US-educated Iraqis torn by thoughts of war
Regarding your March 5 article "US-taught Iraqis feel war's weight": These Iraqis who have lived in the US have seen a country that has many great things to offer, but they have also seen the proclivity for violence and "hardening" that has been cultivated within US society. On the eve of war, it must be hard for them to watch a country they once loved bring terror to their peoples. As Janon Kadhim, an Iraqi architecture professor, asked, "Why should I have to make you feel like we are people worth living?"
President Bush has said victory in Iraq would help the Iraqi people by allowing them to choose a new government. Though the war is "between governments," as Ms. Kadhim says, there is no doubt that innocent civilians will be hurt. How does an Iraqi mother explain to her child that the Americans are trying to help them by bombing them? The administration needs to look closely at whom this war is affecting.
Concerning Robert Rotberg's March 3 opinion piece "Lessons from Botswana": African countries are not the only ones that can learn from the well-structured and peaceable nation of Botswana. The United States could benefit greatly if we, too, shared the same ethics.
Past and present leaders of Botswana have learned to incorporate principles of sharing and support that are as elementary as those taught in a kindergarten class. Whereas, the US is often displayed as the Scrooge of all countries - rich, yet unfulfilled and unhappy. Botswana's example of leadership - and respect for that leadership - could possibly inspire a change of heart in the US. If Americans could hold the same respect for elected leaders, maybe we, too, could create a system in which all is equal, and all are content.
Botswana shines through as a beacon in the raging political storms of nearby African governments. By integrating "ethics and service" into its political system, the president of Botswana is working miracles in his little country.
In regard to the March 6 article "Cowboys learn their lit - from the French": For all its charm and insight, it made a brazen claim: "the essential American philosopher is - well, there isn't one." Pardonnez-moi! I object with due respect for the writer's presentation of the can-do, rough-and-tumble spirit of American culture.
This American character has a name. Its name is pragmatism, and its most popular example was American philosopher William James. His pragmatism gave expression to a practicality and an action-oriented thought that is one of the best and most distinctive traits of the American spirit. His philosophical way of expressing this was to look to effects rather than causes: knowing things by their fruits rather than their roots - what could be more American?
The article does present Thomas Jefferson as a representative American thinker. These days, we could use a president with a philosophical imagination, but James would have provided a better example for etching out the French-US divide. James was fluent in French and was as popular with French philosophers as the cowboys have been with French novelists. Who knows? If we take our American pragmatism seriously, we might not only find détente with the French, but also discover ways to think before we act too precipitously, and to anticipate the practical effects of what we do in the world. After all, cowboys look before they leap.
Paul Jerome Croce
Professor, Stetson University
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