Letters to the editor
Readers write on the relationship between the British and Americans, how the Chinese see Obama, and Iran.
In regard to the Oct. 18 opinion piece, "The ally the British love to hate;" I am a fan of the columns written by Walter Rodgers. Yet I am troubled by this column with its tone of negativity leveled toward the British.
Yes, on occasion I have found myself offended by some of my contacts with the Brits, but I have also experienced their extraordinary hospitality.
Though we share a common language, we have a distinct national culture, and both of us, no doubt, can learn to better appreciate each other's heritage. Both of our nations face daunting challenges in this 21st century, and now is the time for forbearance in our comments about each other.
The Britain Mr. Rodgers portrays is one I simply do not recognize – in spite of having lived here for the best part of a century (and my ancestors before me) in London, the countryside, and in a provincial city. It would appear that Rodgers had singularly unfortunate experiences during his time here, which can only be regrettable.
The Guardian newspaper, of course, has a defined outlook; but there are other national newspapers, which would also claim to be highbrow, that take an opposite stance. Also, I can assure Rodgers that for every thoughtless teenage boy there were millions of adults who were horrified and deeply grieved by the 9/11 atrocity.
And I believe most people would deplore a physical assault on anyone, especially a guest; but in Rodgers's case the attacker was clearly unbalanced.
It is true that we sometimes laugh at the Americans but we also laugh at ourselves, at the French especially, and at other assorted nationalities; it is something we do, not necessarily with malicious intent.
What is equally true is that freedom of speech in Britain has been so severely curtailed as a result of unlimited immigration and the fear of causing offense that it is unwise to speak out even against terrorists lest one breaks the law.
There is much to be deplored in modern Britain. I should like to apologize to Rodgers on behalf of my countrymen who have let the side down. I can only hope that if he ever returns to these islands, he will have happier encounters. He is welcome to join me for a cup of tea.
Bottisham, Cambridge, England
British attitudes toward the US are often shaped – for better or worse – by political decisions. Tony Blair's decision to follow George W. Bush into Iraq did foster anti-Americanism in the UK after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Today, however, President Obama is hugely popular throughout Britain. The crowds who gather to salute Mr. Obama when he visits London are vivid testimony to that fact.
How the Chinese see Obama
Regarding Mark Eades' Oct. 26 opinion essay "The key to Obama's success in China: young people"; It's important to note that under President Bush, the US and China were able to rebuild a relationship which had been severely damaged by the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 and which had only muddled through during the Clinton years.
To many Chinese, Obama remains an untested quantity. To the extent that Obama's policies can be discerned, some Chinese are wary that they are being asked to underwrite Obama's utopian socialized healthcare.
They are further concerned that Obama's high tax, antigrowth agenda is hampering an economic recovery here.
This will impair China's own export-driven economy and in the long run threatens the safety of its massive holding of Treasury debt.
New York, N.Y.
Iran could be a better neighbor
Regarding Geneive Abdo's opinion essay, "Israel expects negotiations with Iran to fail;" I was left baffled by her claim that "Tehran believes it needs nuclear power to protect itself from a hostile neighborhood."
In reality, it is not Iran that needs to fear its neighborhood but its neighborhood that needs to fear Iran.
For instance, Iran funds the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas, and has promised to destroy Israel. Iran also funds many of the terrorists in Iraq that are killing Iraqis and disrupting the future of Iraq. In contrast, the last time anyone attacked Iran was in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.
Iran enjoys portraying itself as a victim of hostile forces, such as when it levied false claims of tampering against the US and Britain during the recent tainted Iranian election. The reality is that Iran's attempts at regional hegemony show that Iran is the true hostile neighbor of the Middle East.