Regarding your July 7 article "Is US inching toward intervention?": As US troops occupy Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States now considers dispatching peacekeepers to Liberia, where civil war has raged for the past 13 years. The US has a distinct historical tie to Liberia, whose people are descended from former American slaves. But the Pentagon doesn't want to send American troops, fearing military overstretch. Whether or not the US supplies troops for a peacekeeping mission, the provision of peacekeepers should not occasion questions of military or imperial overstretch. It's a humanitarian matter, one that desperately needs a solution. Liberia, like the Congo and Sierra Leone, has suffered from war. The US ought to help. A small force - 500 to 2,000 troops - should hardly stretch American military preparedness. A successful international effort to restore the peace in Liberia - with American participation - would be a step in the right direction.
Regarding your July 7 article "Troop morale in Iraq hits 'rock bottom'": Given the already serious strain on our armed forces, it is incredible that President Bush is even remotely contemplating a military mission to Liberia. Rather than further increasing American deployments in unstable and violent regions of the world, Mr. Bush should begin seriously developing a plan to extricate the bulk of American forces from Iraq at an accelerated rate. If the occupation of Iraq is deemed too important to be abandoned, then deployments elsewhere should be minimized to ease the burden on the military.
Our soldiers did not sign on to garrison hostile territories abroad, but to defend the United States and its vital interests. Whether the Iraq war served these interests is debatable, but there is not even the slightest justification for sending American troops to Liberia. These troops deserve better treatment than they are receiving from this administration. It is a mark of shame on the record of the supposedly "pro-military" Republicans in the White House and Congress that so many of our soldiers are continuing to live in such intolerable conditions without any end in sight.
The morale of our troops in Iraq is probably no different from the morale of our troops in Europe or the Pacific during World War II. It should surprise no one that the Monitor was able to find several willing to complain anonymously. During the earlier war to save the world from fascism, our troops served "for the duration." Perhaps everyone should bear that in mind during the current war to save the world from terrorism.
Royal Oak, Mich.
The need - particularly among young voters - for Americans to participate more fully in their democracy is acute. In a June 23 Opinion, "The dwindling youth vote," authors Robert Weiner and Amy Rieth suggest that "candidates need to figure out how to connect with young people." Amen! In 1999, the Center for Democracy and Citizenship started the Campaign for Young Voters. Research confirmed a sad, self-fulfilling dynamic: Most young adults don't vote in part because candidates ignore them, and most candidates ignore them because they don't vote.
The younger electorate is up for grabs: More than 30 million 18-to-25-year-olds who don't vote are almost evenly split between the parties. If candidates will meet them halfway, it can make the difference in who wins an election - and create a healthier democracy.
Center for Democracy and Citizenship
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