Letters

Rational Armed Forces Already a Reality

I was disappointed to read the opinion-page article "A More Rational Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines," (July 31). Author Noam Scheiber provided an insufficient analysis of the current conduct of joint military operations, highlighting the range of misperceptions held by policy analysts.

First, the author maintains that each service is headed by its own cabinet-level official. The Department of Defense is indeed headed by a single cabinet-level appointee, however, the three secretaries are not cabinet appointees, but presidential appointees.

Second, the author endorses "a functional scheme which would replace diffuse capabilities with a single entity responsible for air operations." This entity has existed since before 1990, and was responsible for the highly successful conduct of air operations in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, and every notable US joint air operation since. It is known as the Joint Force Air Component Commander. The position is here to stay and is endorsed by various levels of the military.

Third, the author refers repeatedly to functional reorganization, commenting that the military's nuclear mission is one sorely in need of such reorganization. This organization has already existed since 1992, however, when US Strategic Command assumed control of all operation nuclear forces.

Overall, the Unified Commanders already report directly to the Secretary of Defense and the president. The "organization by function" for which the author searches is, in fact, already in place, and shows every sign of a continuing vibrant existence.

Geoffrey T. Pack

Springfield, Va.

The language of debate

In the article "An Author's Midlife Search for Self and Nation" (July 9) the author discusses the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami's relation to Japan's alleged search for identity. He describes Japan's debate about its unique principle of quasi-pacifism under Article 9 of its constitution. Since the Gulf War, the author writes, pacifists in support of the article have "no articulate spokesman" while the "realists" who would abandon pacifism "are more articulate but lack popular support."

As an observer of that debate, I believe it would be more accurate to say that the realist position is more often and more effectively articulated in English. And the vast literature defending quasi-pacifism - which better explains the strong support for Article 9 - is almost entirely written in Japanese.

Only rarely do the mass of American intellectuals and the media demonstrate any familiarity with Japan's rich and significant public conversation about national security in the post-cold war era. Much of Japan's experience and democratic debate illustrate that quasi-pacifism may be a major contribution to world dialogue on constitutionalism. Unfortunately, there are few people in the US with substantial knowledge of Japan's constitutional politics. And, unfortunately, the bonds of the heavily America-centered international debate are rarely broken.

Lawrence W. Beer

Boulder, Colo.

Jazz forebears deserve recognition

J.J. Johnson deserves all the accolades he gets, including those of the author of "J.J. Johnson, Mr. Jazz Trombone" (August 1). Mr. Johnson, however, would undoubtedly be among the first to take issue with the author's claim that "until Mr. Johnson began performing in the '40s, the trombone was chiefly a limited tool in big band brass arsenals, or used in Dixieland ensembles." Well, before Johnson made his debut, Jimmy Harrison, Jack Teagarden, Dickie Wells, and Trummy Young (among others) were virtuoso trombone improvisers of great subtlety and invention. None had "a limited tonal vocabulary mimicking vocal effects." All were major jazz figures. Mr. Johnson acknowledges their influence. The author either has not heard their work or does not understand its importance.

Doug Ramsey

Yakima,Wash.

Letters for publication must be signed and should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed (200 words maximum) to oped@ csps.com.

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