Regarding your July 15 article "Rebuilding Iraq on the cheap?": What is often overlooked when using post-World War II Germany and Japan as models for the past decade of nation building is that both countries were already developed nations. They were destroyed by the ravages of the war but they were still nations with ethnically homogenous populations, political cultures that recognized themselves as part of a nation, and highly industrialized, diverse economies that could be redeveloped with massive amounts of financial aid.
In Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, East Timor, Afghanistan, and Iraq, those conditions don't exist. As a result, international efforts to make them into modern nations are failing.
Falls Church, Va.
In your July 13 editorial "Tobacco's Toll Road" you are correct in arguing that the US Congress has failed to act on important tobacco issues that it has before it - including the need for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight of tobacco products.
However, it gives undue credit to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Yes, the Department of Justice deserves credit for moving the federal lawsuit (initiated by the Clinton administration) forward, but little substantive leadership has been provided by the current White House.
If the White House were to support numerous tobacco-policy issues pending in Congress, such as on FDA oversight and a fair and equitable tobacco buyout, then maybe Congress would have the added pressure needed for it to act.
Scott D. Ballin
Regarding your July 14 article "Clash intensifies over access to forest lands": Many people on the East Coast, including President Bush, appear to have a mistaken assumption that there are unlimited forests in the West. This is dangerous thinking that imperils the remaining wild lands. Less than 4 percent of the US is protected under the Wilderness Act. This summer, a friend in Pennsylvania asked where she could go in Washington State to see an old-growth forest. I sent her to Mt. Rainier National Park, a treasure. But the devastating clearcuts right up to both park entrances greatly diminished her experience. It is increasingly difficult to find a view without the signs of human intervention: logging, grazing, power lines, mining, etc.
We already have 7 million miles of primary roads in the lower US states. The Bush administration talks of balancing protections and development, but these roads are linked to cities, factories, and agricultural land, each leaving a signature on the aquifers, wildlife, and the people who go to experience wild places. Once these fragile ecosystems are fragmented, the integrity of the system begins to unravel.
These wild places are our shared legacy as Americans. Is it not the role of the federal government to protect them?
Reading the July 13 article "The Boys of Summer" reminded me of the time when, at a very impressionable age, our son played on a Little League baseball team. One day at practice, he remarked to his zealous coach, "Winning isn't the only thing that is important." Not missing a beat, the coach replied (in the style of Vince Lombardi), "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."
Needless to say, not long after that our son left organized baseball for good, choosing instead to take up rock climbing, mountaineering, kayaking, biking, and running. These activities provide recreation without focusing undue attention on winning.
Port Angeles, Wash.
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