the serious practical consequences of not registering fall entirely on young men, the potent political consequence of exclusion of bearing arms in the common defense is a very real, second-class citizen status for women.  The simple fact of the matter is that those without arms can be dismissed in a way that those with arms cannot be.  And they can be dismissed in public and in private because the status of the citizen as legitimate bearer of arms is very powerful and real. 

But we rectify this by returning to a first principle of American citizenship, that of the universal militia.  Section 311, Chapter 13 of Title X of the United States Code defines the universal militia as all able-bodied citizen males and alien males who have declared their intention to become citizens, ages 17 to 45 who are not members of the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and Naval militias of the several states, needs to be changed.  Females, who are now limited to membership in the organized militia, are excluded by law from the universal militia:  the Obama Administration should seek to modify the United States Code to include women in the Universal Militia and revise the age of both sexes upward to 60.  Membership in the universal militia means that you are responsible for providing for the common defense, not only as a member of the community to be defended, but as a citizen of the polity.  As someone who has the right to participate in the life of that polity through the political rights we can only exercise collectively:  voting, jury service, militia duty.   And just as the Founders distinguished between the organized militia, whose descendant is the National Guard, and the universal, unorganized, militia, “well-regulated” is an 18th century term that the Founders knew to mean “proficient in marksmanship”, not “state supervised” or “state controlled”.

To draft women, or even require women to register for the draft, before they are members of the universal militia is to make them fully subject to the rigors of the state before they are fully members of their polity.  And that is simply wrong:  it is morally and politically grotesque. 

Later, after that is done, we can talk about registering women for the draft, or even drafting them, for the only thing citizens should ever be drafted for:  to provide combat replacements for a grave military threat to the survival of the Republic.  Not to engage in social engineering, or fight wars of choice, or to provide a huge pool of cheap labor that will devastate the low end of the economy.  Because the Obama Administration should stop requiring young men to register for the draft. 

At this point in the Republic’s history, we need neither a draft nor draft registration.  We have just had, for the second time within my memory, both parties, with the collusion of huge swathes of the American public across the political spectrum, hideously and irresponsibly mismanage a war of choice.  Drafting people does not make war less likely, it makes war more likely because you have a replacement stream adequate to replace mass casualties.  And the last thing America needs is to give these fools bodies to play with, female or male. 

So, no, I do not think women should register for the draft because I do not think men should register for the draft and this point in time, just as I also think that when a draft again becomes necessary (as it eventually will), women should be drafted with men.  The intrinsic value of human life does not vary from one sex to the other, in war or in peace. 

The still common and deeply reflexive belief that waging war, with all its attendant casualties being borne most heavily by combatants if the powers adhere to civilized rules, is something men should do is outmoded, but it is also a dim reflection of an outmoded truth.  Until about 1940 or so, when American women ceased to die in such huge, horrible numbers that maternal mortality was nothing less than a sustained slaughter of women during what should have been the best years of their youth, combat service was a duty men owed the women in their lives.  No man who was a man could expect a woman to bear the twin risks of childbirth and combat.  And it is from this slaughter of women in childbed that we get the idea that man is a natural-born killer and woman not.  Not because men do not give life during reproductive sex, and then, if the woman survives childbirth, after, in the rearing of the child, but because so often men were the deaths of the women they loved and the children they hoped to have with those women.  When you understand both the tragedy of female reproductive biology and the political, social and emotional consequences of that tragedy, America’s post-World War Two exclusion of women from combat service as conscripts looks like a sustained cultural attempt to repay a blood debt with blood.  But that was then, this is post-then.

We now live in an era of such low maternal mortality rates (which are in fact high compared to the rest of the developed world) that the meaning of sex, and of the male and female bodies themselves, have all been fundamentally changed.  Our policies about who is a member of the unorganized militia and who not, who may bear arms and be trained as a combat soldier, who is eligible for the draft and not, and who must register or not, need to change to reflect the changed biological reality. 

But you start with first principles, and you do not give people access to more bodies, who have wrecked this nation’s defenses.  No, no,  no, no.  It will not make them more responsible.  You restrict their access to bodies.


29 thoughts on “Women and the US Draft”

  1. Excellent assessment! A friend that I grew up with (Merry Longsworth) wrote something very similar circa 1970. I think that she wrote it more from frustration than anything else. Her, and the other women that she grew up with went to college. The young men that she had grown up with went to war. Either by choice, or via the draft

    Some years later a Professor at U.C.S.D. asked me, in front of the class if I would have wanted women next to me in a combat situation. My response was a resounding “Hell no!” It had nothing at all to do with how I believed about competency. It was all about social implications. We love, and care for our women, and sure as hell do not want them exposed to that kind of danger. I was immediately assigned to write a paper about it. I completed the assignment, and he seemed perplexed. You see, I had pointed out that women had in fact served in that sort of thing throughout time. Think about it. Who defended the homestead when the men were away, and the Indians or outlaws attacked? Who loaded the weapons for the men at other times? My point was, then, and now. War is the sort of dirty work that sometimes needs to be done. When it is needed it is brutal and uncompromising. That way it is over and done with as soon as it can be. You simply do not want those that you love to have to go through that.

    As for a draft? Only when it is needed for the very survival of our nation; as in being attacked here, on our shores, or crossing our borders. Even then, it should be militia as is recognized by the various conventions. Not a National Guard, but Dad and Sons taking up the deer rifles and shotguns. I am sure that in that situation, there would also be a few good women behind those sights as well… Damn it!

  2. Patrick:

    Nearly 30 years ago, when I was growing up on the edges of the peace movement and starting to read serious military history, my mother gave me a copy of Cornelius Ryan’s The Last Battle.

    I think she thought that it would turn me into a pacifist.

    Instead, I gained from it the distinct impression that:
    1. It is better to be the victor than the vanquished. Even more if you’re a woman than a man.
    2. When the enemy is coming through your gates, it is better to be a soldier than a civilian and better to be a combat arms soldier than rear services. You may not stand a better chance of surviving, but you do stand a better chance of killing the sumbitches before they kill you. Especially if you’re a woman than a man: male POWs are sexually assaulted and raped far more than most people realize, but they have the two small mercies of knowing that they will not get pregnant by it, and no one will talk about it unless they invite the subject.
    3. Never take a rifle to a tank fight.

    This deeply shaped my attitude towards mainstream, politicized feminism (which as we knew it committed suicide on 13 September 2001). Knowing what the Red Army had done in 1944-1945 (and yes, this was a profoundly brutalized Army that had an enormous amount to avenge, but that is only an explanation, not an excuse, for behavior that permanently stained its honor), I never understood how Western European and American feminists could respond to the Cold War with anything but the civilized, implacable, non-negotiable demand for full, immediate inclusion in their countrys’ militaries.

    But if the feminist attitude was, We don’t have to know anything about war, we know about women, the military’s attitude was, We don’t have to know anything about women’s real involvement in war, we have our emotional certainties.

    I don’t argue with those. I will explain how we developed them, and I will ask questions such as, why would you want anyone you love to be weak or unarmed? But I don’t really argue.

    What I will say is, different people have different motivations. That’s fine. But you are entitled to your life and only your life. You may do the things that are important to you. You may not make those decisions for another sovereign adult, and that is the real crux of this whole issue of women as legitimate bearers of arms in the common defense.

    Always good to hear from you, but now, I gotta go write on The Doves.

    Erin Solaro

  3. Excellent points Erin. For myself, I made damned sure that my daughters as well as my sons knew about the evil things that go on in the world. I also made sure that they knew just how to deal with those things. At least as best that I could. That was for basic safety reasons as much as for defensive / offensive needs. This, at a time when a lot of women thought that Al Bundy was representative of men. Hence the birth of modern misandry. Heck, my eldest daughter got kicked off staff for voicing her concerns to Patricia Schroader and her staff. My daughter was there as a school assignment for a Civics class. So much for classic feminism…
    In any case, you seem to have a good head on your shoulders Erin.

    Sua Sponte!

  4. How about writing something where you don’t sidestep the point of the question by saying, “no, because drafts are bad in general.”

    You danced around it. Imagine World War 3: if men will be drafted, should women be drafted with them also?

    As it turns out the answer is and always will be no, and Patrick elocuted all that needs to be said. Men won’t put women in harm’s way, and women probably don’t want to be drafted in the first place. I’ll try to avoid saying anything overtly incendiary like, “men aren’t afraid and women are” because I might invoke some latent feminist reflexes. I like to spend a lot of time in the world above our shoulders but I live in the world beneath it. We have instincts and we live by them. Men and women. No fancy philosophy is going to change that.

    The more interesting question is when do we govern by instinct, when do we govern by intellect, and how do we know which is right?

  5. I presume Mr. Mach:

    Given your inability to actually read both the essay itself and my correspondence with Mr. Sperry, as well as your apparent belief that “men aren’t afraid and women are” (I presume of combat), you are incapable of governing either by instinct or intellect.

    Erin Solaro

  6. Erin,

    Evan has clearly not read your book.

    I’m almost done.

    I say draft all the lifetaking bitches we can find. They’ll be at least as good at it as the ignorant redneck sons of bitches we’ve used in the past.

    Oh wait. They already are.

    But I have an idea? Let’s train them properly first. For whatever jobs they’ll be best at. And maybe feed em and exercise em’, so they’re good and hearty, like the healthy Russian women in world war II, and the women they have doing half of their construction.

    And since they’re better drivers? Let’s put em’ in tanks. Oh, and better shots too, snipers.

    While we’re at it, let’s put some in command, you know, to provide oversight of the rules? Rules of engagement AND of conduct. I hear tell some women can even read.

    Maybe, just maybe, we could even let them volunteer.

    And by the time we need the draft, perhaps we’ll just let them reenlist.

    Mostly in jest, we should open the ranks to women from 45 to 60 years of age. I’m thinking a lot of them would go into combat just to keep their boys and girls from going. Lord knows my mom would. God help the enemy…


  7. Mr. Rosen:

    Mr. Mach did not trouble to read the post he was commenting upon or correspondence elaborating upon the initial post.

    Men make very good combat soldiers. So, actually, do women: if they are trained to, if they are allowed to, not merely tactically, but culturally.

    One passage in Women in the Line of Fire, an interview with Charlie Moskos, referred to a (British) MoD study on women’s phsyical strength (and to a lesser extent psychological aggression). Since one can’t say everything at any length, even at 100K+ words, I didn’t go to the real kicker in the findings, which was, essentially, do we want women to be strong and agressive?

    The “idea” of man as just warrior and woman as beautiful soul (to borrow from Elshtain) is something both sexes are deeply invested in, to the detriment of our full (emotional, moral, physical) development, whether we are men or women.

    One of the questions I frequently ponder, and ask aloud is, why do you want men to kill? Why do you not want women killing? If in fact women are life-givers, should they not in fact also be life-takers, in order to avoid wanton killing? And, if you claim to want to protect women, knowing as you do that no one can protect another all the time, why do you want women unarmed? Knowing men with guns at least can always eat first if they so choose (and that is the least of it) why do you want women unarmed? Why do you not want women able to defend not only themselves, but what is thiers: land, home, hearth, family, friends, the work of their hands and minds?

    Erin Solaro

  8. Erin,

    Interesting ponderings.

    I actually disagree fervently with something you said.

    To say that

    “Men make very good combat soldiers.”

    Is not really different from saying

    Women make very bad combat soldiers.

    Both statements are stupid on the face of them.

    Men and women who are properly trained and are basically good people, make good combat soldiers. Some psychos also make good soldiers. Many men, (more men in the military than there ARE women in the military), do NOT make good combat soldiers. They are thus relegated to NON combat roles.

    Women have no monopoly on sucking at anything. Just as men only have a few monopolies at doing them well.

    But, more to the point, discussing how well men or women do something, in comparison, implies that we let them.

    We now LET blacks do any job for which they can qualify in the military. We didn’t used to, despite an utter lack of valid evidence for their ‘lesser’ abilities, often claimed almost universally.

    At least now we can compare whites and blacks, and norm comparisons if needed, based on bell curved assessments of performance.

    And that is the crux. Some blacks can ‘excel’ at anything whites can do. The curves overlap, no matter what their shape.

    The fact is, so can some women excel at everything men can do. The curves over lap.

    If we acknowledge that, then differentiating based on gender is just idiotic, based on idiocy. Nothing more.

    IF you follow me that far:

    What group is the next to become ‘non-discriminated’ in the military? Or can we not force an ability standard across the board? Injured or handicapped persons are clearly disallowed from many tasks. This will go on for some time. But not forever.

    And even then, how disabled do you need to be to be prevented from joining? Can a soldier, already trained, but missing both legs, who functions with prosthetics, function well enough in a combat environment?

    Maybe he/she could not today, but next year? Ten years? And does he/she have to meet a different standard than other soldiers? That just sounds silly.

    -self terminated due to rambling-



  9. Mr. Rosen:

    By all means, disagree.

    We know men make good soldiers because they do. Certainly not all men, all of the time—although if the stakes are high enough, pretty damned close.

    The dirty little secret of military training, including for the United States Marine Corps, which probably produces the best infantry in the world straight out of an infantry training regiment, is that, if a person is physically sound and mentally stable enough, and wants to do it, they can. Put a culture in a tight enough corner and virtually every one will want to, especially if they are properly trained, supplied, and led. (High-end, elite, units are different.)

    SLA Marshall’s findings on non-firers in infantry units have some validity, because experienced infantry officers and NCOs were concerned about non-firing soldiers in situations when they could and should have fired. But—lack of sources aside—a lot of soldiers in contact absolutely should not fire lest they shoot their buddies in the back. If my memory serves, a good article on this, laying out just how an infantry unit works at the squad and platoon level was published about 5 years ago in the Journal of Military History.

    One of the things that makes an Army great is that it routinely gets training, soldier care and good leadership at the small unit level right, has a good, ie., not bloated tooth-to-tail ratio (the dirty little secret of the Marine Corp’s lean structure is that they get a lot of logistical support from the other services) and confidence in their chain of command. Including their national leaders, including why they fight.

    Will women perform as well as men? Actually, the balance of evidence we have is, yes, they will, if they are properly trained, motivated and led. The Soviets had a lot of problems with female soldiers in World War Two. Amongst them appear to not have been either combat performance or cohesion within their units.

    Like combat training, combat service is, quite frankly, physically demanding: quite frankly, I would advise you not going to the issue of amputees.

    Erin Solaro

  10. Actually, I think that the Israeli’s have figured this out pretty well. Handicapped people are allowed into military slots where they can do the job. Someone in a wheelchair might not be very effective wielding a bayonet. However, they are quite capable of doing another job. Say at a computer in a fire control base.

    Women are used in a home reserve capacity. What is called an organized militia. They tried actual all women combat units, and they just did not work out for several reasons. Women also serve in the regular forces in specified duties, and yes, some of those jobs are in direct combat support.

  11. Erin,

    Thanks for the data.

    For the record, the Soviets had a lot of problems with ALL soldiers in WWII. This included combat performance AND cohesion.

    My questions re handicaps was not for the present, as an existing issue, but rather to show it as an issue of ‘thought process’ that will surface some time in the future. An issue which has ‘thought process’ in common with our current views about women.

    It was meant to illustrate a/our thought process concerning ability vs. appropriateness in terms of job selection or disallowing jobs based on discriminatory practices.

    As you point out in your book, at the present time women cannot perform as well as men because their diet, training, norming and other factors prevent them from being able to. But once all those factors are corrected, they may, (probably will), perform as well as men.

    In a similar fashion, (not same, just analagous), handicapped people are not allowed into the military, (as far as I know). This list of handicaps disallowed is large, but perhaps not ALL inclusive. Waivers can be gotten for some maladies, even for ‘entry’ to the military. Soldiers who are handicapped while on duty are sometimes discharged because of their wounds.

    These issues all make sense, in the present, and yet illustrate policies made by improper ‘thought process’. The right decision does not make the process of arriving at it also right.

    And sooner or later, (some sooner, and some later), handicaps and physical limitations, also mental limitations, will be addressed through chemical treatment or physical enhancements. But the policy will not have changed, as it will not likely prevent military service due to lack of ability, (which could be tested), but rather will prevent service based solely on the presence of a handicap.

    While this issue is not a large one today, and will never have the weight of 1/2 the population to force it as an issue, it bears looking at as we attempt to alter the way in which the govt views women, or any minority, when deciding who to let into the military.


    You have not read Erin’s book, and you should, it’s excellent.

    About your comment:

    “They tried actual all women combat units, and they just did not work out for several reasons.”

    I’ve heard this over and over, and almost think it’s a rumor, like an urban legend. It’s critically uninformed. (However, Dr. Ruth Westheimer was trained as an Israeli sniper).

    Once you’ve read Erin’s book you’ll realize that the U.S. has tried women in combat too. Because they ARE in combat. Today, right now. And they work fine. It is a done deal. It’s not an issue, anymore, ever again, of whether they CAN perform. It’s an issue of reducing or eliminating discriminatory practices so that they CAN perform as well as men. (Current policies prevent them from performing as well as they could, and yet they do anyway).

    Sadly, I must say, I have 50 pages still to go.

    Kudos on it Erin. It’s truly amazing, as is this discussion board. Thanks again for both.


  12. The single biggest problem the Soviet Army had during World War Two (and to a certain extent also in Chechnya) was such a high level of brutalization that it destroyed cohesion. And you see this at so many different levels: from the practice of commanders, generally about regimental and up, taking “field wives” (concubines, usually unwilling, which is to say rape) to “If you don’t go forward into the attack now, motherfucker, I’ll shoot you myself” to the psychological inability of commanders on 21 June 1941 to act as they knew they should. (Apologies for the coarse language.) The Soviet Army being drawn from the larger society, obviously this reflects a civilian culture of tremendous brutality and cruelty, in comparison to similar European standards, going back well before World War One-but that was the cultural breaking point.

    But they had good people. As Grossman wrote, “The People Immortal.”

    Re: the IDF> a lot of stuff about the status of servicewomen in the IDF is utter rubbish on both sides.

    Women served in the Haganah and the Palmach and the Irgun. Rear areas? This is a country that uses the bus system to mobilize.

    After the War of Independence, Israel cut a deal with the Orthodox rabbinate to remove women from all but “traditional” roles—although, curiously, it would use women as combat arms instructors. Part of this is the perennial “Who is a Jew” debate. As if, say the Germans, asked if you kept Kosher, or if you were a married woman, shaved your head and wore a shteitl. Saying you were a Jew was good enough for them, no matter how assimilated you were. This is about the power trip of all orthodox religious establishments.

    Part of this was the fact that there was *vastly* more rape of Jewish and Soviet and Polish and… women by the Germans and their allies than has ever been acknowledged, from sexual slavery in field brothels, concentration and death camps, slave labor barracks, and then the edges of murder pits. Add to this that often women and girls were the first murdered in camps, the men and boys sometimes kept alive for labor. This is built upon the whole shtetl/ghetto culture of vulnerability to pogromists, including prayers for raped women, and rabbinical rulings on how soon a man could resume sexual relations with his wife after she’d been raped, and you have some pretty powerful cultural impulses towards Jewish men decing we are MEN now, we can protect our women. This not only being the cult of the Jewish warrior, but also a time when the ancient Greek saying, for men war, for women the marriage bed, was still a literal and terrible truth about the balance of risk. On the facts, an entirely irrational decision, but also an entirely emotionally understandable one.

    Israel now is in a situation where it has for nearly a decade been mainstreaming women into the military—the women’s corps was abolished in 2001 and women serve in light armored, artillery and infantry roles. Karakal, a light infantry battalion, was stood up in 2004 and is about 70% female. The IDF is also cracking down on female draft dodgers: if you claim a religious exemption, you’d better lead a religious lifestyle, including a bizarre emphasis on “modesty.” Demographics drive this, feminism (the desire of women to be no less than full citizens and complete human beings) drives this, and so does rationality.

    And all this is aside from the fact that since 2001, more than 200,000 American servicewomen have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and *none* of the predicted disasters have happened as women increasingly serve in positions that we were told they could not fill at all, much less alongside men.

    An experiment is over when it succeeds. This one succeeded a long tiem ago.

    And now, gentlemen, I leave you to it. I have an enormous amount of other writing to do. I’ll moderate comments if you choose to respond to each other.

    Oh, yes, if you haven’t seen *Valkyrie* go see it. It’s a terrific movie. Review essay to follow.

    Erin Solaro

  13. Terry; I base my words upon those that were there and actually did it, in Israel. The other from a rather intense course set at a place that both yourself, and Terry may have heard of. It’s called the U.S. Army War College.

    My ‘rear area” comment is based upon conventional war theory. In Israel the situation is, in nearly all cases classic unconventional war. That is, the day to day acts of war that go on there. The uses that you noted above, are still considered to be experimental. All reports that I have been privy to indicate that these women based units are performing well enough to be considered combat ready.

    American ground forces by law, keep women from full combat MOS’s. The facts of modern warfare though put support personnel into the line of fire at times. Hence, the recent directive that all personnel will receive basic Infantry training. Something that has been advocated since before I was born! For now though, you will not find any females on a Tiger Team.


  14. Patrick,

    Fair, as far as it goes.

    I’m still going with the thorough analysis Erin provides evidence for in her book.

    This is the most glaring example in my own opinion.

    Women cannot join special forces, (any branch).

    But we can, with little imagination, imagine situations in which females would be required on a given ‘special forces’ mission.

    Erin’s example is the searching of Arab women in order to prevent their deaths due to having been searched by men.

    (You may be suggesting that infantry women searching Arab women is part of every-day infantry training, but I doubt it.)

    And so, women from the military intelligence branch or MP are attached to serve in specific roles. By necessity.

    Not a huge issue, in theory, but gigantic in practice.

    Since these women have not received ‘special forces’ training, they do not act as operatives as they would had they received the training. (academic and otherwise)

    Also, they are critically untrained physically due to incorrect rules of height and weight norming and body fat percentages resulting in much less endurance and muscle mass, reducing therefore, their combat effectiveness.

    If ALL of these are corrected, then yea, it’ll work.


    (I might have forgot some stuff too)

  15. Terry and Patrick:

    You’re arguing about something that has been going on for a long time now as if it’s a hypothetical. This the US military’s widespread, if not well-reported, use of women in combat arms units: primarily infantry and special forces / special operations units, but also armor and artillery serving as dismounted infantry. This has been going on since the first days of the Iraq war. In fact, one of the soldiers on Time’s 2003 Person of the Year cover, Specialist Billie Grimes, was a female medic serving with an artillery survey platoon. No one, as near as I can tell, wanted to notice what this actually meant. Least of all our good friend, Elaine Donnelly.

    These soldiers are needed as either women, to search women, for their MOS’, such as engineers, medics, intell specialists, etc., or (usually) dual purpose. There is also the widespread use of MPs as more-or-less light infantry.

    The military (and I am speaking primarily of the Army and Marine Corps and to a lesser extent Navy SEALs) do not want to admit this. This is an emotional issue and what remains of the Republican party in this country will use this as a Culture Wars wedge issue. But the military also wants to continue to use women any way they see fit for combat operations while at the same time denying that they are doing this in order to pretend women are still not a vital, integral part of the military, but some kind of social experiment. I have been on some of these missions. I have interviewed women who have done other missions—in the cases of women attached to infantry and special operations troops, without the specialized training; pretending all soldiers and Marines get this is to ignore the fact that we have specialized infantry and special operations schools for a reason—been denied the ribbons and awards other men who have done the same missions have received, and spoken to officers who claimed to have been ordered to report women who were in fact killed in action, killed in non-combat incidents in order to minimize the issue. Then, of course, there is the fact that confining women to non-combat MOS’ makes them more vulnerable to the enemy than the enemy is to them.

    Other people can psychologize the military’s behavior on this issue all they want. I call it what it is: profoundly dishonest and dishonorable and morally grotesque.

    Best to you both,

  16. Erin,

    Reminded me of dishonorable and grotesque similarities of black soldiers, training, and lack of recognition (medals), even in the face of recognized merit.

    But at least women could vote.

    Also, (correct me if I’m wrong), but only one CMH has been granted to a woman, and it was for medical service in the Civil War. And as such, attempts were made, and were successful to have it taken away. Jimmy Carter signed an act re-granting it during his administration.

    (I apologize in advance if my detail is off in any way).

    Anyone wanna take bets on the next one?


    (Maybe I should start a pool based on day/month/year?)

  17. Mr. Rosen:

    The Congressional Medal of Honor involves enormous human suffering. Recipients who live do not usually care to discuss what they did to earn it or be awarded it. Isn’t it more than a little, umm, insensitive to offer to make it an object of gambling?

    Also, given the demands of my other writing, I am going to close this thread.


    Erin Solaro

  18. Your post is interesting.

    I thought the following post on my blog would interest you.

    India’s NTR Memorial Trust’s has set a global benchmark in 257 Andhra Pradesh villages in maternal mortality. Eminent people like M Rama Babu IAS (retd), G.Suryanarayana and T Venkateswara Rao are impressed that UN Millennium Goals have been surpassed in less than two years of the launch of Thalli Bidda Samrakashana Padhakam. The programme, providing end-to-end healthcare services free of cost to rural pregnant woman, is being run in association with four leading medical institutions.

    The distinction has been achieved by minimising the maternal deaths to two in 15,000 deliveries in 257 villages. This was achieved in the shortest possible time of 24 months between December 2006 and December 2008.

    The programme is being run in association with four leading medical institutions in Andhra Pradesh: Mediciti in Medak, Dr Pinnamaneni Siddartha Institute of Medical Sciences at Chinaowkapalli in Krishna district, NRI Medical College at Mangalagiri in Guntur district and GSL Medical College, General Hospital in East Godavari district.

  19. Kamla,

    I’m curious how you see this improvement in mortality rates alongside differences in women’s rights in India, and surrounding countries.

    While I am not well educated on women’s rights in India, I am also not completely ignorant of them.

    While discussing women in conscription (draft) in the U.S. makes sense as a political topic, to Americans, I’m assuming that women’s rights in India have a long way to go before such a thing could even be seriously mentioned in public.

    But I’m also more than curious about other societal differentiations under the law. For instance, if there is/was a draft in India, are ALL men subject to the draft? If not, then what exceptions are there, and are any of them designated along lines that would be unconstitutional in the U.S.? (Does Caste or race play a role?]

    Also, what, if any, acceptance is there for homosexuality in India, both generally speaking, and under the law?

    Thanks in advance,


  20. Kamla:

    Thanks very much for the link: I am extremely interested in maternal mortality and steps taken to reduce it. It is my belief that high rates of maternal mortality not only set the conditions for how women are treated, but also how men are treated, and how society functions. I did a fair bit of research on maternal mortality in America for Women in the Line of Fire and there are some good statistics there. I’ve also got an essay that summarizes what the reduction of maternal mortality means in a political/military context and its implications within the American republican (i.e., not the political party) tradition here at Into Time: Women and the Profession of Arms.

    I would be interested in corresponding with you privately on the issue of maternal mortality.

    Best regards,
    Erin Solaro

  21. Mr. Rosen:

    I should think that if you wish to correspond with Kamla about the status of women or gay people in the Indian Army, you would correspond with her directly.

    I know a very little about the status of Indian servicewomen, but this is a post about the US military. And as I noted above, comments on this thread are closed. I’ve said what I have to say about conscription for the time being.

    Erin Solaro

  22. Before we go any further, please tell me your background regarding this issue: I find it extremely helpful to know where people are coming from.

    I am a former Army Reserve officer who received a research grant to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan, accredited by the Seattle P-I, where I was embedded with combat troops and provincial reconstruction teams. I have been published in everything from the Marine Corps Gazette and the Proceedings of the US Naval Institute to the Seattle Weekly. I would also add here, I spent many years as a Marine Corps wife and my second husband is a former Marine. My work on US Servicewomen was published as Women in the Line of Fire (Seal Press, 2006) and my speech at West Point, “The Woman Soldier: Biology, Equality, and the Profession of Arms” as a summary of the project, while “Into Time: Women and the Profession of Arms” as a capstone. Both are available on my blog under “Articles and Speeches.”

    Semper Fi and lookign forward to hearing from you,

    Erin Solaro

  23. Gosh, I thought this thread was closed! OPSEC prevents me from adding to what had been the discussion. But, lets just say that things have been changing over at ASOC.

    Sua Sponte

  24. Patrick:

    Oops, sorry, not closed as in, no longer accepting comments, but closed as in, I can’t spare the time. But I moderate and usually add my $2. So post away if you want. How’s stuff?

    The Doves will be done by the end of May. Only 50K words to go. Hard for all kinds of reasons. appallingly, painfully hard.

    But I plan to shoot Thursday. Drop me a private line?


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