Holding a firm - and hopeful - vision for Iraqi democracy

Regarding the Jan. 5 article "If Sunnis won't vote, then what?": Although it is frequently dangerous to judge by analogy, this seems to be an appropriate time to do so. Let's say that in the US elections coming up in 2008, it seems that the Democrats are assured of winning the White House. What would we do if the Republicans were to refuse to field a candidate, and instructed all their party members to stay away from the polls? Would we say, "Let's postpone the elections while we negotiate with the leaders of the Republican Party and make concessions to them to convince them to participate?"

In short, should we allow a minority to dictate to the majority the conditions under which they will consent to fulfill their duties as citizens? No. The elections would be held, and the results would be proclaimed as reflecting the will of the people, which, after all, is what democracy is all about.

So why should it be any different in Iraq? It would be far more profitable for all concerned to stop worrying about whether elections should be held, or under what conditions, and instead to plan for the future of what will, I hope, turn out to be the world's latest democracy.
Bruce B. Wallace
Agawam, Mass.

Much has been written and said about this subject, and for good reason, but little has been suggested as a way around this potential problem.

If a large faction of the Sunni population elects not to vote, this does not necessarily mean that they, and their interests, will not be properly safeguarded. Whoever is elected to the new posts has a responsibility to provide for a constitutional framework and governmental structure that duly protects minority interests. Otherwise, the entire effort will become meaningless and everyone's sacrifices rendered in vain.

Also, responsible Sunni leaders and citizens probably will not be deterred forever by Baathist and other terrorist elements, and will see that their interests lie not in violence and religious discord, but in a more secularized and tolerant state. This is the natural course of things, and it should be emphasized more. Also, Shiites in Iraq are likely to become more moderate as time goes by, which I think will become more of a reality than a hope.

But efforts need to be made continually to bring a halt to religious fanaticism and discord, as well as to anachronistic tribal attitudes and behavior. This will not be easy, but it needs to be recognized as a fundamental aim without having to sacrifice basic religious beliefs that appeal to man's better nature and higher values.

In summary, the upcoming election holds more promise than it does not. The positives should be accentuated!
James N. Anderson
Green Valley, Ariz.

Tsunami aid: Investing in Asia's future

Regarding the Jan. 7 article "Kids show resilience in tsunami aftermath": It is valuable to hear how they used their own intelligence to escape and to hear how parents and families valued their children more as a result of the threat. That is particularly important in a region that has a custom of devaluing their girls for either religious or economic reasons. It was also touching to hear about the little girls singing of "Twinkle, twinkle little star." [Editor's note: The original version misstated the story's publication date.]

These children's memories will influence the future of their region. Our response to them (not only to the adults) will have a significant impact on their worldview. Children are most vulnerable and yet can be the most resilient in their natures. How we care for them determines the course of their development, and so affects all our futures.
Skylar Switzer-Kohler
Brooklyn, N.Y

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