In Syria, the threat of force will accomplish more than sanctions

Regarding the Oct. 24 editorial, "Bush's tipping point with Syria": It's ridiculous to say the US is "militarily exhausted" by Iraq. American forces are intact and are, fortuitously, adjacent to Syria. While war with Syria is unlikely, preemptively removing the threat of military action hands Syrian President Bashar al-Assad an unnecessarily generous gift. America can afford to "further erode" its "reputation by operating outside the UN...." Your contrary claim is true only if a nation finds popularity more valuable than vital interests.

The call for economic sanctions in lieu of military action is disingenuous. Liberals criticized sanctions for causing more suffering than military action in Iraq. The poor of Syria will be the ones who suffer under sanctions while the powerful - who would be targeted by military actions - would not.

Dealing with Syria's misdeeds as if they were minor trade disputes would be an extension of past mistakes.
Stephen Johnson

Shrine visits assert Japan's equality

Regarding the Oct. 21 article, "Koizumi's visits boost controversial version of history": The writer did an excellent job of presenting the facts and the apparent intentions of Prime Minister Koizumi to raise the status of the Japanese people as a nation.

Although in no way do I support "sanitizing" the ignoble actions of the Japanese Imperial Forces in their attempts to seize and destroy the nations of the Pacific Rim during the 1930s and '40s, I do support the efforts of the prime minister and members of the Japanese parliament to move toward equality with their Pacific Rim trading partners today. In addition to symbolic efforts, practical measures would include any needed revisions to the Constitution to allow the Japanese government to act to preserve its economic interests - and to use their military, when needed.
John F. Ormiston
Westport, Wash.

Latin Americans wary of perpetual rule

Concerning the Oct. 21 article, "Court clears most hurdles for a second term for Colombian president": It seems necessary to recall recent Latin American history for some context. In the 1990s, three South American presidents changed their Constitutions to allow consecutive reelection: Argentina's Carlos Menem, Brazil's Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and Peru's Alberto Fujimori.

Today, Mr. Menem and Mr. Fujimori - despite their lingering electoral popularity - are typically cast as failed or disappointing presidents. Mr. Cardoso alone is widely credited with success.

Why is Cardoso lauded while Menem and Fujimori have been derided and have faced indictment? All three presidents changed the rules of the game in order to extend their stays in office. But Fujimori and Menem committed a fatal mistake: running for a third term. Cardoso decided not to push for a victory lap despite polling that suggested a comfortable lead over four-time upstart Luíz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Alvaro Uribe may have lofty approval ratings in Colombia, but Latin American electorates are wary of presidents who think too highly of themselves.

Having evidenced the ability of remarkably popular executives to change the rules of the game, it will be interesting to see if Mr. Uribe can resist the temptation to perpetuate his power.
Julián Casal
M.A. candidate, Center for Latin American Studies,
Georgetown University

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