John Rossant comments on Jacques Chirac's position in "The shape of the alliance to come" ("America and the world," Cover Story, Apr. 21). For us Belgians and French who in the past century have had war and occupation forces within our borders, trying to stop a war is never a "futile" effort. Also, the parallel between non-U.N.-approved European interventions in Africa and the war in Iraq is quite misleading: We went to Africa to protect the lives of our people caught in the middle of domestic conflicts. I do not recall recent military operations in Africa to remove a despotic regime.
Lasne, Belgium Brian Grow's "Licenses to kill" (Information Technology, Apr. 21), about fake IDs, offers a solution: a national ID card. This would be excellent news for all document forgers, since they would be able to focus their energy on this single form of identification, while everyone else will be much more comfortable that it must be valid, since it will be "forge-proof." Everyone will be happy!
Montmollin, Switzerland In "Suddenly, the BBC is a world beater" (American News, Apr. 28), I see the typical "America-is-the-world" condescension. You have finally discovered what the rest of the world has known for decades -- that the BBC has generally offered thoughtful, balanced, and, yes, stodgy (that is, having weight and content) reporting. They have had to contend with the flash of U.S. media on the Internet, via satellite, etc., but thank God for their existence. I am also a little weary of a wannabe "benign empire" of 250 million-plus that has increasingly failed to dignify the rest of the world population (6 billion-plus). I hope the U.S. will also take some history lessons from the British, as the sun rose and finally set on their glorious empire, as it did on the Romans, the Greeks, the Persians, the Medes, etc.
St. Augustine, Trinidad
The youngsters who wrote this article forgot to mention that for my generation, from "old" and occupied Europe, the BBC was, during World War II, our only access to freedom. The opening of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony attracted millions of Europeans to the BBC's well-balanced broadcasts. The present-day propaganda diatribes of CNN and Fox against Europe and everybody else on earth are all the more despicable.
Maurice Hendrik Bood
Paris Although I have not yet had the opportunity to read Robert Kagan's Of Paradise and Power, I was intrigued by John Rossant's critique ("Continental drift," Books, Apr. 21). The whole tenor suggested that there is a portfolio of coherent European policies the U.S. can deal with. Unfortunately, Europe's strength is its cultural and economic diversity, not its uniformity. Almost by definition, any European-wide policy will be that of the lowest common denominator. The U.S. would be better served by bilateral arrangements, as would the independent nations that make up the geographic area of Europe.
Kenneth J. Lyall
Edinburgh The outbreak shows the cost of denial ("SARS may force change on China," Editorials, Apr. 21). After the failure of quarantine efforts in Hong Kong two weeks ago, authorities think Hong Kong will have to live with a SARS epidemic until herd immunity is achieved (over 70% immunity through vaccine or exposure). Meanwhile, Canada's voluntary quarantines don't appear to be particularly effective. If Canadian SARS becomes an epidemic, it seems likely that the U.S. will be contaminated unless the U.S.-Canadian border is closed. If SARS infects India or Africa, it will explode into a pandemic. Today, the fatality rate is about 3.5%, but if sufferers don't have access to a respirator or hospital care, that figure might double.
We should also improve the nexus between medicine and security -- or our attempts at epidemiological disease control will continue to be ineffective.
St. Louis Park, Minn.