Community defense against drugs

Rushworth M. Kidder states his thesis well in the column ``A strong community is the best defense against drugs,'' Oct. 17. I take issue, however, with his reasoning. Why is the prep school student a ``tattletale'' for turning in a drug user who has violated a known rule, the law, and probably a pledge to abstain from using drugs, while an adult who runs down a purse snatcher is a hero?

The strength of the community should lie in its full embrace of and adherence to clearly defined standards and its unwillingness to tolerate abuses of those standards. Rather than fostering ``big brotherism'' and a system of ``us'' versus ``the authorities,'' ``they'' become ``we,'' and the authorities truly reflect the community values and standards.

When this happens, the ``big brother'' can take a role as a true brother. Instead of looking for ways to avoid accountability, the offender knows he has to accept the consequences for his decisions. Then the ``brother'' can provide support so the offender can get on with a nobler approach to living.

I had the privilege of living for four years within the West Point Honor Code, which states that a cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do. We all believed in the system, understood the value of the standard, and knew that any breach of the standard would result in a recommendation for dismissal from our fellow cadets. It was demanded of us - by us - that violations of the code be reported, else we were as much a violator of the code as the offender.

When does Mr. Kidder suggest that we begin to expect youngsters to take a role in keeping their environment free from drugs or any other kind of illegal activity? The parallel Kidder draws with the East Berliner is inept: There are basic rights - freedom of speech, honor - which, when denied, call for civil disobedience. Drug use in schools hardly fits.

The strong, supportive sense of community is not undermined by expecting all of its citizens to accept the responsibility for saying ``NO'' to offenders and demanding restitution while at the same time loving, supporting, and encouraging that offender to live up to the higher standards of which he is capable. Stephen Overton Petoskey, Mich.

The encouragement of an ``informer'' mentality is one of the worst abuses of the antidrug forces. This is only one of the lamentable byproducts of our society's obsession with eradicating drugs. Terrible brutalities are occurring, lawbreaking in the name of fighting drugs is condoned, and vast public funds are being spent to no avail. Where is common sense, compassion, intelligent thinking? The antidrug forces have a vested interest in the continuation of the ``drug war.'' It boggles the mind that an entire society can back the expenditure of billions of dollars with so little result.

If we are truly interested in crushing the drug trade, it could be done in one fell swoop and at little cost - by legalizing drugs. Legalization would cut the ground out from under the drug dealers; reduce violence; remove the lure of the forbidden from the young; eliminate much of the cost of building more and more prisons; and permit efforts to turn to constructive things.

It would also end the ever-mounting horrors that are being committed today in the name of removing drugs from our society. Daniel Waldron Royal Oak, Mich.

Taking score The article ``For US and insurgents, there are gains and perils in a partnership,'' Oct. 19, is an incomplete scorecard on Reagan's counterinsurgency policy. It details the policy's military successes and purported geopolitical victories but hardly mentions the cost to US relations with the people of these low-intensity battlegrounds.

The wars the United States has been funding are ``low intensity'' only to Americans, not to civilians who suffer through them.

The hard truth is that many citizens of ``Reagan doctrine'' countries increasingly hate the US. A good example is El Salvador, where a religiously inspired awakening has fueled the opposition to overthrow decades of oppressive oligarchic rule. US support for El Salvador's brutal government has only tarnished its image before the people of this small, poor country.

The populations of the Philippines, Angola, Nicaragua, Chile, Honduras, and Iran have similarly cultivated distaste for US arming of the political far right for the sake of cold-war geopolitics.

Were these third-world people to score the Reagan doctrine, the score card would be much different from the one given in the article.

Only through a superpower initiative to reduce global poverty - the underlying cause of these conflicts - can the US hope to redeem itself before the world community. Alexander Counts New York

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