Magazine

A Fragile World--and America Is Partly to Blame


In "A fragile world" (Special Report, Feb. 11), you seem to share the general American view that "Europe is drifting into strategic irrelevance." Well, that all depends what Americans really want for their future. If Americans want a long and continuous war with no security, then surely Europe is completely irrelevant and will be glad to be so. If, however, Americans want a long and prosperous peace with genuine security, then Europe is vital.

An American ex-diplomat remarked: "Europe is no longer an important factor in world security." What nonsense. True security is the knowledge that you are not under threat. A false sense of security is provided by having a handgun next to your bed--with which you can accidentally kill your spouse.

John Kitchen

Barton Seagrave, England

To my mind, a fitting tribute to the thousands who died tragically and senselessly on September 11 would be a gentler and more compassionate America. Instead, we are seeing an Administration committed to belligerence, intolerance, and isolationism.

Why not spend half the trillion-dollar defense budget on alleviating the entrenched poverty and other ills in the same countries where you are spending billions propping up corrupt and hated regimes? That way, you get to spend a lot less on building up a massive defense infrastructure.

People who are generally happy and contented do not go out and commit acts of terrorism.

Eddie Russell

Double Bay, Australia

It is frightening to read that the U.S. is pushing Russia around ("What is Moscow's new role?" Special Report, Feb. 11). Sure, America is financially and militarily superior to Russia at this point. While I support democracy and capitalism over a return to hard-line communism, there are other forces at work in Russia. You would not want extremists to gain the upper hand over the Vladimir V. Putin regime.

It's time the Americans treated Russia as an equal partner--or at least a respected one. Russia could rise again and challenge world stability.

Why should America provoke another Cold War?

Alex Chia

Bangkok

In "What kind of superpower?" (Special Report, A fragile world, Feb. 11), the "Bush Doctrine" of "helping weaker countries fend off terrorism" doesn't sound so very different from "helping weaker countries fend off communism." This isn't progress. It's more of the same. What "weaker" countries need are some good examples of how democracy, negotiation, and international cooperation can make them stronger, not yet another example of how bomb tonnage can be used as a false metric for progress or victory.

Paul DeGroot

Medina, Wash. Instead of promoting an inclusive society, the German government keeps excluding certain parts of society ("Germany: Giving middle-aged workers the boot," European Business, Feb. 11, European Edition). Witness the still-lingering terms "Wessie" and "Ossie." The German government thinks foreigners are to blame when they fail to integrate into German society.

The result is that Germany rates among the lowest on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, that it just got warned it was quickly approaching the 3% euro-deficit limit, and it has the lowest European Union economic growth. Germany is collapsing, and the government is just sticking its head into the sand.

Christian Gross

Zurich

Do Germany's leaders, themselves in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s, really have the intellectual faculties and the empathy to understand the disastrous long-term impact of millions of citizens being virtually excluded from society and from a normal, decent life? The often-heard, "in Germany, nobody has to die of hunger," is pretty cold comfort: Even inmates of prisons get meals, have warm accommodations, and in most cases have a chance to work.

Winrich Neumann

Waldshut-Tiengen, Germany It is ironic that you ran "Banks under a cloud" (International Finance, Jan. 28), about the corrupt top Chinese bank official, in the same issue that also featured the special report "The Enron Scandal." Enron officials were groomed in the Western-style system of audits and government surveillance, were corrupt and deceptive for umpteen years, and used certain tactics (special-purpose entities, etc.) that had been sanctioned by the governing body of the industry as well as oversight committees in Congress. I see Enron as the royal flush but the Chinese bank officials as a three-of-kind at best.

Keng Loong Yap

Calhoun, Ga.

Why are we blaming Enron Corp.'s top brass ("Enron Watch," Feb. 11)? They have acted in full accordance with the capitalistic teaching: Maximize your profits. Who should be [held responsible]? Blame the Securities & Exchange Commission, government, and Congress--those who are paid by us citizens to watch our interests and prevent us from being robbed.

Amos Shvueli

Haifa, Israel Japan needs to reinflate its economy, and a cheaper yen seems to be about the only way to do this now ("Inflation: The cure for Japan's woes," Readers Report, Feb. 4--which was a response to "Weakening the yen won't make Japan strong," International Business, Dec. 31). Using purchasing-power parity and the relative conditions of the U.S. and Japanese economies and equity markets, it is possible to justify an exchange rate something more like 150-160 yen to the U.S. dollar.

Charles Jannuzi

Fukui-shi, Japan

Most Japanese welcome the present deflation: We can buy more than we could a few years ago. At the moment, Japanese would stop buying if intentional inflation started to rise, since we have already enough goods to survive.

Katsundo Hitomi

Kyoto That BusinessWeek is well ahead of the pack is nothing new. Your story about Guy Wyser-Pratte ("A U.S. raider's `iron fist in a velvet glove,"' European Business, Feb. 4, European Edition) shows just how far ahead. His name was almost unknown in Austria until four days before your cover date-- which was when Wyser-Pratte emerged as an investor in Austrian Airlines, with a 5% stake. With Wyser-Pratte focusing attention on Austrian investment values, other deals are sure to follow.

George W. Hamilton

Vienna


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