Don't Send Troops - Invest and Educate

Regarding "End of a Nation? Why Albania Fell Apart," (March 7), there are a number of lessons from the chaos that has overcome the Balkans during the past six years.

First, when a national economy turns sour, resulting in large-scale poverty, people direct their frustration toward their leaders. They in turn find a convenient scapegoat: former communists, other ethnic groups, Western interference, or a "pyramid" scheme - solving nothing but provoking further hatred. Democracy can't flourish where the majority are impoverished.

Second, as the Ottoman Turks, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Hitler learned, increased involvement by foreign nations will mean that they are even less able to extricate themselves - like drowning in quicksand. Wasting billions on troops to keep the peace on paper postpones the evolution of society into a new democracy. Our money would be better spent through careful investment and education in the region.

Michael Pravica

Cambridge, Mass.

The Serbian-American Alliance of New England (SANE) Inc.

Weapons treaty costs debated

In the opinion-page essay "A Bad Chemical Arms Pact" (March 18), Sen. Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona implies it's a stretch for Chemical Weapons Convention supporters to argue that the United States would be aligned with Iraq and North Korea if we fail to ratify the treaty. But it is Senator Kyl who stretches facts beyond reality.

That the treaty will cost the US $250 million to administer is a roughly ten-fold exaggeration. Estimates for small-business costs for related paperwork are likewise inflated - up to $20,000 per company to do little more than check boxes on a simple two-page form.

A claim that the military would be lulled to spend less on chemical defenses also does not square with facts. Congress appropriated $396 million in fiscal 1994; the Pentagon plans to spend $669 million in fiscal 2003 for chemical and biological defense programs.

Finally, that the US would be forced to trade in chemicals with rogue nation members is based on a bizarre reading of the treaty. In fact, the treaty explicitly prohibits any activity inconsistent with its purpose: to outlaw and banish poison gas from the earth.

John D. Holum



US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency

Untenable US tactics in UN

It seems strange that the opinion-page article "Don't Dilute the UN's Council" (March 17) fails to suggest any remedy for the anachronistic veto power enjoyed by certain privileged members of the United Nations.

This power, which we deplored when it was overused by the USSR, has made the US look foolish for many years when used in support of Israeli actions, often against the unanimous vote of the rest of the Security Council. This effectively gives Israel permanent veto power, which may help to explain why it has not been accepted by any regional group.

If there must be a veto power, it should be available only to members in good standing, not to a country far behind in dues payments. Instead of working within the UN for reform, we criticize from a position of lapsed membership, withholding what we owe until our demands are fulfilled. Ignoring this, the author comments on UN Ambassador Bill Richardson's task of keeping the Council "in fighting trim" and the US team's need "to keep a watchful eye."

Instead of supporting or condoning every action by Israel, the US needs to act responsibly in view of its commitment to Middle East peace. When we veto criticism of Israel's unilateral acts, we make the naive excuse that the two sides should settle disputes without outside help, forgetting that one side has all the power and sees no need to negotiate. If Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu were really opposed to violence, he would replace provocative words and deeds by reconciliation and compassion.

Peter Yff

Muncie, Ind.

Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed (200 words maximum) to oped@csps.com

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