'Civilianizing' the Military: Pros and Cons

Your article, "From Burger King to TQM, Civilian Life Seeps into the Military" (Jan. 2), gives one plenty to think about: I see both positive and negative elements of "civilianizing" the military.

For a long time I have had strong negative feelings about the military's setting itself apart from civilian life. In the past, soldiers were expected to fight for all the freedoms and privileges of America, while eschewing most of them. This hardly seems fair, and could have proven dangerous. A soldier cut off from his society has no reason to fight for it. For this reason, armed forces should be applauded for their more integrated approach to military lifestyle.

However, there is a downside. It's exemplified in the fact that the new fitness center at Fort Johnson is "fee charging." To a soldier, maintaining a high level of fitness can be a matter of life or death. I find it revolting to charge armed-forces personnel for access to fitness equipment. Next, will we start charging them for the guns they use?

Jeremy Hotalen

Philmont, N.Y.

Ending Microsoft's monopoly

Regarding your article "US vs. Microsoft: a New Cold War for 21st Century?" (Dec. 26): My apprehension is that Microsoft is a real threat. If the US doesn't decisively and effectively clip the claws of this coercive monopoly (coercive not only with its competitors but with us, the lowly consumers), the standards and quality inherent in competition will grow ever worse in this crucial realm of communication and technology. To my disgust, I typed this protest letter in Windows. Guess how many other choices I had? Netscape, why don't you do us a favor and design an interface as well as a browser?

Katherine Mullins

Mountainair, N.M.

Still divided over gun control

In Benjamin Schuster's letter to the editor ("Private Gun Ownership: Divided We Stand," Dec. 24), he states that the threat of terrorism is "not the same" in the US as in Israel. While true, this ignores the fact that the threat of nonpolitical violence is much greater in the US.

He points out that there have been incidents of mass murder perpetrated by "so-called 'responsible citizens' " in Israel. In both the Popper and Goldstein incidents, an armed criminal/terrorist killed unarmed Arabs.

Mr. Schuster then states, "Few terrorists have ever been stopped by armed civilians," ignoring the fact that the incidents mentioned by Don Kates in his opinion article ("Making a Case For Gun Ownership: Israeli-US Contrasts," Dec. 16) are just such types of incidents. Armed Arabs would have been able to stop Goldstein or Popper.

Schuster appears to claim that without legal firearms in the US, criminals would not have guns. Yet serious violent criminals have never been inconvenienced by gun- control laws. It's not true that "disarmed citizens" equals "disarmed criminals."

In the same "Readers Write," Bruce Hooke refers to the differing murder rates between the US and many of the countries of Western Europe and relates the differences to gun-availability rates. Although Mr. Hooke says he is not arguing for gun control, this comparison is often made by those favoring it. The argument founders on several facts:

* Even prior to the introduction of gun-control laws in countries like Great Britain, both their general violent crime rate and their rate of crime committed with guns was miniscule compared with the US.

* Countries such as Switzerland and Israel (ignoring political violence), where guns are more readily available, have rates of violent crime similar to other Western democracies.

* In the US, those areas and demographic groups with the highest rates of gun ownership tend to have the lowest rates of violent crime committed with guns.

Scot G. Douglas

Santa Ana, Calif.

Your letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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