Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) may as well declare the 1984 doublespeak maxim, "Freedom is slavery," as she cites women’s rights in support of subjecting them to forced military conscription.
Her amendment – requiring female Americans to register with Selective Service – is now attached to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which has passed the House and awaits a vote in the Senate. While some hail this a milestone for equality, its ramifications extend far beyond symbolic gestures. The last time Washington exercised the draft, over 58,000 of America’s sons died in Vietnam. Given this history, what justification can be made for extending to the war machine an additional line of credit to America’s daughters?
Since our country’s founding, many American heroes have stood against conscription as repugnant to core principles of the country.
"In the sight of Heaven it is murder," decried Rep. Daniel Webster of New Hampshire from two centuries ago. Webster warned that the deaths of each man forced into "a miserable and detestable project of invasion" would stain the souls of those who voted for it. He condemned them for twisting the Constitution to "extract slavery from the substance of a free Government." Hearing this, even as British soldiers burned the White House to the ground in the War of 1812, Congress rejected the draft.
Not for another hundred years – as President Woodrow Wilson plunged America into World War I – was the draft as we know it today established. While never fully repealed, its use was suspended during the Vietnam War. When General William Westmoreland appeared before the President’s Commission on an All‐Volunteer Force, he declared he would not command "an army of mercenaries." Milton Friedman, the Nobel-winning economist and member of the commission, famously quipped: "General, would you rather command an army of slaves?"
Today, politicians like Houlahan complain, not of murder or slavery inherent in conscription, but that America’s policy does claim the lives of both sexes. "Women have constantly had to fight for a level playing field – and this change is a step in the right direction," she says. Whether from ignorance or duplicity, she frames draft registration as the next front in the war for women’s rights.
When asked, however, women are not having it.
According to recent polling, American women overwhelmingly oppose female draft registration by a two-to-one margin. It is easy to understand why. The glass ceilings to voluntary military enlistment were shattered years ago. Since 2016, enlisted women are even eligible to serve in combat roles. What Houlahan proposes is not breaking boundaries, but removing a woman’s right to choose.
Sadly, Houlahan is not alone in this crusade. Reversing her opposition from 2016, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), helped shove the change through the House Armed Services Committee. Cheney’s family notoriously profited from the Iraq War through connections to Halliburton Company while her father was vice president. It is no surprise that – as recruitment numbers dwindle following two decades of unpopular, unconstitutional wars – the eternal chickenhawk would support new measures for supplying the Pentagon with fresh bodies.
Another sponsor, Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), spent a floor speech romanticizing a future conflict in which the military "need[s] everybody … man, woman, gay, straight, any religion, Black, white, brown…" The same public relations consultants who created the CIA’s widely mocked "woke” publicity campaign earlier this year must have written his talking points. Intersectionality is the new marketing strategy for rebranding endless war as feminist and progressive, but rainbow paint cannot mask the color of blood.
Webster, Friedman, and other great minds who have fought conscription are no longer with us, but some resistance in Washington remains. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has vowed to strip the policy from the NDAA before it leaves the Senate, exclaiming, "the idea that [women] be forced into compulsory service, I just think it’s crazy.”
Further, if gender equality is truly the goal, Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have proposed a better answer: Abolish the draft altogether. And why should we not? Has our all-volunteer military not proved the strongest force on earth? And is the principle of equal rights for men and women not preferable to equal enslavement?
Too many men have fallen because of Congress since Webster’s warnings on the House floor. Let none of America’s sons fall to this policy ever again – and none of her daughters either.
Eric Brakey serves as senior spokesperson for Young Americans for Liberty and is a former Maine state senator (2014-2018).