Heaven and Earth
Thoughts on Baseball, Art, and Other Altered States

Tobacco Road
Tom Rogers and the Philip Morris Tollway

Coyote Waits
Native American folklore says that Coyote will outlive us all and be the last survivor on earth

Hallucination Engine Revisited
The Psycho-dynamic Obsolescence of General Motors

search engine by freefind


Drafting Women: Carol Burke, Camp All-American
"Women are citizens of the United States and have a responsibility that goes along with that citizenry to protect and defend the United States if there is a universal draft,” says Carol Burke.

An associate professor of English and comparative literature at the University of California at Irvine and a folklorist who taught as a civilian professor at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, for seven years, Burke believes that any military draft plan that doesn't include women will face a sex discrimination challenge in court.

“I think that it’s inevitable that women will assume positions in the military next to men, doing what men do,” Burke says. “It’s only a matter of time.”

Burke's eye-opening new book, Camp All-American, Hanoi Jane, and the High and Tight, leaves no doubt that the armed forces should jettison its cult of masculinity. The book details misogyny in the modern military — from homoerotic hazing and secret rituals of military manhood to Tailhook and Napalm chants.

"See the woman beside the river,
Washin' clothes and cookin' dinner,
Pick one out and watch her quiver,
Yo, oh! Napalm it sticks to kids."

That's the kind of brutal folklore you'll encounter in Camp All-American a book that separates the macho from the military.

Many people “view the military as an institution, that in part exists to inscribe manhood on its members,” says Burke. “Whereas that may be productive if you have an all male military, it’s not productive when you have a gender-integrated military.”

What about the claim by military traditionalists — Orange County, California's ex-Congressman Bob Dornan, for example — that woman aren't physically capable of serving in combat?

“A strong athletic, six-foot-tall woman will outperform a slim, five-foot-tall man who lacks substantially developed muscle mass,’ Burke says. “In some areas of combat, the smaller size and greater agility of women would be an advantage. Inside a tank or a submarine, for example, a small quick female soldier might be more effective than a thickly-muscled linebacker-sized man.”

In spite of gender advantages, a ramped-up leveling of the military's man to woman ratio won't happen until after the November election. It's simply too hot of a political issue for the tepid Kerry and Bush campaigns. After November, however, it may be time for the Kiera Knightly demographic to start registering at Selective Service. Two bills in Congress (S 89 and HR 163) call for inclusion of 18-26 year-old women in a 500,000 troop draft that would began as early as Spring 2005.

“When you look at skeptical leaders who have then had women under their command, you find a real change in their support in terms of women being involved,” Burke says. “In many ways there is more willingness to integrate women on the part of the Pentagon, then there is in conservative civilian groups."

So why hasn't this integration happened sooner?

"Full integration has been retarded by the current administration’s responsiveness to conservative critics from the outside. There are a number of civilians groups that are fighting the integration of women in the military — the Center for Military Readiness [CMR] for example.”

Not only fighting it, but spinning a devolutionary frame on it. In an April 2003 report entitled Why American Servicewomen are Serving at Greater Risk,” CMR stated, “In a nation and culture that respects women, close combat on an equal basis with men is not a step forward for women, it is a step backward for civilization.”

That step backward becomes a leap forward, however, as you move away from the conservative end of the political spectrum. Susan Scanlan President of the non-partisan Women's Research & Education Institute in Washington DC stands with Burke on the issue of female conscription.

“Women should be drafted if men are because both men and women are citizens who are obligated to serve their country,” Scanlan says. “There are plenty of jobs military women can do. Traditionally, draftees have gone into the Army infantry (which includes combat positions from which women are excluded), but there is no reason they couldn’t be assigned to other slots in the Army or to the Navy, Air Force, Marine, and Coast Guard. Certainly the women serving today provide strong proof that they are more than capable of doing their jobs under extremely challenging circumstances.”

Those circumstances became even more challenging on June 1, 2004. That's when the Army announced that thousands active-duty and reserve soldiers who are nearing the end of their volunteer service commitments in the Middle East could be forced to serve an entire tour overseas. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry called the extension a "backdoor draft."

Burke tells me that before this recent extension the armed forces would have argued in favor of an all-volunteer force. “Current members of the military want to fight side by side with well-trained volunteers. But, there are political calculations to be made," she says. "Massive conscription to keep the shaky peace in Iraq, whether the nation pulls men only or men and women into service, would doom any administration that orchestrates it.”


Massive conscription would inspire a higher voter turnout among 18-25 year olds, especially among women. In a CNN Poll conducted in October 2003, 88 percent of Americans under 30 years of age disapproved of a draft. Today, with the ugly reality of the War in Iraq creating more than just Rumsfeld-style guts and glory headlines, those numbers may be higher.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) agrees with the under 30 crowd. According to NOW's press secretary Jenny Thalheimer, that organization's official policy “Opposes the reinstatement of registration and draft for both men and women. However, if we cannot stop the return to registration and draft," the policy goes on to say, "we also cannot choose between our sisters and brothers. We oppose any registration or draft that excludes women as an unconstitutional denial of rights to both young men and women. And we continue to oppose all sex discrimination by the volunteer armed services.”

With sex discrimination out front, a test case coupled with the ACLU could push the issue of women in the draft to the Supreme Court.

“I presume that there would be a legal challenge to any male-only draft,” Burke says. “Since women in uniform have proven themselves so capable in military roles traditionally reserved for men, it would be hard to argue for their exclusion simply on the basis of gender.”

True. But is the War in Iraq the best test case for inclusion? Will drafted women consider themselves the winners? And what of the cult of masculinity's folklore? Will women chant:

"Aim your missiles at the schoolhouse,
See the teacher ring the bell.
See the children's smiling faces
As their schoolhouse burns to hell?"

As Abu Ghraib has shown us and Barbara Ehrenreich has told us, a uterus is not a substitute for a conscience. A responsibility to protect and defend the United States includes protesting and defying our government when it imposes a corrupt American hegemony on the rest of world. Now is the time to ask, will the fight for women's rights by way of a gender-integrated military draft contribute to a universal wrong?

"I think support for the current war in Iraq and support for a draft that includes women are two very different things," Burke says. "I never supported the former; nor do I favor any draft in support of it. When our government sent troops to Iraq we expected to see photos of caches of weapons of mass destruction. Instead, we've gotten photos of the shameful acts of American soldiers. Were our country to face a third world war (as opposed to the vaguely defined "war on terrorism," a term that the Bush administration has employed to justify a series of bad decisions including the decision to sidestep the Geneva Convention) and need to deploy large numbers of young Americans, women as well as men should do their part."

— Nathan Callahan, June 9, 2004


© NathanCallahan.com / Nathan Callahan / all rights reserved