Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, overriding both opposition in the Marines and any pretense of common sense, has recently unilaterally declared that women are to be integrated into combat units in all branches of the military. This ends a period of approximately three years from the original, similar announcement by the Obama administration. During those years the administration was supposedly gathering data and reactions from the various branches of the military, but now it emerges that they really had no intention of listening to anybody. The pause period was just for show. Of course, this recent statement of intent to put women in combat includes the disingenuous claim that only those "qualified" will be so used. And as this article points out, women already in the military will not be able to choose whether they want to be used in combat roles.
It also raises yet again the question of registration for the draft, which I addressed nearly three years ago here.
That post is still timely, indeed, more timely than ever in view of Carter's recent announcement. (I note the historically ironic trivia fact that it was President Carter who first, deliberately, began to blur the lines between "support" roles and "combat" roles in the military. He did this because he couldn't get Congress to lift the ban on women in combat. Now it is a Secretary of Defense who happens to have the same last name who announces the "damn the torpedoes" decision of the current administration. This comes after decades of the disastrous effects of Carter's and later Democrat Presidents' policies of integrating women more and more into full-scale military roles. We aren't talking about 1940s WACs and WAVEs here.)
What I suggested then, and still think deserves a shot, though a long shot, is this: If the law is changed so that young women between the ages of 18 and 25 must register for the draft on pain of the same severe penalties that are held over the heads of young men, women who wish to oppose this policy should intend and prepare to apply for conscientious objector status on the basis of traditionalist objections to women in the military if they should be called up for the draft. This would permit registration for the draft, but with the express caveat that one intends to apply for conscientious objector status if one is actually called up. This is the tactic that, I learned, many actual pacifist men follow. In this way one is not in violation of the law requiring selective service registration, but one is also not acquiescing in actually serving in the military.
If women are required by law to register for the draft--which has not yet happened but is now not unlikely, given previous court precedents--and if they are then actually drafted--which might never happen, since the draft is unpopular--it is admittedly a legal long shot to hope that traditionalist women would be given conscientious objector status. Generally, that status has been reserved for pacifists, and the objection here would be rather to serving as a woman and because one is a woman rather than to anyone's participating in war as such.
However, as I pointed out in the earlier article, the actual statement regarding a conscientious objector is this:
A conscientious objector is one who is opposed to serving in the armed forces and/or bearing arms on the grounds of moral or religious principles.
That "and/or" is particularly important, since a woman might have no objection to being armed for self-defense in civilian life while still objecting, on moral or religious grounds, to serving in the armed forces--namely, on the grounds that it violates her principles concerning her own femininity.
I want to stress here that one can claim, in good faith, that one is conscientiously opposed to serving in the military even if one does not hold that doing so is intrinsically immoral. There is nothing in the legal category of conscientious objector that states that one is claiming that this action is intrinsically immoral in the same sense that, e.g., murdering a child is intrinsically immoral. And we can well see that "moral or religious principles" might forbid an act that is not immoral under all circumstances. For example, it is not intrinsically immoral to give away all of one's worldly goods and go and live on the streets, but a father could well object conscientiously, on the basis of moral and religious principles, to giving away all he has and taking his family to live on the streets. It is not intrinsically immoral to send one's child to public school, but in a given context parents might well object to sending their children to public schools on the grounds of sincerely held moral and/or religious principles. And so forth.
So I think that conservatives should not be put off from this option on the grounds that their religious tradition does not per se forbid women under any and all circumstances to enter "the military" (in some possible sense of "military"). For one thing, the very meaning of "entering the military" is vastly different in a culture that acknowledges real differences between men and women than it is in a culture that does not. In World War II, there was not the slightest question of drafting women who were married to leave their children behind and go to war. There was not the slightest question of forcing women to live in a situation of little or no privacy with men. And there was no question of treating women as warriors, pretending that they are interchangeable with men, and forcing them to deny their femininity and attempt activities that are physically harmful.
Women who intend to use this option should be prepared to explain how their views of men and women affect their lives in other ways. For example, they can point out that they also would resist becoming on-the-beat policemen or firemen. If they are married they can point out that they have sought to have children and have prioritized their own connection to their children and that they have sought to make their husband's career primary. If they are unmarried they can state that they are seeking a complementarian marriage and make this clear to prospective spouses. And so forth. Conscientious objection is supposed to be based upon principles that affect one's life in other ways, but how a given woman's complementarianism affects her life will, of course, vary depending on the circumstances in which she finds herself.
An attempt by gender-traditional young women to position themselves as future conscientious objectors does not have to have a strong chance of succeeding to be worth doing. One obvious advantage is that it permits such young women, in the event of being required by law to register for the draft, to avoid being technically at risk for imprisonment and ruinous fines. That is to say, it allows them to follow a law (should one be passed) requiring registration without thereby simply saying, "Oh, well, I guess this means I'm on board with treating men and women as identical with respect to military service." As pacifists do, such young women can mark and photocopy a draft registration card to indicate their future intent to seek CO status. (The government will throw it away, but the copy serves as a record, and the note is a useful moral gesture.) Moreover, they can document their intent in other ways and keep such documentation on file for future use if they should suddenly receive a notification that they have actually been drafted.
In the event that such a woman did receive a draft notice, her very attempt to obtain CO status creates delay and motivates others to try to do the same, thus slowing down "the system" and seeking to obtain public sympathy for those whose "identity" (!) precludes their viewing themselves as androgynous military units.
Below I present a draft statement (pun intended) that young women can use, sign (if they are 18 or older and their signature is that of a legal adult), and keep on file. I suggest that a woman who wishes to have this on file ask a signature witness who is not a family member to sign the statement. A tip from (again) the pacifist camp: Sign and date a statement and then mail it to yourself. Keep the unopened envelope with the postmark on it. This shows that the statement reflects your views at a particular time and that they have not been invented later for purposes of getting out of military service.
Alert readers will notice that the statement I have drafted is heavily religious. This is deliberate. For purposes of seeking conscientious objector status, the more religious, the better. The idea is to make it clear that one's objections are based upon a larger worldview and set of principles, and interpretations of Scripture definitely count for this purpose.
Naturally, some of the statements here will make feminists and proto-feminists cringe. But that, to my mind, shows that feminists and proto-feminists are going to find it difficult to express principled opposition to having women drafted and treated as warriors.
If you have young friends and family within the relevant age category, feel free to share this with them, and encourage them to consider signing it and keeping it on file now.
A woman's statement of Christian faith against the use of women as soldiers
I believe that God created man and woman, both in His own image, equal in value in His sight, but different and complementary. (Genesis 1:26-28, Genesis 2:18-24, Matthew 19:4-6)
I believe that God intends the man to be the protector and guardian of women and children, to provide for his family, to be the loving head of his own household, if he is married, and to love and cherish his wife, if he is married, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her. (Ephesians 5:23-29, I Timothy 3:4-5)
I believe that God intends the woman to submit herself in love and honor to her own husband, if she is married, to love her own children, if she has children, and to have a special connection to keeping the home and raising children within marriage, just as she has a special biological connection to bearing children. (Ephesians 5:22-24, Titus 2:4-5, I Peter 3:5-6)
I believe that God deliberately created woman as the weaker vessel and that she ought generally to be protected as such by men. (I Peter 3:7)
I believe that treating women as soldiers is contrary to God's design for mankind. Treating women as soldiers implies, falsely, that the proper role of the woman is interchangeable with the proper role of the man and that women are just as much physical warriors and protectors as are men. Treating women as soldiers implies, falsely, that it is just as legitimate to call women away from their families to risk their lives as warriors in physical defense of their country as it is to make the same demands of men. Treating women as soldiers implies, falsely, that the physical dangers and demands and the lack of privacy and modesty that warriors are called upon to endure are equally appropriate for men and for women.
I object to any requirement that women register for the military draft. If I register for the draft, should this be explicitly required by law, I will be doing so only under legal coercion and while clearly indicating and documenting that I intend to claim conscientious objector status should I ever be called up by the Selective Service. I am opposed to women's being called up for military service.
I am conscientiously opposed, as a woman, to being sent away from my children, should I have children.
Based on my sincerely held and comprehensive worldview concerning men and women, I am conscientiously and religiously opposed to serving in the armed forces in any and all wars or other military operations.