To foster true democracy in Pakistan, tie aid to reforms

Regarding the Sept. 8 article, "In border zone, Pakistan backs off from Taliban": Democracy for Pakistan is different from democracy for India or democracy in the West. In the latter countries, historically at least, democracy has been inculcated as a kind of civic duty rather than an opportunity to wield power for one's own personal benefit. People who lack political power in developing countries often behave no better than the previous rulers once they actually get power. A free press, an independent judiciary, and a military that stays out of politics and economic life are much more important than elections – which can often be very divisive.

The last democracy in Pakistan did not repeal the use of sharia law. Why would a democracy in Pakistan now be better? The solution is to take the approach that the EU has taken in absorbing Eastern European countries: generous economic development aid combined with structural reforms of the economy, media, military, and judiciary – with the aid being conditional upon making the reforms. Elections and democracy are only a very small part of the mix.
George Robertson
Culpeper, Va.

Study abroads for science students

Regarding your Aug. 16 editorial, "Go to college, see the world": I applaud the efforts of Goucher College to make study abroad a graduation requirement for all students. I would add, however, that foreign study is particularly important today for students majoring in science and engineering, fields in which the United States is falling perilously behind.

Unfortunately, beliefs persist that students majoring in science and engineering cannot spare the time away from their laboratories, and that science and engineering are "hard," while study abroad is somehow "soft." At a time when the US needs to be producing not only more engineering and science graduates, but those who are also prepared for the demands of a global economy, these beliefs must be challenged.

The Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), a technological university, has developed a model for the international engagement of science and engineering majors through our Interactive Project program, which requires students to help solve a significant problem at the intersection of technology and society. In recent years, teams of WPI students have designed a model irrigation system on the site of a home for abused children in Kanchanaburi, Thailand; developed a plan to help eliminate illegal and hazardous waste disposal in Costa Rica, and constructed methods for controlling flooding and erosion in impoverished settlements of Windhoek, Namibia.

The US and the international community will be well served by colleges and universities that produce scientists and engineers who not only excel in their disciplines but who have a real understanding of the world beyond our borders.
Dennis D. Berkey
President and CEO, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester, Mass.

Don't stand in line – vote by mail

Regarding the Sept. 12 Opinion piece, "Voting shouldn't require a heroic act of patience," by Alexander Belenky and Richard C. Larson: In Oregon, we have the answer. We vote by mail. If the voter misses the mail-in deadline or for some reason wishes to vote the old-fashioned way, he or she can go out and cast a vote in person. But voting by mail is really easy: Consider the issues at leisure, fill in the ballot, mail. No standing in line.
Jon Remmerde
Bend, Ore.

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