Letters to the Editor

Post-war plan must go beyond Iraq

In response to your Nov. 13 article "US prepares for a post-Hussein Iraq": You report that the US administration is considering two options for handling Iraq after Saddam Hussein is toppled. A so-called "light" option envisages a US role largely limited to that of liberator, calling for Iraqis to rebuild their country and establish a democracy. A so-called "heavy" option envisages a considerable US commitment of military and other resources to ensure that Iraq is united behind a democratic form of government that could be a model for the region.

Apparently absent from post-war planning now under way is a Middle East regional development strategy serving as the framework for addressing US plans not only in Iraq, but throughout the Middle East. Economic aid would be conditioned on credible commitments to promoting democracy, protecting human rights, and opposing terrorism.

Financed by the US in concert with other world powers and appropriate international agencies, this strategy - a kind of Marshall Plan for the Middle East - would be far more productive and less of a US financial burden than any of the options currently considered regarding Iraq. Including Israel and a Palestinian state in the regional strategy could provide a much needed new dynamic for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, among other Middle East objectives.
David J. Steinberg
Alexandria, Va.

A resilient Latvia meets NATO

Regarding your Nov. 22 article "Expanded NATO looks for new role": Thank you for a fine article regarding the invitation extended to Latvia to join NATO in May 2004. Corruption within government exists, but neither more nor less than in other eastern European countries. In many instances, those who purport to spearhead efforts to eradicate these crimes are participants.

The judicial system in Latvia is dormant concerning corruption within government ranks. However, being a native Latvian and having traveled to Latvia on a bimonthly basis since 1988, I can attest that impressive progress has been achieved in healing wounds inflicted on Latvians by Russians during their half-century-long occupation. It will take fortitude, perseverance, and courage to mandate government and judicial reforms necessary to meet all prerequisites of joining NATO and eventually the EU. Considering our historical accomplishments and survival resilience, we certainly are capable of meeting this task.
Norbert Klaucens
Riverwoods, Ill.

A complex fiscal crisis

In response to your Nov. 27 editorial "Grasshopper states": You support the view that, "Before governors cry for help from Washington, they should learn from states such as Colorado that weren't dazzled during the booming '90s to spend and spend." You then state, "Fiscal restraints are necessary through thick and thin."

This point of view would be more plausible if Colorado, the example cited, were faring better than most states in the current fiscal crisis. This is clearly not the case. According to the most recent survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures, Colorado ranks behind only two others - Alaska and Nevada - in the percentage of the state's budget that will need to be trimmed to keep its budget balanced.

According to the report, Colorado has a $558 million gap. That's just under 10 percent of Colorado's general fund budget. If that's the kind of budget trimming required after said fiscal restraint, 47 other states are probably happy they didn't follow a similar course.
Randy Bauer
Des Moines, Iowa
Budget director, Iowa Dept. of Management

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