Hunter recognized that the status quo—a gendered draft and an integrated force—is untenable. He might have proposed ending Selective Service registration, since the draft hasn’t been activated since 1973. Instead, he tried to roll back the Pentagon’s push for gender equity.
Hunter plainly hoped that by pressing people to think about whether they could really live with the consequences of a co-ed military, he might expose the thinness of the whole integrationist project:
I’ve talked to coffeehouse liberals in San Fransisco and conservative families who pray three times a day. And neither group wants their daughter to be drafted. Neither one of them. Because, again, a draft is not to do with mode of transport, supply, or finance, a draft is there to put bodies on the frontline to take the hill… It’s to get more people to close with and destroy the enemy through fire and close combat. The draft is there to get more people to rip the enemy’s throats and kill them for our nation, sanctioned by the U.S. government. That’s what a draft is for.
Hunter even said that he could stomach the notion of his son being conscripted to go off to fight and die, but not his daughters. But his colleagues, to his evident surprise, disagreed.
California Democrat Jackie Spier called Hunter’s bluff. “I actually support your amendment and will be delighted to vote for it,” she said. “While you may be offering this as a gotcha amendment, I would suggest that there’s great merit in recognizing that each of us have an obligation to be willing to serve our country in a time of war.”
Including women in the Selective Service, and in any future draft, is a radical change of policy, and it’s not clear that it will make it into law. The bill is awaiting a vote from the full House; it also needs approval from the Senate, before it’s sent to the president for a signature or veto.
The bill is embroiled in controversy, but the draft amendment is the least of it. Congressional hawks are trying to stop military base closures by taking funds from the budget for foreign wars, effectively gambling that their colleagues and the White House will top up those funds when they inevitably run dry before the end of the fiscal year. Chairman Mac Thornberry didn’t even mention the amendment in his press release about the bill. Consider what that means: There’s nothing to indicate that the expansion of the draft to include women for the first time in history won’t make it through, other than than the prospect of being struck down as collateral damage in a different fight.
Meanwhile, on the same day the congressional drama was unfolding and without much fanfare, America’s first female infantry officer, Army Captain Kristen Griest, passed her qualification course. She’s expected to take command of an infantry unit next year.