Russia a partner in missile defense? After reading "Caution on missile defense" (Jan. 26), I agree that we must tread softly. I have a possible solution.

Why not become Russia's partner in a global ballistic missile defense system?

The only serious enemy to be seen in Russia's future would arise in the East, whereas we are concerned with rogue states that seem to have the blessing of the Russians - notably Iraq.

What if we were to sign a treaty with the Russians whereby an attack on either of us would become an attack on the other?

We would provide a strong deterrent to any state or subversive organization from raising the sword against the US or Russia.

The solution seems to be quite simple if we have the courage to trust our former enemies, and convince our NATO allies to do the same. Richard Zacher Oceanside, Calif.

Forgiving offenders - the wrong goal Regarding "A new model to deal with crime and its victims" (Feb. 4): Some victims who avail themselves of victim-mediation are seeking reconciliation or an opportunity to experience forgiveness, but such initial magnanimity is not a necessary prerequisite. Victim-offender mediation is not just for saints.

My purpose for mediating with the drunk driver who killed my sister was primarily to have an opportunity to tell this woman how she had devastated me and my family and to make sure that she knew what we wanted her to do to make amends. I was not thinking of forgiveness as something I was going to "give" but as something she might earn.

If a mediator, as part of his/her own agenda, tries to make forgiveness a goal of the mediation, that approach is likely to set up resistance, rather than openness, to forgiveness.

Dr. Mark Umbreit, one of the luminaries in the field of victim-offender mediation of serious crimes, calls this the "paradox of forgiveness." He has found that for most victims, forgiveness is a dirty word.

Because of the mediation process, I was able to choose to give up seeking revenge, and to replace anger with compassion. This would qualify as "forgiving" by Dr. Robert Enright's definition.

But I still feel "forgiveness" is a dirty word. It has been tainted by the predominant image of it in most of the media: a cheap "forgiveness on demand." Elizabeth S. Menkin San Jose, Calif.

Compassion and conservatism Regarding "'Compassionate conservatism,' Bush style" (Jan. 19): I'm glad the writer can admit Gov. George Bush is a good person, even though he is conservative. But don't mention "compassionate conservative" as though Bush is an exception and the only compassionate one among us. The writer quotes one source as saying "conservatives fastidiously turn up their noses at the poor."

Do you even begin to know the harm you do, the injury you cause, by printing these stereotypical opinions as truth?

We are good people. We believe in helping our neighbors. We believe in a hand up, rather than a handout. Barbara Miller Brightwood, Ore.

Taking issue with a cartoon Your Feb. 5 cartoon fell far short of the Monitor standard, to "injure no man, but to bless all mankind."

To offhandedly dismiss a controversial anti-abortion Web site with the term "wacko" can do nothing but encourage the rage that has been brewing for three decades since Roe v. Wade. Scott Laningham Austin, Texas

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