Hillary Clinton, Conscription, and Militarized Feminism

by , February 04, 2016

For hundreds of years in America, women did not have the same rights as men. They – more or less – do now and for some, the final flourish of equality is seen in decisions such as the Pentagon’s 2015 choice to open up all combat jobs to females. While the military exist, it makes practical sense to admit anyone who can hack it.

However, this week the logical consequences of equality in all things, good and bad, came up in a news item. Turns out there are several important officials who believe that women should be required to register for the Selective Service if they are let into any branch of the military. At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Marine Gen. Robert Neller said they supported this plan, and other high-up military guys said they wanted the matter discussed.

The proper feminist – or anyone who supports women’s equality, no matter how they label themselves should support this, right? After all, the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment would have included a mandate. And yet, this is insane. The draft is wrong. Expanding a sexist evil does not alleviate it.

Civil rights movements can always be co-opted. The San Francisco Pride Parade decided back in 2013 that Chelsea Manning was not worth honoring after all. Feminism just happened to start pretty early in terms of picking and choosing who matters, and how willing it is to be assimilated into the militarized whole.

Feminists being weak on the issue of warfare was old news by the Second Wave ERA era. Famous British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst got herself arrested for the cause of votes for women. However, come August, 1914, she instantly fell into line with the rest of Britain when it came to the war effort. A similar feeling came up in America during the World Wars. After all, when the men are away, the women generally make great strides. They get new jobs that were previously closed off to them. War has been good for women’s rights, in a twisted way, just like it tends to encourage great technological leaps. Good for women, that is, as long as they don’t hold radical views on peace, or have beloved male friends and relatives being injured or killed somewhere far away.

Today women have the vote. However, a women has not yet been elected president. To a particular type – usually some combination of Democrat, feminist, and liberal, that is a vital glass ceiling that has yet to shatter. Certainly former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has faced sexism in her career – much like Barack Obama unquestionably suffers racist-tinged critiques – but defense of her as the feminist candidate of women’s dreams sound awfully selfish. See, most recently, former Salon.com editor in chief Joan Walsh’s Nation piece on Clinton.

Walsh, it seems, was much more tepid about Clinton in 2008. But darn it, today she is “With Joy, and Without Apologies” in her support. Sen. Bernie Sanders is getting all the youth vote momentum – and even The Nation endorsed him – but Walsh argues that Clinton is “the right and even radical choice” today. She writes line after line about sexism, reproductive freedom, and then this teeny, laughably qualified truth finally appears: “I continue to wonder whether she’ll be more hawkish on foreign policy than is advised in these dangerous times.”

Gee, what a thing to wonder over. Clinton voted for the Iraq war as a Senator. The blood of Libya is now on her hands, thanks to her scheming in 2011. Her hawkism is both rhetorical and literal. She now professes to regret her Iraq war vote – a trendy sentiment which doesn’t translate into real love of diplomacy or peace among politicians – but she has no interest in becoming a dove. Fundamentally, supporting Clinton says that a career politician who played a key part in the Middle East being overrun by ISIS should not be punished. Today she wants a stronger effort in the ISIS offensive, including “flexibility” for US troops, and she previously wanted to aid Syrian rebels.

More broadly, Clinton is fairly supportive of the National Security Agency (NSA) and of Edward Snowden being put on trial. She was also one of the last 2016 candidates to jump on the criminal justice and militarized police reform bandwagon. She is a true politician, and an authoritarian centrist. If she wasn’t pro-choice on abortion and wasn’t part of the hated Clinton clan, Republican hawks would find a wonderful candidate in Hillary.

There are no candidates for the Oval Office that have come out against war as much as they should. But ones with a long history of not just supporting war, but building it as Clinton did in Libya are the worst of the lot. There has to be a few consequences for getting foreign blood all over your hands. Losing the presidential primary should be the bare minimum one.

The draft is compelled labor that forces a man to work for the US Military. He might have to kill or be killed. At the very least he must become part of an enormous, powerful institution that has a presence in scores of countries. The US stopped drafting people in the 1970s, but men still have to register their name when they turn 18. The government needs this proof that at the end of the day, they own their citizens. Demanding that women suffer this indignity to their persons is not any kind of useful feminism. Equality is well and good, but the answer to men suffering from the draft is to abolish the draft and nothing else. And the answer to male dominance of the Oval Office is not to back a bonafide, female hawk like Hillary Clinton.

Lucy Steigerwald is a contributing editor for Antiwar.com and a columnist for VICE.com. She previously worked as an Associate Editor for Reason magazine. She is most angry about police, prisons, and wars. Steigerwald blogs at www.thestagblog.com.

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