US needs a definitive Balkans strategy

The principal tactic proposed by your July 18 editorial "Crucible of Balkans peace," is to "strengthen and deepen the peace effort" in Bosnia as a "basis for wider peace in Europe's most turbulent and violent region." Success there may (as you say) "give hope for Kosovo and other places where the problems could be even more persistent." However, an even more ambitious effort merits priority attention - namely, a well-orchestrated regional strategy for the Balkans, reminiscent in scope and drama of our legendary effort in Western Europe after World War II.

Insisting on human rights and other worthy standards as indispensable conditions for financial and other aid, such a regional strategy would energize, not only impressive reforms in Bosnia and Kosovo, but also a united effort by opposition groups in Serbia to topple the Milosevic regime.

The US government earnestly wants that regime removed, but seems engaged in little more than wishful thinking. Needed is a definitive Balkans development strategy with incentives for participation likely to spur an effective effort by Serb opposition forces to oust the Milosevic regime, which clearly could not meet the human rights and other standards on which the regional strategy would surely insist. A credible way to change the government in Belgrade is essential because, as your July 18 news article "US weighs different tactic for ousting Milosevic" makes clear, the necessary reforms in Yugoslavia are made even more urgent by "the real possibility that the US could be drawn into another Balkan conflict."

David Steinberg Alexandria. Va.

Black farmers

Regarding your article "The vanishing black farmer" (July 13):It was ironic that a white Arkansas farmer was quoted as criticizing black farmers thus: "When times get rough, it's easy to rely on race and the federal government to get you through it instead of having to work for something."

History shows that this statement applies very well - however, not to black farmers but to white farmers.Whether through slavery or the exploitative sharecropping/segregation system, white farmers have historically used their own race, coupled with their control of political power, to their own benefit.White Southern landowners received huge subsidies, during the New Deal era and later, for creating a system which forced large numbers of black tenant farmers off the land.In view of the long legacy of discrimination, this Arkansas man's charge against black farmers is either hypocrisy or denial.

Sally McMurry State College, Pa.

Women in Afghanistan, Iran

How thought-provoking to see two articles in one issue of the Monitor on how women are regarded by men in the name of religion ("Tenacity under Afghan burqas" and "The reclusive queen of Persian Pop returns to stage," July 19). In Afghanistan, women have to create their own schools and jobs, according to your article, but even the schools that exist sound terrible. Why on earth do young girls need hours of religious instruction and Arabic, a language useful to them only if they are reading the Koran? This kind of education has always been rote, and the key lesson is obedience to those in authority. What everybody needs in countries under the heel of theocracies is training in critical thinking.

As for the return of Iranian pop diva Googosh, I am happy that after 20 years of a demolished career she is being permitted to give a concert in Canada. But it certainly gave me pause to learn that the men who created the revolution declared that listening to female voices corrupted men.

Laina Farhat-Holzman Aptos, Calif.

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