During all this time, there has been increasing agitation for what?
Registering women for the draft?
A long time ago, I worked for Sen. James L. Buckley on Capitol Hill. Although Jim Buckley believed Americans had a duty to defend their nation -- and that military service helped young men define their character -- he found economist Milton Friedman's arguments for an all-volunteer military to be compelling.
The data showed, for lots of reasons, that an all-volunteer force was superior to conscripts. Working with Jim Buckley, I drafted the final and last extension of the military draft.
The mythology of liberalism aside, the draft ended on Richard Nixon's watch, and with the president's leadership and support. The moral and intellectual case for ending conscription was made primarily not by draft-dodging protesters, but by libertarian theorists and researchers. And I am grateful to an old friend, Tom Charles Huston, an adviser to President Nixon, for his observations on draft registration, as reprised by presidential candidates in Saturday night's Republican debate in New Hampshire.
In all these years and decades, young men still are legally required to register for the nonexistent draft. During this time, there has been increasing agitation for women to go beyond, far beyond, their historical involvement in the American military.
Too slowly for some, and entirely too quickly for others, the armed services have opened up to women an ever greater variety of slots, concomitant with greater danger. To accomplish this, there have been problems with morale and cohesiveness, plenty of complications -- and great expense -- and serious questions about whether relevant standards have been, or are being, lowered.
All this transformation has not been without problems, arising from the circumstances of young men and young women working in close, sometimes intimate quarters. In particular, the number of pregnancies has not been inconsequential.
But by far, what has been most controversial is whether serious and proven criteria are compromised, or tossed out, to meet politically correct gender quotas. For example, now we have calls for women to be in the very demanding and elite Special Forces. In fact, so few men qualify, why assume that if women cannot, the standards are "gender biased"?
Put all this aside and stipulate that no problems exist, or they can be significantly ameliorated, or soluble. Suppose, then, that you open up the most intense and hazardous slots in Delta Force and SEAL teams. If women can do the job -- and want to do it -- so be it, the argument goes.
This is the fantasy, against this reality: Our military's mission is to violently destroy the enemy, not do anything that compromises that life-or-death certainty.
The Republican candidates, when asked in Saturday's debate whether women should register for the draft, rushed to endorse the idea. This was not Saturday Night Live, but the ABC Republican debate. Why, wonders Mr. Huston, should we now require that women register for the draft?
The probability is close to zero that conscription would be reinstated. If so, there would be no shortage ofmanpower. But Mr. Huston, who served in the military, suggests on Facebook that draft registration for women obscures the required discussion of whether women should serve in what has been called the Combat Arms.
We know that women already serve in harm's way. But the feminists now would advance women not simply to the front lines, but ahead of them, as "special operators" before any battle lines appear at all.
The Machiavellian opponents of feminizing violence believe, probably correctly, that perfect cohesion of, say, SEAL Team Six requires a strongly knit all-male cadre of equals, and therefore they may hope that compulsory female registration will reverse the irrational egalitarianism. Remember, our country is not, say, Israel, where women must serve, because active and reserve forces of only men are, quite simply, inadequate for that tiny nation under siege.
More to Mr. Huston's point, this is America. And what the usually politically incorrect Donald Trump should have asked is, "Any woman who wants to serve can volunteer, why require them to register for the draft?"