Liberty and Justice for All: The Draft Must Go

Becoming a convicted felon. Going to prison for up to five years. Being fined as much as $250,000. Not being allowed to attain citizenship as an immigrant. Exclusion from ever participating in federal job training programs and holding most federal jobs.
Those are some serious consequences. As such, one might expect them to correspond with a serious crime – assault, maybe? Robbery? No – the aforementioned penalties are all potential results for any American man who fails to register for the United States Selective Service, also known as the military draft.
The idea of forced conscription is, and always has been, an un-American one that directly opposes citizens’ basic liberty. No person should ever be forced to go to war; if a nation cannot find enough voluntarily willing people to fight for a cause, that nation should not be militarily pursuing that cause. On this principle alone, the United States Selective Service Program (“the draft”) should be abolished.
However, the problems with the U.S. draft system extend even further than just the aforementioned fundamental flaws; inequity is deeply ingrained in the Selective Service. Foremost, the draft maintains the sexist policy of only enrolling men for potential conscription. This policy harkens back to the misogynist days of women’s exclusion from service, voluntary or otherwise, in the U.S. military. In recent years, changes have been made that allow for women to more equally access service opportunities, should they choose to do so. However, the draft remains outdated in its maintenance of sexual discrimination.
Furthermore, the Selective Service maintains policies regarding transgender and non-binary people that amount to abject cruelty. In determining who must register for the draft, the draft program entirely ignores Americans’ gender identities. Instead, it considers only the biological sex that a person was assigned at birth. For transgender women and non-binary individuals, the requirement to register can be a dysphoric experience, as their country’s government is legally invalidating their identity. And as if the Selective Service’s discriminatory policies were not enough, it rubs salt in the wound by using inappropriate terminology in addressing the issue; the website refers to people “who have changed their gender,” displaying a fundamental lack of understanding of gender issues. For many gender non-conforming people, classification of their experience as a “change in gender” is unwelcome, as it suggests a “choice to change” an identity that they may have always held. “Individuals whose gender identity does not align with their assigned-at-birth sex” would be more appropriate terminology in the Selective Service’s usage case.
Some may argue that in order to fix these problems, an alternative to the draft would need to be found. What if we need to go to war, right? I believe that the system we have now, of relying on voluntary service, should suffice. In recent years, the draft has never been needed in military conflicts. If more soldiers ever were needed, the U.S. government should be responsible for convincing citizens to serve — not forcing them.
All of these issues combine to create a deeply problematic institution in American society and government. From gender discrimination to violations of freedom, the United States Selective Service is deeply harmful. Its abolishment would be a victory in the pursuit of liberty and justice for all.