Regarding "The education of George W. Bush" (March 26, Opinion): Godfrey Sperling points to the transformation of President Bush from "a frivolous lightweight into a serious minded, poised, and effective national leader." Certainly all Americans should support their president, particularly in these difficult times. But that doesn't mean putting critical thinking on hold and turning natural compassion for a tough job into blithe acceptance of policies rejected by a majority of voters in the 2000 election. What worries me is that the national tragedy of Sept. 11 is being used as an umbrella to hide and obscure issues such as more tax dollars thrown at dubious weapons systems, and few tax dollars to finance the Superfund to clean up toxic waste. I don't see that as effective leadership.
Woodland Hills, Calif.
It's frightening to see how very little the Bush administration understands the need to bring people together throughout the world and how little it appreciates the work of the previous administration, which reached out to foreign countries. An openness in the realm of diplomacy had been strengthened in countries aligned with the US, while hope grew in those skeptical of US intentions. What do they think now of Mr. Bush's nuclear statements?
The Bush administration continues to dictate rather than reach out. Dictating to rather than working with foreign leaders is counterproductive and could prove damaging. Meeting with Yasser Arafat and other political figures involved in world crises should be a major priority for the leader of the US.
The need for Americans to have courage and calm has seldom been greater than today. Terrorists have hurt us, and they may try again. But Al Qaeda is driven by hate. It has a revenge, not a victory, strategy. If we endure, keep calm, and use good judgment, it cannot win. We are in a frustrating situation, and it's natural for us to want a more perfect security, but America isn't in trouble unless it acts foolishly.
There are many things we might do ourselves that could hurt us far more than terrorists could. We might suspend the writ of habeas corpus, or refuse counsel to accused criminals. We might censor the media or deny freedom of speech to individuals. We might arrest people according to ethnic profiling, or spend enormous sums of money on weapons having no relevance to the "war on terrorism." We could bomb countries we suspect of "harboring terrorists" or send out "search and destroy" missions to places that may or may not have something to do with terrorism. And we might be so "go it alone" oriented that we alienate countries that might be our natural allies.
Edgar L. Sherbenou
Regarding "The tricky art of defining 'terrorism' " (March 7, Opinion): The Bush administration has embarked on a failing policy. References such as "axis of evil" presume the adversary possesses ideological coherence, paralleling earlier communism or fascism. But the opponent is a fragmented, hydra-headed force, transnational in scope and bound largely by primal energies of religion and tribe instead of political ideology.
Targeting Taliban troops fed the illusion that the militant hydra could be defeated after the fashion of a conventional victory over an enemy nation-state. In reality, in a trade-off that exchanges the destabilization of Al Qaeda for the chaos of Afghan war-lordism, we have enabled Russia, China, and others to liken their counterinsurgency actions to those of the US against the Taliban.
Rev. Gordon G. Scoville
Croghan, N.Y .
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