By Jonah Bennett
In a speech on the Senate floor Thursday evening, GOP Sen. Ben Sasse urged his fellow legislators to keep culture wars out of the defense bill, specifically the issue of forcing women to sign up for the draft.
“Why is it that Washington always jumps blindly into culture war fights?” Sasse asked. “Why is it that we first divide into blue shirts versus red shirts, retreat into our tribes, and then maneuver to inflict maximum pain on each other?”
“Let me ask a question that should be obvious: Why is it that we’re now fighting about drafting our daughters, our sisters, and our mothers when nobody has told us that we need to draft anyone?” he added.
For Sasse, national security is far more important than scoring political points.
“The legislation before the Senate is supposed to be about national security – which is the first and the most important responsibility of the federal government,” Sasse said. “Republican and Democrat, every single member of this body, tells our constituents that we support the troops. And I would hope that every single member of this body means it – and thus agrees that national security is far more important than running up the partisan score in some cultural battle.”
The senator has forwarded an amendment as an attempt to halt the incessant culture wars and virtue signaling over issues that, at this point, are more or less purely symbolic — supposing catastrophe doesn’t strike and an all-volunteer force is no longer sufficient to serve the homeland.
This amendment calls for the draft as such to be re-evaluated, instead of allowing it to trudge along on “auto-pilot.” It also introduces a provision to retire the draft in three years, if Congress doesn’t act to save it. Finally, the amendment mandates the secretary of defense to produce a report to Congress in six months on the benefits of the draft system.
A report, Sasse thinks, would come to one of three conclusions. First, an all-volunteer force is sufficient and the draft is completely unnecessary. Second, the draft system should remain as is. Or third, the report should provide several compelling reasons as to why the draft should be expanded.
“Let’s not start by trying to import more culture warring into a national security bill,” Sasse said. “Let’s start by asking if we are sure we need a draft.”
The idea of forcing women to sign up for selective service has sparked a bitter fight in both the House and Senate. GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter first brought draft expansion to the table as a sort of exercise in absurdity. Since Hunter is vehemently opposed to allowing women in combat roles, he figured that coffeehouse liberals and conservatives focused on family values would come together and realize the dangerous implications — namely that women would almost inevitably have to sign up for the draft, just like men.
He apparently miscalculated, although at least in the House, as mounting resistance has proved successful. The draft provision has been struck from the House version of the defense bill through a clever move by the House Committee on Rules. But on the Senate side, draft expansion has strong backing from key players like GOP Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, and GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham.