I became draft-eligible in 1973. It was during the last, ugly days of the Vietnam War. The war was winding down, the fighting was still intense, combat casualties were high, and Americans, including many guys my age who were serving “in country”, wondered what the hell we were doing there. We clearly weren’t fighting to win.
At that time the military draft operated on a lottery of birthdates. As the draft date approached, I resigned myself to the possibility that I might soon be headed for ‘Nam. But then Selective Service ended actual conscription just before my age group became eligible.
It was a big relief. I was a patriotic young guy, but nobody wanted to be drafted during the waning years of the Vietnam War. According to street legend, the “FNGs” (f’***ing new guys) were immediately sent to the front line and were the most likely soldiers to come home in a bag. Nobody wanted to be the last one to die in the jungle.
So as it turned out I never served in the military. But I have always had a fascination with all things military. I can’t resist combat air museums, decommissioned ships, and war documentaries on the History Channel. Friends my age take on a wistful look and a wry smile reminiscing about their military days. I have a hole in my soul where military service might have been.
This week our Senate passed the 2016 NDAA (National Defense Appropriations Act), a bill which funds military operations. It included a rider that would make women eligible for Selective Service. The House had earlier passed their version of the appropriations bill which did not include a provision for drafting women. Now the two legislative bodies will meet in conference to hash out the differences in their bills.
I sincerely hope the House wisdom will prevail, and we will not submit our young women to Selective Service.
I know that our young women are as patriotic and generally, if not physically, as capable as our young men. But I also know that the draft will only be reinstated if there is a real calamity – a serious conflict that involves deadly, boots-on-the-ground, man-to-man combat.
Yes, I said it. “Man-to-man” combat. In a winner-take-all battle, our enemies will not be sending 18-year old women to the front lines. Our soldiers in combat will face the enemy’s most hostile, physical, violent young men: jacked-up warriors who don’t give a rip about gender equality.
Female former marine Jude Eden said, “Combat is not an equal opportunity for women because they don’t have an equal opportunity to survive.” And study after study has proved that combat units which include women consistently underperform. By drafting women, we risk sending them to the front lines. And by sending them to the front lines, we risk endangering not only our brave but overmatched women; we are handicapping our brave men.
Our patriotic American women will always play a vital role in our military, and they are free and welcome to join the service branch of their choice voluntarily. But our congressmen should know that setting young women up to be the next conscripted “FNGs” headed for the front line in desperate times is something we just can’t live with.
Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side
I had a brother at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there, he’s all gone