Do humanitarian missions by the US military help the world?

I applaud Kenneth Ballen's Dec. 20 Opinion piece, "Humanitarian aid: winning the terror war," as well as the US Navy Ship Mercy and its aid to other countries (especially Muslim ones). As a former sailor in the 1970s, I was able to participate in such activities through project "Handclasp" – except I was on a warship, not a hospital ship.

Humanitarian missions are a wonderful way to share our wealth and peaceful values. I would like to see our government expand this effort to invite all young people, not just the military, to go on two- to three- year tours of duty to promote health, welfare, and peace. The positive benefits for the host country and for our young people would far exceed anything our military must be involved in after relationships between peoples and countries fail. We in the US must give more than just money; we must give of our hands as well. Our young adults are the best way to spread our peaceful message and to share our wealth.
Don Ganyo
El Paso, Texas

I respectfully disagree with Kenneth Ballen's conclusions in his Dec. 20 Opinion piece about the impact of the US military as humanitarian aid providers. My experience in eastern Ethiopia in 2004 and 2005 with an international NGO was the opposite. The US military worked separately from the other humanitarian agencies, didn't participate in the coordination efforts with the local government, and created an atmosphere of secrecy. The fact that they toted arms everywhere was a further message to the local Somali people that domination may have been a greater goal than peace.

Gun-toting and driving military vehicles are not foreign images to Ethiopian Somalis. Somalia, their homeland, is still full of quarreling warlords who promise to bring peace and hope while driving jeeps mounted with machine guns. There's something incongruous about delivering humanitarian aid with a gun slung over one's shoulder.
Lynn Austin
Campbell, Calif.

Nod to oil drilling will help America

Regarding the Dec. 11 article, "Lawmakers exit with a last nod to oil drilling": Independent oil and gas producers applaud Congress for acting in the best interest of America. The passage of the Tax Relief and Health Care Act will allow the federal government to offer 8.3 million acres for leasing in the central Gulf of Mexico. This area is estimated to contain 1.26 billion barrels of oil and 5.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

This legislation is a good first step to improving American energy security and will showcase the industry's exemplary environmental and safety records. The new Congress convenes in January. It is now time that we, as a nation, look seriously at these frontier areas for safe and secure energy development.
Michael Linn
Chairman, Independent Petroleum Association of America

Broader effects of US 'raunch' culture

Regarding the Dec. 20 article, "In Miss USA drama, comeuppance for US 'raunch culture' ": I totally agree that the actions of Tara Conner, Miss USA 2006, are a symptom of the problems of our current culture. Women have probably never been treated more like objects than they are by some of today's media, and especially by some of the advertising community. All one needs to see is one Victoria's Secret commercial. Sadly, what "raunch" media produce shapes how much of the rest of the world views the American people. No wonder so many other cultures do not want to be Westernized.
Diana Hess
Rocky Comfort, Mo.

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