Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American HistoryBy John Fabian Witt (Free Press, 498 pp., $32) WAR IS ABOUT killing, maiming, and destroying. Yet in its midst men have sought heroism not only in savage acts of bravery but also in observing limits, in finding a way to affirm their and their adversaries’ common humanity, in the concept of honor as a higher expression of morality than is attainable even in peace.
Don’t believe it when you read that Oscar Niemeyer, the Brazilian architect who died this week only days before he would have turned 105, was the one who took the chill off modernist design with his flamboyantly curving, white thin-shell concrete buildings. That’s the sort of nonsense that gets peddled in obituaries and haigiographies, particularly when a charismatic charmer distorts the historical record to inflate his own contribution, takes credit for the innovations of others, and outlives—by decades!—his competitors.
Dear Supreme Court Justices, Last week, you agreed to hear two landmark cases about gay marriage. In the broader of the two cases, which comes out of California, you could establish same-sex marriage nationwide as a matter of constitutional right. This is a ruling that most gay Americans would celebrate as a historic victory for civil rights. But I want to suggest that you make history, and advance the cause of gay equality, in a different way: by butting out. I bow to no one in my support for marriage equality.
The Supreme Court has announced it will look at two gay marriage cases. Chris Matthews feels a thrill running up his leg. Shivers are probably the right response. But not necessarily the Matthews kind. The Court’s consideration of the sweeping challenge to California’s Proposition 8 raises the odds that the Supreme Court strategy may backfire—a risk that the modest challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act was likely to avoid.