Magazine

America: Self-Assured, Hypocritical, or Naive?


In fitting the facts to their view of the world rather than adjusting their view to the facts ("America & the world," Cover Story, Apr. 21), your writers claim: "[Bush] has been rescued by the military's performance." A couple facts they should be aware of: Bush is the military. Commander-in-Chief is not a title to be taken lightly. And the Bush Administration is the most self-assured Administration in my lifetime. They were never in doubt of the outcome. Changing "rescued" to "vindicated" would have served much better in describing the course of events.

Dan Lombard

Lincoln, Calif.

I read with bemusement the comment that Messrs. Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, and other neoconservatives in the Bush Administration are in favor of remodeling the Middle East by "addressing causes of Arab backwardness -- poverty, corruption, and the suppression of women." I can't think of any instances of these folks ever addressing such issues in the U.S., so why would they want to do it elsewhere?

William Tredwell

Boston

If Kim Jong Il reads the Iraqi tea leaves correctly, Pyongyang will assent to a regional negotiation that trades aid for nonproliferation pledges. Now the truth: Kim's pledges are worthless. Kim and his father learned many years ago that economic resources, including oil, can easily be extorted by capitalizing on the naivete of U.S. diplomats, legislators, and even Presidents. While he claims otherwise, Kim has no need for -- and no interest in -- a nonaggression pact. He holds all the cards already.

Gayle Miller

Colorado Springs In "The postwar stakes for business" ("America & the world," Cover Story, Apr. 21), you mention your concern that tighter visa controls could mean fewer foreign students and workers. The reason for this dilemma is the public costs involved in the equation of the marginal probability of terrorist threats and the marginal gains arising from immigration. A solution would be for the federal government to require universities and companies to absorb the public costs of terrorism by imposing financial liability on them for terrorist acts by their students and workers and by sponsoring an immigration-related-terrorism insurance plan. Tuitions and salaries could be modified to reflect the premiums. Private companies could compare returns from immigration relative to premiums, resulting in a better level of immigration for all. The best and least-risky immigrants would still come here.

I doubt, however, that various lobbies, including universities and technology companies, would support such a market-driven solution.

Mitchell Langbert

West Shokan, N.Y. Bruce Nussbaum's suggestion of expanding the Security Council to include Japan would only add to global instability -- with increased regional tension in Asia ("Building a new multilateral world," Commentary, "America & the world," Cover Story, Apr. 21). Most East Asian countries that had experienced Japan's brutality during and before World War II, including China, Korea (then a single country), Indonesia, etc., still have lingering bitterness and high anxiety about Japan's regional ambitions. Japan is not ready to take on international responsibility. Unlike Germany, it has never fully apologized for its aggression toward Asian countries and has never officially acknowledged that it even invaded other countries.

Minjae Sheen

Seoul

Looking at the photograph accompanying Nussbaum's commentary, one reason is immediately obvious why discussions on world problems and issues at the U.N. are forever bogging down. Who could make sensitive and rational decisions regarding the state of the world in this historic but unhappily outdated environment?

As a schoolboy, I visited the new U.N. headquarters in Manhattan. Fifty years ago, the glass envelope, as well as the interiors, were state of the art. No longer! Consider the Security Council chamber: dark colors, old brocade, a vast and faintly ridiculous mural, echoing Works Progress Administration and Socialist Realist themes and execution. Not a sign of interactive technology at the delegates' desks, with their leather blotter holders. U.N. furniture designers are fetching "top euro" at a number of Paris specialist galleries today. Hold an auction, and use the proceeds to sponsor an international competition for the brightening and refurbishment of the Security Council quarters and the U.N.'s other chambers.

David B. Stewart

Professor of Architectural History

Tokyo Institute of Technology

Tokyo John Rossant pictures the end of the Iraq war as a golden opportunity to reach a permanent peace settlement between Israelis and Arabs, mentioning that the end of the first Gulf War led to the groundbreaking Madrid Conference in 1991 ("The shape of the alliance to come," Commentary, "America & the world," Cover Story, Apr. 21). The supposed success of the Madrid Conference is reminiscent of our mistaken support of Iraq's war against Iran, which was rewarded by the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. Similarly, our rush to appease our Gulf War allies in 1991 led to Yassir Arafat's being permitted into Israel, establishing a military presence, and conducting a continuing intifada designed to destroy Israel. We supported one terrorist regime in Iraq, to our detriment. Do we want to support a similar one with Arafat and the Palestinian Authority? I should hope not.

Nelson Marans

Silver Spring, Md.


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