Friday, June 17, 2016

Senate votes to require women to register for Selective Service... Facebook argument commences

The other day, I read an article from the New York Times about the Senate voting to require women to register for Selective Service.  Selective Service has been around since 1917.  Its original purpose was to provide the government with a pool of males who might be able to serve in the military.  Since 1948, all American men between the ages of 18 and 25 have been required to register with Selective Service within thirty days of their 18th birthdays.

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about making women sign up, too.  Personally, I think that if men have to register, women should too.  However, I am against conscription because I think that people in the military are safest when they want to serve and are suited for the job.  Not everyone is a good fit for military service.  Besides, there hasn't been a draft since 1973, so everyone in the military is there because they voluntarily signed up to go.  Moreover, everyone who serves in the military is a legal adult.

Many of my friends agreed that what's good for the goose is good for the gander.  One friend disagreed and said she thought the draft was "bullshit".  She contends that no one should be forced to pick up a gun and "kill people".  Her comments offended some of my friends, a few of whom are veterans.

My friend, who is very much a liberal, claims to have friends and family members who proudly served in the military.  And yet, despite that, she's made repeated comments that indicate that she's rather ignorant about what people in the military do.  She claims she's against the draft because too many veterans come home with PTSD and depression and end up committing suicide.  Again... everyone serving today joined voluntarily.  They were not drafted.  Besides, while some people in the military suffer from PTSD, depression, and suicidal ideation, many other folks go on to have rewarding careers.  They get an education, see the world, make lifelong friends, and escape poverty.  Most people who serve in the military come out of the experience just fine or even better off than they otherwise would have been.

I could be wrong, but I think a lot of veterans get annoyed when well-meaning pacifists make condescending remarks about military service.  It's especially irritating when it's clear that the people making the remarks are ignorant about the issue and have been informed by mass media.  My liberal friend who claims she has "friends and family" who proudly served has repeatedly made comments about servicemembers "killing people".  That vast majority of people in the military never end up killing anyone.  It's true that most of the people who have served recently have been deployed.  They have gone to Iraq or Afghanistan or other places.  But not everyone who deploys sees action.

Bill went to Iraq for six months during the height of the war.  He had a desk job.  He was definitely affected by his time in Iraq and has told me that he experiences some mild PTSD.  My guess is that a lot of his PTSD was caused by an abusive boss he was forced to work with more than the actual war experience.  On the other hand, my father went to Vietnam and was definitely affected by PTSD.  His situation was very serious, but back in the Vietnam era, much less was known about PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.  He never got the help he needed.

I have also lived in a country where there was conscription and true military corruption.  In the 1990s, Armenia was at war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.  Though there was a cease fire, guys were still rounded up and forced to fight.  I heard many stories of parents paying off military officials so that their sons wouldn't be on the front lines.  You want to talk about bullshit drafts?  I think that would definitely qualify.  I'd see young men in Armenia who were missing arms or legs.  In fact, I remember meeting German people who had come to Armenia to build prosthetic limbs.  There was a real need for them.

I agree with my liberal friend that it's best if people aren't forced to be in the military if they don't want to be.  However, I wish that people who denigrate military service would stop and think about the issue a bit more.  Not everything the military does is about war.  The last few years of Bill's life have been dedicated to peacekeeping efforts in Europe, Africa, and Latin and South America.  They've been more about diplomacy than war.  He's even worked with one of my former Peace Corps colleagues.

I guess I just wish people who disparage the military would do so more gracefully.  My liberal friend constantly insists that she "respects the troops".  Then she says they they are used to kill people.  It's true that when there is war, people in the military can and do kill.  But servicemembers don't need condescension or pity from anti-war folks.  And ultimately, if you believe in equal rights for women, you should also believe in equal responsibility.  If men are expected to serve our country in a time of need, women should be too.  It's only fair.


8 comments:

  1. I don't mind registering, but any army that has me in it would be at a distinct disadvantage. I could probably get a deferral for ulcerative colitis.

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    1. You wouldn't qualify. I highly doubt the draft will ever be used again, anyway.

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    2. Our nation is probably in serious trouble if we ever have to rely upon the draft again. It at least seems as though we have too many thoroughly dysfunctional human beings around to make a system like a military draft work now. There were always dysfunctional people, but they used to be a minority. Now the average 18-year-old barely has enough respect for authority to function in the military. It used to be a system to which a family could send their screw-up kids to grow up and work out their problems. (They couldn't have been leadership in the military, but mostly they could function.) Now it's only the more functional young people who even survive basic training.

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    3. Well, if women have to register, it means a much larger pool of candidates for the draft. That means the work could potentially be spread more evenly. Maybe we won't have so many folks having to go to war over and over again and ending up with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries.

      But really, wars have evolved so that not as many "bodies" are needed on the ground anyway. I am among those who think the military should be staffed by people who want to do the job and are prepared for it.

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  2. I wouldn't qualify for the draft, or I wouldn't qualify for a deferral? (not that it's ever actually going to happen, but i may as well have the inside scoop from someone who actually knows these things)

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    1. Well, first off, I would think with your health issues, they probably wouldn't take you. Secondly, if you are in med school, they probably wouldn't take you... unless they really needed doctors and armageddon was going on. And thirdly, I read that this will apply to young women after 2018. It could turn out that you'll be old enough that they wouldn't make you sign up. And even if they did, there probably wouldn't be a conflict going on that would require that many people to be drafted.

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  3. I'll turn 24 in December of 2018, which means I'll be 23 for most of the years. I will graduate from med school in spring of 2018. if they're desperate for doctors, they would probably want me once I finish my internship, which will conclude in June of 2019. If they're not desperate for doctors, I'll probably be left alone. my health might keep me out, anyway. Matthew would be more useful to them, as he'll probably be a surgeon and he doesn't have either ulcerative colitis or hardware in his extremities.

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    1. Yeah. The military generally doesn't take people who aren't pretty healthy. They put new recruits through a *very* thorough physical. The Peace Corps does, too.

      Once you're in the military, if you have a condition that is treatable and/or doesn't make you non-deployable, they generally let you stay in.

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