Syrian Troops in Lebanon and the Taif Agreement

The editorial of Nov. 28 ``Grieving Lebanon'' asserts that the Arab states that sponsored the Taif accord ``skirted the issue of Syrian occupation.'' Not true. A whole section of the Taif agreement text is devoted to the issue of Syrian troops in Lebanon. Nowhere in the agreement is their presence called ``occupation.'' Syrian troops entered Lebanon in 1976 by invitation, not invasion, and have stayed there at the request of the Lebanese government and under a mandate from the Arab League.

Unlike Gen. Michel Aoun, Syria has fully backed the Taif accord and has therefore fully recognized Lebanon as a free, independent, and sovereign state. Syria has also accepted the principle of an eventual troop withdrawal from all the Lebanese territory, and a preliminary timetable for the redeployment of Syrian forces to areas closer to the Syrian-Lebanese border.

What is preventing peace from returning to Lebanon is not Syria's ``occupation,'' but the suicidal ghetto mentality of General Aoun and his supporters. Abe Eifadel, Brookline, Mass.

The hypothethical boiling point Robert Cowen, in his commentary ``Take a Second for 1990's New Standards,'' Nov. 28, says that schools are teaching 100 degrees C. as the boiling point of water as ``ineluctable'' truth. He also states that standards of measurement ``are based upon unchanging natural laws.''

In 32 years of teaching chemistry and physics, I have never taught ``100 degrees C. as the boiling point of water'' as an ineluctable truth. The boiling point of water of a certain purity and at a certain atmospheric pressure was set at 100 degrees C. by human definition. Definitions in science are maintained so long as they are fruitful for understanding, predicting, and shaping events.

Mr. Cowen should make clear that ``unchanging laws of nature'' are postulates, articles of faith that give meaning for some to the pursuit of the process of science. He should recognize that so-called ``unchanging laws'' may only be statistical in nature. Furthermore, they may be peculiar to our era in the evolution of the universe.

The roots of talk about the ``unchanging laws of nature'' lie in the most unprogressive sides of Aristotelianism and Judeo-Christian culture. Such talk is hypothetical. Vinson Bronson, Newton Centre, Mass., South High School

Tracking airspace congestion The article ``The Sky Is Filling,'' Nov. 20, proposes new runways as the solution to airport congestion. While some new runways are necessary and are being built, efforts to squeeze more landings and takeoffs into existing airspace have reached a point of diminishing returns.

The real potential for solving airspace congestion is to replace short-haul flights with high-speed trains. A magnetic levitation train between a hub airport and its principal feeder airports will transport passengers to their connecting flights as quickly as a jet, with much greater fuel efficiency, and will free up scarce airspace for long-distance flights. With a stop in the hub city's downtown, the train will attract intercity commuters too, relieving highway congestion.

Now is the time for the United States to invest in magnetic levitation research and development. We can change from a spectator in the high-speed train field to world leader, manufacturing 300-m.p.h. trains to handle our own transportation needs and for export to other countries.

Isn't it better than devoting great chunks of the landscape to new airports and highway expansion? William L. Schlosser, Indianapolis

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