There is a lot of talk these days about reinstituting the draft. The kicker this time is that women may have to register, and it's a political nightmare for anyone running for public office.
When I discuss the subject with parents and young ladies the response is quite interesting.
Most of them say things like, "I don't want my daughter in a foxhole," or "I couldn't stand the thought of being up to my hips in mud with a bunch of smelly men."
Very few reply, "I don't want my child flying an F-16 fighter plane," or "I'll be damned if my girl is going to stand watch on the bridge of an aircraft carrier," or "I'm not ready to work in a mess hall and cook meals for a bunch of jughead marines."
For some reason, everyone seems to associate the draft with foxholes, dirt, grime and foot-slogging. Also, while no one will say it out loud, most people equate military life with promiscous sex. For all our toughness, we still put our American princesses on a pedestal, and the thought of them living in tents with men is more than most of us can stand.
Which brings us to the subject of equal rights. If women want them, they should be required to do the same military service as men.
As to taking on combat roles, generals and admirals are against it. One general was recently quoted as saying that the American Gi is still chivalrous and would spend all his time protecting a female buddy instead of getting on with the war.
Phyllis Schlafly, the mother of the anti-ERA movement, has been protesting for years that if women had equal rights they would wind up in the trenches. Recently she's been appearing on television crowing that her prediction is now going to come true.
But what does one do when the Russian bear starts rattling its saber (according to CIA reports, the Soviets have now trained bears to rattle sabers). The answer is that the American woman must let the Kremlin know that it will not only have to face the American doughboy in a confrontation, but also the American doughgirl.
I rarely agree with Ms. Schlafly on anything, but I have never doubted her patriotism. And I believe when the chips are down she'll go into the trenches with everybody else.
My favorite fantasy these days is to picture Pvt. Schlafly in a foxhole, her face covered with charcoal, helmet sitting back on her head and eating a cold can of field rations.
In the same foxhole are an Italian GI from Ohio, a black corporal from Birmingham, a Jewish Pfc. from Brooklyn, and a sensitive former coed from Vassar who read T. S. Eliot's poetry when she isn't fighting.
A sergeant with hashmarks on her sleeve comes up to the foxhole and says, "Okay, Schlafly, move your tail out on patrol. The C.O. wants us to take another hill."
Schlafly pulls down her helmet, picks up her rifle, checks her hand grenades and then says to the sergeant, "You can tell Maj. Gloria Steinem what she can do with her patrol."