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In "Bracing for war" (Cover Story, Dec. 23), you quote ex-Saudi intelligence chief Turki Al-Faisal saying that the U.S. is behaving like an imperial power, that a war in Iraq now would be a "bloody" disaster, and that we should not forget past horrors (my words) when dominant countries tried to change the world in their own image. You say that Al-Faisal's harsh words represent a huge swath of Arab opinion. Right. They also represent a huge swath of world opinion.
Your subtitle reads: "The U.S. wants to spread democracy throughout the Mideast. Tall order." Isn't this difficulty mostly due to the egocentric, violence-seeking attitude of the Bush Administration? The Mideast desperately needs reform, but so does the U.S. Let's not forget that Al Gore lost the last Presidential election despite having more votes than George W. Bush.
I am just back from a long trip in Asia, where I previously lived for 15 years. In discussions with several business friends from different countries, I have been stunned by the change of opinion toward the U.S. since the Bush Administration took over. Like many Europeans, my friends are convinced that what President George W. Bush wants is not so much to get rid of Saddam Hussein but primarily to steal Iraq's oil. They think that Bush is a much greater danger for the world than Saddam Hussein.
They are also convinced that Iraq will be another Vietnam for America because it is an illusion to believe that such a country can be overtaken without either a massive loss of Iraqi civilians or of American soldiers. I wonder if the Bush Administration policymakers have considered such a scenario?
So the U.S. wants to spread democracy throughout the Mideast--sounds like pretty long odds. Since earliest recorded history, the peoples of the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean areas have held that "the law" comes from God: Moses on Mt. Sinai receives the 10 Commandments from God. Divine revelation in the Koran is the basis of Islamic law, known as Shariah. The duty of mankind is humble obedience to Absolute Authority from above.
In direct contrast, since earliest recorded history in northwest Europe, the home of parliaments and modern democracy, the law derives from the collective will of the people expressed at regional assemblies, today known as parliament or congress. The duty of the king is to carry out the law and will of the people.
It would be hard to find two more differing and opposing beliefs. The Middle East might adopt democratic forms of government, but there will always be an ayatollah, imam, monarch, or president who will declare which laws are acceptable to a theocracy.
Frederic A.C. Lister
I believe the U.S. government is on the right track if it is really going to push for democratization, equality of women, and other positive things in the Middle East. But I strongly object to the suggestion that because of special circumstances in Middle East, certain reforms cannot be made or should be delayed. Only full democracy will eventually cure all the ills in these nations. Half-measures will just delay the solution and create more pain on the way. Reforms similar to the ones made in Turkey are what the Middle East needs.
Istanbul Not only are the U.S. and Latin America physical neighbors but there is also a high level of economic and social integration among the regions' economies ("Why Bush must not lose sight of Latin America," Economic Viewpoint, Dec. 16, and "Time to get over the anti-gringo grudges," International Business, Dec. 23). However, there has not existed a sense of a common destiny. Just the opposite is true: We keep blaming each other for our current problems. Across the Atlantic, an experiment is under way of nations working together: the European Union. In spite of their economic and cultural differences and their political past, most of the 10 future EU members come from Eastern Europe and were ruled by socialist regimes until a decade ago. Their level of development is similar to that of Mexico and some other Latin American countries. I dream that we could possibly build a new American continent based on trust and common goals.