Better diplomacy requires more listening, less talking
Regarding John Hughes's May 5 column "A cold-war tool for the terror era": People throughout the world have attitudes ranging from negative to hostile toward the US. These attitudes are formed through experiences, observations, and listening - not just through scripted video presentations from US leaders. The limitation in telling America's story is that it requires much more than a script about democracy. The US will have to show its commitment to justice and human rights, not just talk about it. US leaders must learn to better respect other cultures that often have different priorities. US spokespersons (including those in Congress) must understand that other cultures may have similar values of justice but express them in radically different ways. Around the world, other nations judge the US by what they perceive as the fairness or unfairness of our economic, military, and social policies.
With our public diplomacy efforts in poor condition, especially with the recent prisoner abuse in Iraq, perhaps we need to develop of a style of diplomacy that stops telling and starts listening.
In your May 5 article "As windmills spread, some Germans balk at 'asparagus fields,' " a leading opponent of wind power says, "A few people make money from it, but everybody else gets nothing." This isn't true. Wind power provides the general public with electricity, a critical component of modern life, and it does so in the cleanest, most environmentally friendly manner of any energy source. No children get asthma from wind energy; it causes no premature deaths or respiratory illnesses; and no irreparable harm to our environment.
Deputy Executive Director, American Wind Energy Association
Regarding Jay A. Halfond's May 3 Opinion piece "Grade inflation is not a victimless crime": As universities are viewed more frequently as businesses (where one "pays" for a degree) and not as bastions of knowledge that train subsequent generations, the pressure on professors to give out A's can be intense. Students frequently sign up for easier courses where professors are known to give out good grades to ensure a healthy GPA. Courses that are difficult suffer from ever-declining enrollments. For the future of our nation, we must always encourage students to perform their best. The only way to do this is to encourage healthy competition, which means that some students will study harder than others and will deserve a better grade. Otherwise, we give students little incentive to make the most of their education.
Assistant Professor of Physics, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Regarding your May 5 article "Mexico-Cuba rift signals Latin realignment": Isn't it time for American policymakers (and journalists, for that matter) to stop seeing governments that support the poor rather than the rich as an automatic US enemy? Why is it a "security risk" for the US to have leftist governments in Brazil and Venezuela, for example?
In the days of the cold war we were told that Soviet expansionism was the threat behind our leftist neighbors to the south. What is our concern now? Loss of security for American multinationals? Or is it simply that we can't let go of habits that equate "left" with "enemy?"
Brigitte H. Schulz
Associate Professor of Political Science, Trinity College, Hartford, Conn.
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