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Could a Military Draft for Women Become a 2016 Political Issue?

Updated on October 14, 2015

Could Women's Combat Role Become a Political Issue in 2016?

A female U.S. soldier engaging in military training.
A female U.S. soldier engaging in military training. | Source

A Potentially Thorny Political Issue May Arise Over Women and The Draft

Could women ever be drafted into the U.S. military? Secretary of the Army John McHugh says that such an event is a real possibility due to the expanding role of women in the armed forces. The possibility could become more of a reality in 2016, and perhaps even become an issue in the presidential election, after the result of the Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule is released on January 1. If women are allowed to participate in ground combat alongside men, a question will arise regarding whether women in combat should be an option or an obligation.

As of right now, it appears that women would have the option to pursue combat positions...but would how would the public react if women were compelled into such positions? Currently, enlistees in the U.S. military are allowed to sign up for different positions, but it is possible for extenuating circumstances to necessitate non-combat personnel to take up combat posts. A rapid escalation of a war, for example, could force non-infantrymen to take up arms en masse.

If men could be compelled to enter combat, regardless of their M.O.S. (military occupational specialty), could women in the Army be forced to do the same? Since men are required to sign up with Selective Service, could women be made to do the same? Could women be forced into combat even if they protested against it?

These are complex and sensitive questions that force us to take a hard look at gender roles and expectations. Politicians may be expected to answer whether their pursuit of gender equality includes expecting women to fulfill the same military (and combat) obligations as men. If a man can have a rifle thrust into his hands and be given a push toward the front line, should a woman be expected to undergo the same treatment? Would a woman be allowed to decide, after deploying to the front lines, that she no longer wished to be a combat infantrywoman?

With the Syrian civil war devolving into a deeper quagmire, the possibility exists for another U.S. war in the Middle East. Though president Obama has declared that U.S. intervention in Syria and Iraq would not entail "boots on the ground," the growing strength of ISIS and the increasing role of Russia in the region may force him to deploy some American troops before autumn 2016. Would some of the U.S. combat infantry fighting ISIS and other radical groups be women?


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