No Failure in US Policy Toward Rwanda

According to the author of the opinion-page article ``US Might Have Avoided Rwanda Tragedy,'' Aug. 9, the ``hundreds of thousands [of Rwandans] that died while the US dithered'' could have been saved by some sort of vigorous United States action, or by US support of United Nations peacekeepers. This is a very naive view of both military operations and world politics.

The author seems to believe that a few thousand peacekeepers could have made a difference during the complete disintegration of order in Rwanda, when 500,000 people were slaughtered by 100,000 of their countrymen. A credible effort to stop that sort of chaos would have required a full-scale invasion and the imposition of martial law. Neither the US nor the UN was inclined to undertake such a foolish operation, and with good reason.

Contrary to the author's assessment, the American people understood that there was little we could do while violence raged in Rwanda. Now that the situation has stabilized, the US is undertaking an unprecedented airlift operation to provide relief to the refugees in Rwanda and Zaire. I find no appalling policy failure, but the sensible restraint of an administration that understands the limits of peacekeeping and realizes the folly of sending troops into the center of a civil war. E.B. Adder, Goodfellow AFB, Texas

Older artists' work alive with ability

It was heartwarming to read the article ``Vital Works Refute Ageism in Art,'' Aug. 9. As a locally recognized artist, 70 years old, I received more spontaneous recognition in my youth.

After recently participating in hosting Japanese guests on a goodwill mission, it is apparent that the Japanese hold much respect for age. They freely ask their host's age and admire the abilities that come with maturity. We in the United States tend to hide our age and pretend to be younger, which gives us a false sense of quality and even a feeling of insecurity.

The mature artist does have to break a cultural stereotype of being retired and lacking in energy, and being pushed to the recesses of the past. Many older artists actually show unusual vitality and innovation in their work. Charlotte Whitney, Olivet, Mich.

Cooperation key to flood control

The article ``Major Changes in Flood Control Advanced in Key Federal Study,'' July 21, was of special interest to me. I commend the author and could not agree more.

Despite your report, the United States Corps of Engineers and other departments continue to suggest large, expensive projects that perpetuate their own departments. The only flood control they understand in California is to build a concrete flume from the mountains to the sea, instead of respecting valley flood plains and building small diversion and retaining structures in our mountains to save valuable water.

To change the philosophy of water removal will entail changing the way federal, state, county, and city governments do business, not only involving the departments listed, but the fire agencies as well. There is a great deal of animosity between and within some of these agencies. Also, they seem to reject change as a threat and are not willing to work with private owners. Jack Widmeyer, San Bernadino, Calif.

Environmental superstition

The article ``An Environmental Test Case,'' July 26, which reviews Stone Container's Costa Rican chip mill project, gives a nice profile of the burden of superstition that a forest-products manufacturer must overcome in undertaking a project clearly in the public interest.

One must read this piece very carefully to understand that this project results in absolutely no clearing of rain forest, but actual recovery of agricultural land for forestry (which means, over the course of a rotation, building topsoil). The article invites the inference that a gmelina plantation is a sterile waste with no habitat value; in fact, once the forest crown opens, it invites a vigorous native understory. We are left with the allegation that ``noise and pollution will disturb the wildlife'' and must ask, what quantifiable impact data will ever satisfy an environmental organization? Neil Ward, Washington

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