US Military Should Target National Defense

The Opinion page article ``US Needs a Bold New Vision on Defense,'' Sept. 28, clearly articulates a vision for the post-cold-war American military.

The author succinctly outlines his idea of the fundamental purpose of this nation's military: ``Instead of drilling its soldiers to refight past wars, the US military needs to retrain them for an era of still-precarious peace, to perform the highly specialized work of monitoring cease-fires and arms agreements, providing relief supplies for human and natural disasters, assisting in environmental cleanup, and mediating conflicts before they erupt into violence....''

Civilian authority should always define what purpose the military is expected to serve in the context of national strategy. There is no doubt about what the author expects of this military; but unfortunately none of those missions serves national defense. Perhaps some of the missions might be adequately served by the future legions availing themselves to the president's national service initiative.

The US does not maintain sole superpower status because of its lofty democratic principles and humanitarian largess. Our status is due to our political and economic relevance. This stems in great part from our ability to project military power rapidly to any corner of the world where our national interests are threatened. Any lapse of this relevance, actual or perceived, will result in inevitable challenges to our status.

My expectations for today's military are to fight and win our nation's wars. The economic, political, and budgetary realities are that we may only be able to do this at a vastly reduced level; but when our national interests or security is threatened, we need to be trained, maintained, and ready to win. David Redding, Woodbridge, Va. Informal education works

Regarding the editorial ``Early Learning Power,'' Sept. 19: The Monitor's concerns for three- to five-year-olds are justified but are based on questionable premises. Foremost is the idea, currently fashionable in educational circles, that more education is better. Why should it take longer now to learn basic skills than it did in the 1950s and 1960s when my generation was growing up?

From observations of our highly regarded local schools and direct experience in teaching our own children when the schools could or would not, my wife and I have concluded that the ``formal programs'' of education today - with their crazy quilt of experimentation and rigid lesson plans - are holding back and turning off children.

More and more couples I know are finding ways of adjusting work schedules and ambitions to be at home with their children as much as possible. Let's not sell our children or ourselves short. Anthony R. Schmitt, Springfield, Va. After health care: the law?

In reference to the editorial ``A Template for Reform,'' Sept. 24: It is true that there is too much paperwork with the present system, but it is simplistic to think that replacing workers in private insurance companies with governmental workers will reduce paperwork. One has only to look at the IRS to see how monopolistic bureaucracies build mountains of paperwork.

Although Americans spend proportionally more of their GDP on health care than do citizens of other countries, it must also be recognized that we spend more on lawyers and the tort system than do other countries. The two lawyers running the White House will not be credible until they advocate caps on legal costs, as they are now advocating for the health-care system. Martin Johnson, Indianapolis Real heroes

The article ``Basketball Legend Michael Jordan Quits and Chicago Weeps,'' Oct. 7, makes me wonder if we need to straighten out our perspective of whom we ``worship.''

Few people would ``trash'' Mr. Jordan. He's a great basketball player.

There are thousands of millionaires in sports, TV, radio, movies, and rock groups who are ``worshiped'' today; but thousands of engineers, architects, teachers, and scientists are not millionaires and contribute much more to society with much less recognition. Charles J. Durway, Costa Mesa, Calif.

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