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Very nice paper, Morgan. It’s well-researched, clear, and ultimately leads to the sort of conclusion most of us want: that every person should be able to serve in the armed forces. You are right, I think, in making the link between the history of racial integration in the U.S. military and the present debate over gays in the military.

For any readers who have not read the paper in its entirety, Morgan makes the comparison along four lines:

1. In both cases, the argument was made that integration would somehow erode the “unit cohesion” on which functional military operation rests.

2. The final say in both cases lay in the power of the “heckler’s veto.” In other words, any critic of integration could effectively roadblock any change.

3. Resistance in both cases was suffused with misunderstanding of the “Other.”

4. Change was, and will likely be slow because of a military aversion to any actions that might be seen as “social engineering.”

You are right in discussing first the issue of unit cohesion, because I believe this is the thrust of the debate, vis-à-vis official military stances. I think the argument is disingenuous, however. History tells us, as you noted, that integration decreases prejudice and increases cohesion. I don’t think it would be any different in the case of gay men and lesbian women.

Now I should address your question about Colin Powell’s statement. Powell was on shaky ground, to be sure, in boiling down homosexuality to its behavioral component. To me it seems as if Powell’s argument has had little weight in policy. “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” seems to move beyond the issue of behavior; under its rules, any profession (no matter how innocuous) of sexual orientation is sufficient for expulsion from the service.

My question, unsurprisingly, is “what’s next?” What can history do to resolve this current debate? How can we go about creating the conditions for equality in military service? How much of racial integration’s history can be credited to military expediency? And will it take another World War, or something on its level, to create the push for integration of gays and lesbians?

Daniel Corbett


Having received a thorough ear-boxing from Dan, I've decided that the blog is, after all, a good way to stay engaged, civically and intellectually. In that spirit, I've finally posted my paper on the "race analogy" and homosexuality in the U.S. armed forces. Look to the left…it's under the "pages" section. 

Dan, some questions you might ask yourself as you're reading (and then pose to me soon after): In what ways are the two groups in question–blacks and homosexuals–actually different in the eyes of the military? Was there a grain of insight in Colin Powell's assertion that one group's unifying feature was behavioral (homosexuals) while the other's was merely phenotypical? Am I right to find Don't Ask Don't Tell insulting in the way it reduces individuals to balls of prejudices? 

Hit me! 

–Morgan Hubbard 

      While I am enjoying my graduation present– a meandering journey through Ireland. Will return with whiskey.

Daniel Corbett

    Today, I'm wrapping up my legal theory class, and with it, my college career. In the class we've covered a lot of ground: natural law, positivism, realism, and all of the critical and postmodern appendages of today's legal thought. One voice that caught my attention, maybe surprisingly, given my libertarian tendencies, was Ronald Dworkin. Something about his elegant portrayal of law's integrity, its ability to transform, to change, to better.

    But Dworkin has his critics, to be sure. The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting article on Dworkin, his recent book, and the perennial rose-colored glasses through which he sees the law. Carlin Romano writes:

"The pathos of Dworkin's jurisprudence is that, after several decades, its two parts don't add up. In his philosophical work, the judge not only can grasp our entire constitutional scheme, like some hotshot assistant professor who understands every nuance of Kant's system, but he must to be an adequate judge. In his New York Review pieces, no living judge — make that no conservative judge — understands what he or she is doing."

    I'd like to think of law as robust, as having inner morality, but something always leads me to stop short. I think it's the messiness of law– the political exigencies that lead Dworkin and others to lambaste their political foes– that does this for me. Law is a powerful tool, but as is the case with most powerful tools, we cannot leave it uncriticized and unchecked.

Daniel Corbett

    Glen Whitman at Agoraphilia blogs about the logical maneuvering behind a popular anti-immigration argument. The argument– we've all heard it before– posits that, faced with rapid immigration, America's social welfare system would start to collapse under its own weight. In other words, there's a fixed pie, and there's simply not enough to go around.

    Whitman (via Julian Sanchez) points out a dangerous assumption in the above argument: that we assume a social welfare system exactly like the one we currently have. If political institutions are fixed from the outset, change of any sort is going to be tough. So what causes people to assume political fixity? It's a case of backward induction, Whitman argues. People in intellectual circles often deal with questions of moral personhood first and then move on to political questions about rights, statuses, and entitlements. But the vast majority of people often get it upside-down: answering political questions first and then drawing up conclusions of moral worth in response to these answers.

    This backward induction leads to an interesting paradox. We want to retain our well-intentioned and noble welfare state, so we assume a whole raft of rights to which people (though we haven't touched on the important matter of defining these people) are entitled. From here though, budgetary limitations, etc. (what a brilliant professor of mine has referred to as "the funkiness of life") often force us to make rather inhumane judgements such as "close off the borders."

    Whitman leaves us with a powerful closing thought:

"If we wish to encourage people to regard other moral beings as equals and not enemies, we should favor social systems that foster cooperation rather than creating conflicts of interest."

Daniel Corbett

      Copyright 101 question: Dan, an aging but venerable author asks Morgan, a fellow author to help him with a book. In a correspondence, Dan says to Morgan, “Here’s a little sketch but make whatever you want.” Dan turns around to sue Morgan for infringing– er– himself?

      Now take and apply it to an even more contentious arena for IP– the world of glass sculpture.

      That's the story behind a recent copyright suit being brought forward by Seattle glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. Chihuly is suing a longtime collaborator for putting out glass sculptures that too closely resemble his postmodern, sea-inspired works.

      There are two key problems with this suit: 1.) the quotation from the hypothetical is an direct quotation from the plaintiff to the defendant in a correspondence between the two. Chihuly stopped blowing glass 27 years ago and has since relied on other artists to carry out– obviously with varying degrees of guidance– his visions (hat tip to Prof. Michael Madison). 2.) How easy is it to declare ownership over abstracted, nautical themed glass sculptures? There is a reason copyright has been slow to show itself in the art world. As the defense attorney in the case put it: "If the first guy who painted Madonna and Child had tried to copyright it," Mr. Wakefield said, "half of the Louvre would be empty."

Daniel Corbett

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