Share This Page

Listen up, ladies! Uncle Sam might want you, too

| Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 6:33 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Tennnnnn-hut, ladies! The next time Uncle Sam comes calling, he's probably going to want you, too.

The Obama administration's recent decision to lift the ban on women in combat has opened the door for a change in the law that compels only men between age 18 and 25 to register for a military draft, according to legal experts and military historians.

Never before has the country drafted women into military service, and neither the administration nor Congress is in a hurry to make them register for a call-up. But, legally, they may have no other choice.

It is only constitutional to register men for a draft, the Supreme Court ruled more than three decades ago, because the reason for registration is to create a pool of potential combat troops should a national emergency demand a rapid increase in the size of the military. Women were excluded from serving in battlefield jobs, so there was no reason to register them for possible conscription into the armed forces, the court held.

Now that front-line infantry, armor, artillery and special operations jobs are open to female volunteers who can meet the physical requirements, it will be difficult for anyone to make a persuasive argument that women should continue to be exempt from registration, said Diane Mazur, a law professor at the University of Florida and a former Air Force officer.

“They're going to have to show that excluding women from the draft actually improves military readiness,” Mazur said. “I just don't see how you can make that argument.”

Groups that backed the end of the ban on women in combat also support including women in draft registration as a matter of basic citizenship. Women should have the same civic obligations as men, said Greg Jacob, a former Marine Corps officer and policy director for the Service Women's Action Network. “We see registration as another step forward in terms of equality and fairness,” Jacob said.

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., supports draft registration for women, according to his spokeswoman.

Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., who heads the House Armed Services Committee, hasn't made up his mind.

But if you're worried a draft notice is going to soon be in your mailbox, take a deep breath. There is no looming national crisis that makes a military draft likely.

A draft would be enormously unpopular; a new poll by Quinnipiac University found that American voters firmly oppose a return to conscription. Also, adding women to the mix just doesn't appear to be a high priority for a battle-weary nation nearing the end of more than a decade of war.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.