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Letters: Mar. 31, 2003

6 minute read

The Bush administration’s idea of modeling a postwar Iraq on the examples of Japan and Germany after World War II [COVER STORY, March 10] is naive. It took years of occupation to rebuild those countries, and Iraq is more akin to Yugoslavia than to Japan. Yugoslavia and Iraq were cobbled together from multiple states of losing empires (Austrian and Ottoman, respectively) after World War I. Even 20 years of U.S. occupation of Iraq, I suspect, would just delay the inevitable wars of secession and ethnic conflict there. I also suspect that future Presidents would not want to spend the money to keep U.S. troops in Iraq for the many years necessary for stabilization. DONALD PELTON Colorado Springs, Colo.

It defies imagination to think that after Saddam Hussein there could be a democratic Iraq that would serve as a model for other Arab countries and revolutionize the Middle East. Unfortunately, a more likely scenario is that the many factions in Iraq–the Kurds, Shi’ites and numerous tribal groups–would all vie for power. In a postwar Iraq, U.S. troops would be caught up in factional strife and subjected to a devastating campaign of terrorism. Are we prepared to deal with that possibility? H. DAVID TEITELBAUM Redwood City, Calif.

Thanks for “Life After Saddam.” How about a follow-up on “Life After George Bush”? With both of them gone, we would be able to look forward to a perfect world. HUBIE BENNETT Pointe Claire, Que.

Americans underestimate the threat of a civil war following military action in Iraq. Although Saddam is a brutal dictator who is a problem for the world, he holds together a country that may sink into anarchy and chaos after he is gone. The Kurds, Shi’ites and different Sunni Arab tribes may try to set up their own countries or may fight for control of the government, a scenario that would have an enormously negative impact on the entire Middle East. SAYYED AHMAD MAZZIDI Isfahan, Iran

A postwar occupation of Iraq would be devastating to the U.S. economy and to our armed forces as they tried to control a “liberated” Iraq. Not only would an occupation require large amounts of money, but it would also thin out American armed forces, taking them away from fronts that seem to be developing constantly. Amid rising tensions with North Korea and the constant threat of terrorist attacks, how would the military be able to operate the way it must if thousands of troops were in Iraq? DAN ROSEN Owings Mills, Md.

The enemy of our enemy is our friend. But if Iraq were defeated, the U.S. would become the enemy of warring Iraqi factions. NGUYEN TU CUNG Baldwin Park, Calif.

Ideals such as capitalism and democracy are not accepted everywhere. We have the ignorant belief that because they are effective for us, they would be welcome everywhere else. These ideals were never–and may never be–universal. We are naive to believe that people with completely different cultures would be quick to embrace a change in government. Why haven’t we learned? JUSTIN LI Ottawa

France Is Not the Enemy

I am horrified to read of the hostile attitudes people are expressing toward the French because France disagrees with Bush’s policy on Iraq [NOTEBOOK, March 10]. Don’t Americans realize that a true friend is not a yes-man who tells you only what you want to hear? A true friend gives an honest opinion. France is this country’s oldest and best friend. ANNE E. BARSCHALL Tarrytown, N.Y.

While I am glad that not all Americans are renouncing Brie and French fries, the mere suggestion that it would be patriotic to do so is enraging. A website like francestinks.com is infantile. The U.S. doesn’t have the right to force its beliefs on others and condemn a country if it doesn’t go along. I spent last summer with a French family whose members weren’t arrogant, snooty or anti-American. Perhaps before spreading their blind hatred, the people who are boycotting French products should do a little more homework. AMY THORSTENSON Minneapolis, Minn.

Sugar-Coated Diplomacy

Joe Klein’s commentary “Why Not Kill Dictators With Kindness?” was right on target [IN THE ARENA, March 10]. If the U.S. had allowed commerce and unrestricted travel to Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam, how long would it have been before the common folk of those countries realized just how bad off they were? The average American is not an “ugly American” but a goodwill ambassador. We should not have placed any restrictions on travel or immigration. To act otherwise helps prop up dictatorial regimes and punish citizens. RON OTTENSON Rossmoor, Calif.

Klein wonders why we don’t kill dictators with kindness. But our cozy diplomatic and economic relations with China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other nations with authoritarian regimes have not resulted in the fall of those governments. It is foolish not to talk with governments even if we do not approve of them, but it is equally foolish to expect our recognition to lead to their fall. RICHARD C. DAVIS Springfield, Va.

Requiem for a Neighbor

James Poniewozik’s tribute to TV’s Fred Rogers was as warm and wonderful as the man himself [ESSAY, March 10]. I can’t recall how old I was the first time I saw Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on PBS, but whenever I’ve seen the show since, it has touched me deeply. Learning of Rogers’ death, I wasn’t just saddened; I was moved to tears! I imagine that I’m not alone. Rogers has gone on to a far better neighborhood, but he is deeply missed in the one he left behind. DEBRA C. TUSSEY South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

It was a stretch for Poniewozik to contrast Mister Rogers’ straightforwardness with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge’s awkward attempts to be reassuring. But Ridge could learn a few lessons from Rogers. Maybe we could get Ridge to wear a cardigan sweater in the security-alert color of the day. JIM HOFFMANN Swansea, Ill.

Cold, Hard Cash

Why can’t we cure the common cold [HEALTH, March 10]? It’s simple. Look in any drugstore, and you will see myriad products aimed at alleviating the many kinds of cold symptoms. Find a way to kill the rhinovirus, and you kill the profits of the pharmaceutical companies. We will undoubtedly be sneezing for hundreds of years yet. And the drug barons will see to it that no cure will ever appear on the horizon. Kerchoo! JOHN CHARLTON Ottawa

Redesigning Ground Zero

Daniel Libeskind’s winning plan for rebuilding the World Trade Center site is indeed beautiful, impressive, dynamic and a fitting tribute to those who died Sept. 11 [ARCHITECTURE, March 10]. Unfortunately, the minute the 70-story office structure and spire and other new towering buildings are completed, we might as well paint a huge target on their sides because they are sure to be an objective for any ambitious terrorist. Does anyone really think that companies and workers would be naive or dumb enough to work in one of these buildings? I hope that sober minds prevail and New Yorkers build a simple, humble low-rise memorial at ground zero. DOUG LAIDLAW JR. Fremont, Calif.

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