The Financial Burden of Joining NATO

In their rush for "acceptance in the broad Western family after years of seclusion in the East," many Eastern European nations may not be fully considering the consequences of joining NATO ["Going to War over Warsaw," July 3]. NATO membership implies the overhauling of entire armies to NATO standards, which will cost new member countries billions of dollars.

At a time when so many Eastern European countries are in poor economic health, the extra financial burden will do little to stabilize these teetering nations. Neither will the risk of provoking and alienating Russia help to bring calm.

Michael Pravica

Cambridge, Mass.

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

Defense readiness

The opinion-page column "Testing the Defense Secretary's Mettle" (July 1) could ask more important questions than "Does Mr. Cohen still like his job?" The Clinton administration has committed America's armed forces to nearly 200 peacekeeping missions, each of which has kept the committed units from training to perform the tasks for which they were organized.

For example, an armored unit is made up of subunits - squads, platoons, troops, and squadrons - that need to exercise together to be effective. When the unit deploys to Bosnia and leaves its vehicles behind, normal personnel reassignments mean that as time goes on the unit contains an ever higher proportion of people who have never even seen those vehicles, let alone trained with them and learned their foibles.

The remaining members of the subunits see their skills and ability to function as a team atrophy. They know that their complex vehicles are not getting the kind of care and exercise only they can give them. They also know that they should have less confidence as time goes by in the abilities of the larger organization of which they are a part.

During Desert Storm, the active Army contained about 18 divisions; today there are only 10. In view of the administration's taste for committing the units we do have, perhaps we should be asking if we really have even 10 divisions that are combat ready.

William G. Dennis

Kelso, Wash.

Welfare's failure and coercion

I was distressed to read your editorial "The Wellstone Doctrine" (June 19) lauding Sen. Paul Wellstone (D) of Minnesota. The editorial writer obviously ascribes to Mr. Wellstone's belief that the welfare reform bill does not "do enough to protect the young and poor," since the final paragraph states that Wellstone "should not remain alone."

The welfare "system" of the past 40 years, which has transferred over $5 trillion of working people's children's college education savings and their own retirement savings to the nonproductive sector of the economy, simply has not worked. Poverty as a percentage of the population hasn't decreased. Out-of-wedlock births have increased, the number of fatherless families have gone up, and drug use and violent crime have risen. The world is moving away from redistributive socialism; the Monitor should catch up with the rest of the world.

The parable of the good Samaritan is the epitome of Christian charity. The Samaritan did not chase down the Levite and hold a gun to his head to provide his half of the upkeep for the crime victim, which is what the federal government does to elicit welfare payments from taxpayers. The Samaritan did not tell the innkeeper to continue to house the victim for the remainder of his natural life at the Samaritan's expense.

If the writer and Wellstone feel that the welfare reform bill is insufficiently generous, they can do what anyone else can do - that is, give all of their own money to private charity or include an extra $1 million of their own money in their tax payment. To coerce society as a whole to support Wellstone's own charitable impulses is theft.

Sandra Orr


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