Policing despots and the role of the United States

Your editorial "Policing the Shrewd Despots" (Nov. 18) offers a good prescription for controlling the damage done by wayward leaders like Saddam Hussein and Milosevic, if indeed, as your editorial assumes, the US is the "world's policeman."

Maybe your recommendations really are the best that we can do given America's sorry neglect of the United Nations. But I would like to have seen the Monitor at least refer to the possibility of our jointly policing the world through the UN. In recent years, the US has considered undertaking military initiatives on its own or with an ally or two, as recently in Iraq, or at best with NATO, as in Bosnia and Kosovo. We could save more lives, spend less money, and reduce risk to American citizens if we were more serious about helping the UN fulfill the promise in the Charter Preamble to "end the scourge of war."

There are four routes the US could take now toward a safer and saner world at little cost to American sovereignty. (1) Let the UN Security Council, in which we hold one of the five vetoes, fulfill its charter function of "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security." (2) Sign and ratify the treaty to create an international criminal court written last summer in Rome. (3) Work to establish a small standing UN peacekeeping force capable of early rapid intervention to save lives in local conflicts such as the 1994 civil war in Rwanda. (4) Pay up our $1.3 billion owed to the UN, a tiny fraction of the US budget, but equal to almost a year's worth of core expenditures for the United Nations.

Scott L. Hofman


National field director, The World Federalist Association

Protecting children from harm

Regarding the editorial "Children and Guns" (Nov. 12), you'll be pleased to know that even though the number of firearms has grown in this country, the accident rate, particularly among children, has grown much smaller. Indeed, on a per-owner basis, swimming pools (and other amenities calling for responsible ownership) accidentally kill many more children than do guns. Curiously, we don't have Washington-based centers decrying swimming-pool deaths quoted every other day in the media, which suggests that safety may not be first on the agenda of some gun-safety proponents. Really, would you advocate jailing a pool owner because in hindsight it's evident that barbed wire on top of the pool fence or daily draining and covering the pool might have averted a tragedy?

So-called personalized guns present their own set of problems. First, the mechanisms provide one more thing to go wrong just when one most needs them to work. Second, unless we enact a federal subsidy, only the more well-off will be able to afford to exercise what's left of their Second Amendment civil rights, a policy reminiscent of one the South attempted shortly after the Civil War to disarm African-Americans and a policy seemingly endorsed today by organizations claiming to fear for the safety of those who can afford only inexpensive guns.

Paul J. Wescott

Yakutat, Alaska

Sophomoric puns

Is it possible that sophomoric puns are a detraction to an otherwise well-edited newspaper? Was the "Starr chamber" reference appropriate in the headline "Starr finally enters the chamber" (Nov. 18)? I think not. A star chamber is "notorious for its secret sessions without jury, for its harsh and arbitrary judgments, and its use of torture to force confession." A shallow and thoughtless reference to "Starr chamber" has no place in this newspaper.

Philip Baumeister

Sebastopol, Calif.

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