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

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