Let’s Take Another Look at Military Draft of Young Women

female American soldier

photo by S. Olson, courtesy LA Times

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

Rockin' On the Right SideI had a brother at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there, he’s all gone

Born In the USA – Bruce Springsteen





Are These the Good Old Days?

jetsonsSometimes we fuss when things don’t go the way we want, and we wonder if we are stuck with life as it is.  We tend to forget that before long, everything will have changed.

My wife’s grandfather told the most amazing stories about his life in the early 1900s.  He recalled with startling clarity a lifestyle before electricity, air conditioning, and air travel that was simpler, if not necessarily better.  I asked him one time if he missed the ‘good old days’.

“Good old days!”, he howled.  “We had mud and horse shit in the streets!  THESE are the good old days, and don’t you forget it!”

I have heard it said that the rate of change accelerates over time.  I don’t even know how change can be measured – there is no unit of “change” – but it seems to be true.

We know change will happen, but attempts to predict the future usually fall flat.  Didn’t you think that by now we would be flying around like George Jetson in little air-mobiles?  Pushing a button in the wall for instant breakfast?  Seeing and talking to each other on little flip phones?  Oh wait, we have that.  Well, one out of three ain’t bad.

Some change is disturbing.  We put a man on the moon 44 years ago, but we can’t do it today.  We built the Empire State Building in 410 days but it now takes longer than that just to get the required permits for a minor construction job.  We have deteriorated physically into a nation of jelly-bellies.  The average student gets a worse education every year and many don’t finish high school.  And it saddens me that laws are selectively enforced and the miracle left us by our founders, the Constitution, is being shredded.

Most surprising to me in the second half of my life is the rapid social change, and especially the blurring of the sexes.  I sat in a fast-food restaurant recently near a group of high-school kids.  It was a scene right out of “Glee”.  The boys and girls were nearly interchangeable – giggling about everything and nothing, alternately poking at their smart phones.  They dressed the same, they sounded the same, they acted the same.  As they got up to leave, it was hugs all around, boys hugging girls, girls hugging girls, boys hugging boys.

The old macho “boy gets girl” world of my youth is history.  Marriage is old-school – not necessary.  Child-rearing by one or more females is the norm.  Gone are the days when a young man was expected to get a good job, move up the ladder, and bring the “bacon” home to his wife and family.  Women serve in combat units and television sit-coms are filled with lame gay humor.

Fortunately, change comes somewhat more slowly in Montana, a place where men are still men and women like it that way.  We still have brave and bright-eyed young people in our military.  Medical and emergency personnel still save lives every day, and good people do the right thing everywhere.

When candidate Obama promised hope and change, it was a sure bet the latter would come true.  Change is gonna come, but it usually does not follow the path anyone expects.  Things will happen that none of us anticipated.

So don’t fret too much about the way things are today.  It doesn’t always feel like it, but maybe these are the “good old days”.  And maybe they will get better.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Stay right here . . .
Cause these are the good old days.
These are the good old days!

Anticipation – Carly Simon

one of my all-time favorite live performance videos – Carly Simon 1987 at Martha’s Vineyard