To stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq, strengthen their economies
I agree with many of the well-made points in the June 15 article, "US troops abroad: a security linchpin?" But I believe the article omitted one of the primary reasons that the US is unable to leave either Afghanistan or Iraq without risking the total collapse of everything accomplished there so far.
Unless a working economy with jobs and capital is greatly expanded and a viable infrastructure supplying basic needs such as roads, water, and electricity is provided, neither country's government can exist without our military backing. The number of desperate and destitute people in both countries currently far outnumbers those who are hopeful and contributing. Without a genuine "Marshall Plan" for Iraq and Afghanistan, any victory we proclaim upon our departure will turn into tragedy soon after we are gone.
John Simpson's June 12 Opinion piece, "A lifeline to high school dropouts," cogently claims that "societal conditions, like dysfunctional classrooms, student boredom, discrimination, and communities torn by drugs and violence, also are to blame" for the cause of high dropout rates.
But imagine if every individual who enrolled in a high school in the United States graduated with a diploma. Would there be a job for every one? Would the "worth" of a diploma suddenly fall, like the worth of a dollar did during the Depression? High schools are sorting machines and, I believe, are designed to "weed out" certain students. It would be a disaster if every student stayed the course and received a diploma. Then what would be the excuse for high unemployment?
Further, what if every high school graduate completed a baccalaureate degree? Would this mean anything more than that most of these individuals were not competing for jobs for still another four years and would not have to be considered "unemployed" during their march toward the magic degree?
The "people" part of predator control
I read with interest the June 16 article, "Forest Service plans to ease limits on killing predators in western US," about the problem of controlling black bears that raid local garbage cans in Ashland, Ore.
Here in Juneau, Alaska, we faced a similar problem several years ago. Each year increasing numbers of "problem" bears were being destroyed because they were raiding garbage cans and residences. After some soul searching, our community identified the source of the problem – us.
Bears are a common part of the natural landscape around most communities in Alaska. Negative interactions are very rare, and we generally coexist peacefully. But a ripe trash can was simply too tempting for bears to pass up. And once they experienced the joys of a restaurant dumpster, chances were roughly 100 percent that they'd come back to do it again.
We faced a choice – exterminate our ursine neighbors, or control the conditions that were causing the negative behavior. The city adopted stringent new management standards, requiring bear-proof garbage cans and dumpsters and cracking down on residents who were too lazy or careless to properly secure their garbage.
The difference was apparent almost immediately. Today bear problems are rare, and our response to those problems is measured and effective. Juneau's lesson can be applied to predator-control problems in Oregon as well. It starts with the recognition that we are at least part of the problem and need to be responsible for at least part of the solution.
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