Your Sept. 3 article comparing postwar Germany and Iraq ("What lessons postwar Germany holds for Iraq") presents us with the latest excuse of the neoconservatives for their error in attacking Iraq preemptively.
The differences between the two postwar situations are many and huge: (1) Germany shared a Western culture with its conquerors and was relatively at the same stage of development. (2) The conquerors were united, powerful, and cooperative. (3) Germany shared a history of Christianity with its conquerors. (4) Though ruined by the deprivations of wartime, Germany was better off because its infrastructure had not been badly damaged prior to the war's beginning, and sanctions had not ruined the health of half of its younger generation, thus avoiding the kind of enmity that endures in Iraq. These differences are important and should not be glossed over cavalierly.
Temple City, Calif.
The US commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons ("Snap inspections of Iran," Aug 29, Editorial) is about to be tested once again. The Senate will soon debate funding for the development of modified nuclear weapons. The goal is to make nuclear weapons that are more "usable," which makes it easier to end the taboo of the past half-century against initiating the use of such weapons. The proposed programs would not only waste millions of tax dollars, but also motivate other countries to go nuclear and so increase the danger for us all.
Regarding the Aug. 25 Opinion piece by Sheila R. Zedlewski and Pamela Loprest on the recently released Urban Institute study on welfare reform ("Welfare reform: one size doesn't fit all"): I am incredulous that anyone can look at welfare reform since its inception in 1996 and see anything other than a resounding success. The evidence is overwhelming. Welfare caseloads have fallen nearly 60 percent, with the majority of former recipients currently working. Also, the earnings of single parents are up. And, not coincidentally, child poverty has dropped dramatically. Moreover, welfare reform has proved to be relatively recession-proof. Even as unemployment began to rise in 1999, welfare caseloads dropped from 2.5 million then to just more than 2 million earlier this year.
I do agree that the percentage of the welfare caseload engaged in meaningful activities leading to self-sufficiency is going down. That's because of a quirk in the 1996 law, under which the current work-participation rate for states is effectively zero. The challenge, then, is not to maintain the status quo, but to help states lift even more families out of poverty by setting a more challenging work standard and emphasizing full-time - not just part-time - work. Given the improving economy, now would be an excellent time to do just that.
Wade F. Horn
Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services
Bravo to John Gould for his Aug. 22 essay "How TV spoils baseball with inane commentators" - my sentiments precisely. Long before TV, I was an avid baseball fan. Seeing live action on TV is great, but I enjoyed the game more on the radio because of the silence between plays when I could think or perchance speculate on the team's strategy. Now my finger is on the mute button not only during the noisy commercials, but also during the incessant chatter of the commentators. One wonders why they fear the silence.
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