Understanding a terrorist is key

I was most interested in your Sept. 2 article "Probing the roots of terror" in that I had just purchased a book on the subject, "Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why" by Rex A. Hudson. While it is important to learn who the terrorists are, it may be equally important to learn the causes behind any group's decision to choose violence as a strategy toward political, economic, and social change.

It may not be possible to achieve that end without examining the sentiments held by the perpetrators of terror. As Mr. Hudson quotes from Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, "While nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer, nothing is more difficult than to understand him." The latter is crucial.
Priscilla Shaheen
Methuen, Mass.

Need more than democracy in Iraq

Regarding your Sept. 2 editorial "Sharing a Vision for Iraq": If the current US administration is relying upon a democratic vision for the Middle East as a partial cure for terrorism, then it may be no wonder it is walking a lonely road. Many major Western democracies have had at least one round of domestic terrorism to deal with in the decades since World War II; some is ongoing. Democracy has not proven itself to be a panacea for those who feel marginalized, disempowered, or displaced by mainstream society. One vote per person and majority rule are cold comfort to those who feel their needs are overlooked or ignored by the elected majority.

Perhaps it is not the form of government that is the key, but the inclusiveness of the society and the balancing of competing interests that determines the overall peacefulness of a country's citizens - that is, how the power is used and shared, not how it is attained. Perhaps the current US administration could give greater regard to the substance of governance rather than to its form, and could do more to encourage caring, sharing, and responsible government as a step toward democracy, rather than democracy as a step toward caring, sharing, and responsible government.
Phil Thompson
Richmond Hill, Ontario

California figurehead? No, thanks.

Godfrey Sperling's Sept. 2 commentary on the California recall ("Arnold remakes script of movie-star-turned-pol") omits the most significant difference between Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger: experience with major issues and leadership in the public interest.

When Mr. Reagan was asked in 1965 by wealthy conservatives in California to run against Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown, he had served as an officer in the Screen Actors Guild for more than 20 years. He had been the guild's president from 1947 to 1960. Reagan had represented the motion picture industry in political campaigns beginning in 1948. While he was able to campaign as an "outsider," that distinction was rhetorical.

Compare that with Mr. Schwarzenegger's experience in the political realm. I support Schwarzenegger's efforts on behalf of underprivileged children, and his work for Special Olympics. Serving as a celebrity figurehead, however, is not adequate preparation for stepping into California's top job.
Howard Guss
Mountain View, Calif.

Energy-saving chefs-d'oeuvre

Regarding your Aug. 28 article "Who's got the power?": There is a simple solution to people's concerns that wind-harvesting windmills and solar panels mess up their views: Hire artists and sculptors to transform them into works of art. Paint the windmills so they add something to the view. Make sculptures out of the solar panels. Make the ugly things into something beautiful.
Michaela Stephens
Austin, Texas

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