Abolish the Selective Service System

Abolish the Selective Service System


When a group of students felt that opposition to the war in the Vietnam needed a platform at Georgetown, they founded The Georgetown Voice 50 years ago. As we speak with some of our alumni about their experiences during the Voice’s early days, the draft is a common thread. It was a dark cloud hanging over the heads of the young men on campus who gathered together around radios to hear if their draft number was going to be called next.

This editorial board believes that the Selective Service System is an outdated idea that does not protect an individual’s agency or right to decide if military service is for them. As we are currently of draft age, even without an impending draft, it is important to us that the current system be abolished.

While no one has been drafted into military service since 1972, young men still need to register with Selective Service when they turn 18. The possibility remains that Congress could pass legislation which would begin conscription if the president signed said bill into law.

But in February, a Texas district court judge declared the all-male draft unconstitutional in a case brought by the National Coalition for Men, a men’s advocacy and civil rights group. In a declaratory ruling—which passes judgement without proposing specific action—Judge Gray Miller wrote that the 2015 decision allowing women to serve in combat roles means the Supreme Court’s ruling in Rostker v. Goldberg (1981), upholding a male-only draft, is no longer valid.

This month, another case brought by a woman who wished to register with Selective Service was allowed to proceed in New Jersey District Court. These challenges could lead to a requirement for women to register for the draft alongside men. But this editorial board believes that the only appropriate solution is to abolish Selective Service entirely.

Registration is mandated by law for all men aged 18 to 25, and failing to register is a felony carrying penalties of a $250,000 fine or five-year prison term. Failing to register also prevents people from receiving federal student loans or holding many government jobs. According to the Selective Service website, these penalties are enforced to make a potential draft “as fair as possible.” But at its core, any draft is inherently unfair.

A long history of draft avoidance has favored the wealthier members of our society. During the Civil War, drafted men could pay someone else to go in their place, and during the Vietnam War, men who could afford to attend college could receive a deferment.

Currently, even those who would qualify as conscientious objectors or have disabilities that disqualify them from military service must register. Men living in Puerto Rico, Guam, other U.S. territories, and Washington, D.C., cannot vote for the members of Congress who could send them to war, but they still have to register for the draft. When the Voice was founded in 1969, the voting age was 21. Many young men were drafted without representation.

This lack of representation extends to non-U.S. citizens living in the country on a permanent basis, including refugees and asylum seekers. These people have often fled a warzone but could be sent to a different one in service of a country of which they are not citizens, by a government they had no say in electing. And if they do not register, they can never be granted citizenship.

Requiring women to register for the draft will not solve these problems. While women, and all people regardless of their gender identity, should be allowed to serve in the military in the same capacities as men, mandating registration only makes them equals in their lack of agency.

The United States has been at war since our troops invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, and people born after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 are now old enough to enlist in the military with parental permission. But, there is no existential threat comparable to Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan which prompted a peacetime draft in 1940, and therefore, no need for a draft.

The ways in which we fight are changing, too. As our reliance on technology increases, our fighting forces become less conducive to “manpower” and “boots on the ground.” Today our military requires people highly skilled in areas of technology, mechanics, special operations, and other fields related to modern warfare, rather than the average person registering with Selective Service.

Congress created the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service in 2017 to examine the intricacies of military and other kinds of national service, including the necessity of draft registration. In March 2020, they will release a final report, which, while not becoming law, will have a large impact on the policy discussion around Selective Service. We encourage people to leave a written comment for the commission through their website or to contact their congressional representatives to share their thoughts.

Expanding Selective Service to include women will not solve the draft’s problems, and continuing the system in its current fashion is unfair to the men who have no desire to serve. Only abolishing the Selective Service Systemwill ensure fair treatment of all individuals, allowing those who want to serve to volunteer and letting everyone else live without the dark cloud of conscription hanging over their heads.

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ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Abolish the Selective Service System”

  1. Avatar Michael says:

    Now that women “may” (never will happen) have to register there is talk about getting rid of selective service. Why did you not 40 years ago, 35 years ago, 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 6 years ago, when by the way women were allowed into all areas of combat, write this article about getting rid of it? Of course because women were “safe” and the disposable sex was only involved. Shameful really. Very shameful. What is even more not only shameful, but evil, is that men are STILL NOW REQUIRED TO REGISTER EVEN THOUGH THE ALL MALE DRAFT WAS FINALLY DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL WHICH TOOK 40 YEARS. There should at least be a moratorium on male registration until the cowardly Congress, Supreme Court and whomever else gets women on board this slave galley ship as they should have always been or get rid of this evil altogether. And what have the Churches done NOTHING OF COURSE EXCEPT SUPPORT MORE MEN POSSIBLY BEING DRAFTED AND DYING. The special sex has been out of any harms way. Men at this time should not register but all bring lawsuits while this has been declared unconstitutional but they will not receive as usual any help from their “sisters” just as they never have in 40 years. You need not worry. Women will not be required to ever register. They will fight as they did back in 1980 to be exempted and once they are it will again be their “brothers” problem and lack of agency. If men fail to register they lose the right to vote. While women have the right to vote AND DON’T NEED TO REGISTER. Justice? Ridicules. Now that women may have to register there are meetings, hearings , interviews, studies. Is it so wrong to ask where these “studies” have been the past 40 years? Nowhere of course since women were not involved. Because women may now be involved in may lead to an abolition of selective service altogether. But only for this reason. No other. It is not that I want women drafted. Being a pacifist and Christian I believe no Christian, man or woman, should be anywhere near a registration form even though I myself many years ago registered against my conscience in order to keep the law and of course not be subjected to all the penalties for not doing so. I do feel for young men who are struggling with this. I do not feel for women honestly. Nor do they need any feeling. Congress will fight to keep it all male and if it just can’t then selective service will be terminated in order to protect civilian women from any future draft. Or the Administration will again restrict women in combat positions in order to keep it all male. Women will be safe. As they always have been as the Vietnam Memorial Wall attests to. 8 women who died serving their country nobly but they are within the 58,000 men. Women’s groups will honor the 8 at least. I believe in God and that he created us in his image and likeness and therefore loves each person regardless of their sex. He made men and women to love and cherish each other but over time sin has turned a natural affect between men and women to a relation based on lust, domination, subordination, and dependence. Worst of all indifference. Men in body bags at least historically has been business as usual. God forbid if women die. And yet God in his wisdom has given all of us as people two things none of us are immune to in this temporal life, suffering and death. All of us deal with something. In other words the woman unlike the man who is drafted and dies in war will be stricken with breast cancer or God forbid another tragedy. Suffering and death are the two great equalizers to any human injustice. I believe selective service should be done away with and should have never begun in the first place. But if it continues women should be obliged to register as well. In fact the truth is THEY SHOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN ALLOWED TO BE EXEMPT IN THE FIRST PLACE. However I am not naive. Women know how to play the game. As long as it is volunteer great but compulsory registration will be fought. That is why Congress threw it into the hands of a dummy commission as a stall tactic. These recommendations will mean nothing of course. It is just a ploy to see how if possible it can be kept all male and if not can it be done away with without threatening national security too much, or is there a way to “draft” women into the peace corps while men can still be drafted into combat. Women will play the game as always and as a result 80-90% of war deaths in history have been male. I am far past draft age now and this no longer applies to me but I do feel for young men who are conflicted with this as I once was with no one to support me in my fear, confusion, and conscience conflict. I hope and pray for peace and hope the selective service will end one day. Sorry for my long mail and thanks for the chance to respond. Pax et Bonum. With Respect

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