Resolving conflict in the Caucasus
I agree with Brenda Shaffer ("Righting a UN wrong," May 21, Opinion) that the United Nations has failed to "play a constructive role in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict." But the four UN resolutions on Nagorno-Karabakh bear no relationship to the current situation on the ground. They tried to deal with some of the consequences of this conflict but ignored the root cause, namely the arbitrary inclusion of Armenian-inhabited Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in 1921. Those UN resolutions, therefore, do not create a basis for resolution of this conflict.
I share Ms. Shaffer's optimism about prospects for peace, however, provided that we look for the solution in the region rather than within the UN. Azerbaijan should finally agree to start direct talks with Nagorno-Karabakh. They should develop a shared vision for a common future, one based on mutual respect and a strong commitment to peace and democracy. The international community, led by the US, must facilitate and encourage this vision for lasting stability and cooperation in the Caucasus.
It is unfortunate that Brenda Shaffer has taken advantage of recent criticism of the UN to publish a number of distortions about the drive for self-determination by the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. Her article emphasizes the "Azerbaijani plight" but ignores the pogroms that killed hundreds of Armenians in Azerbaijan's cities. Azeri refugees are mentioned no less than four times, but the fact that Azerbaijan's Army attacked a territory that was using peaceful democratic means to gain autonomy is omitted.
A peaceful solution requires Azerbaijan to acknowledge that for decades it misruled Karabakh and discriminated against its predominantly Armenian population.
Your May 22 Editorial "Colleges and the Three R's" has it right that accountability is "both a buzzword and a buzz saw." Those who criticize colleges for low retention or low graduation rates tend to imply that we are not doing our job - that if we were held more "accountable," then everyone would graduate in four years. But teaching is a two-way street, and 18-year-olds have to take part in their own education. Student success cannot be measured without taking student effort and preparation into account.
Almost all students who enroll at the "Ivies" graduate, but that is because those universities accept only students predisposed to excel at academics. It is not because the Ivies do a better job of teaching than we do at the large state universities. Please don't dump even more tests and requirements on us. We're already teaching as hard as we can.
Professor, University of Akron
Regarding your May 23 Editorial, "Partisan firefighting," it is indeed unfortunate that debates in Congress over wildfire are along party lines. Responsibility for the situation, however, rests squarely with the Bush administration. At a time when real solutions are needed, all the administration could manage was to fan the flames of controversy with the so-called "Healthy Forests Initiative."
The initiative will pay for the removal of small trees and brush through traditional timber sales in which large, fire-resistant trees are cut down. In other words, the US Forest Service will be cutting down the very forests it says it wants to protect in order to pay for the removal of small trees and brush!
Jay Thomas Watson
The Wilderness Society
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