Letters to the Editor

Readers write about negotiating with terrorists and taxing college endowments.

Diplomacy and force are both necessary tools

Regarding your May 23 editorial, "A worthy Obama-McCain clash": The editorial rightly pushes John McCain and Barack Obama to refine their positions on talking to leaders deemed "rogue." It also rightly points out the value of talking to one's enemies (witness Israel and Syria) and the hazards of doing so unwisely. But it notably neglects to address the costs of failing to engage such leaders in favor of relying on military means.

We should recall the staggering price we are still paying for our Iraq war of choice, which was founded on a wildly exaggerated faith in the efficacy of physical force. In this case, that price clearly dwarfed the undeniable risks and costs of diplomacy. We lose our sense of proportion when we focus only on those risks and costs.

Courage takes many forms. Acting tough per se is no proof of achieving security. True, realism requires us to be ready and willing to act forcefully. But it also supports giving restraint and communication more play.

Lance Matteson
Kingston, N.Y.

Regarding your recent editorial on Barack Obama's and John McCain's diplomacy policies: It is refreshing that two probable candidates for the presidency have a clear-cut difference on a topic that puts the electorate in a position to make a decision between two contestants. Now, it is up to the media to present, completely and without bias, the two views so that those in the voting public that consider foreign policy a key element in the election can draw their own conclusions.

Unfortunately, many newspapers and news magazines have shown partiality during the primaries, slanting the voting process. Hopefully this will not be the case in the general election, with the news stories written without favoritism, leaving this to the editorials.

Nelson Marans
Silver Spring, Md.

In response to your recent editorial on negotiation with terrorists or terror-backing states: Referring to Senator Obama's gaffe about talking to belligerent dictators as "a full-throated policy dispute" elevates a lame argument that only displays the candidate's naiveté to a position of diplomatic equivalence.

Howard Lohmuller
Seabrook, Texas

Leave college endowments untaxed

In response to the May 19 article, "Should huge college endowments pay tax?": Existing endowment money over $1 billion would be reduced to less than 50 percent of present value in less than 30 years if taxed at 2.5 percent. With inflation, every endowment could face this 2.5 percent tax in the future. Any spending that reduced the endowment's growth to less than 2.5 percent would reduce the overall endowment.

The tax would transfer money from successful institutions to the government. This penalizes successful institutions with large endowments. Would the government spend this money to enhance education? The institutions are successful because they have done it right for years. The government is broke because it hasn't done it right for years.

A tax on revenues generated from investments and interest (leaving contributions untaxed) would leave the endowment able to grow without immediately being taxed 2.5 percent of their total wealth and it could help encourage the endowment to find ways to spend more to avoid taxes.

Can the endowment transfer money to other foundations or simply split into multiple endowments?

Bob Hirsch
Tustin, Calif.

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