Iraq doesn't need a 'troop surge.' It needs humanitarian aid.

I write in response to the Dec. 26 article, "What a 'troop surge' in Iraq might accomplish." As long as the option of temporarily increasing troops in Iraq has the national spotlight, we in the United States blind ourselves to the most fundamental strategic question: What is our actual goal in Iraq?

The administration's customary answer has been that the US is in Iraq to promote democracy. But the US track record in Iraq and some other places is beyond dispute.

Democracy can't be imposed by an outside force; it must grow out of a society committed (or willing to become committed) to civil order, elections, education, and civil rights. Iraq's sectarian violence suggests that achieving democracy is very unlikely, no matter how many "bad guys" the US kills.

I conclude that the only purpose served by increasing troop strength is to provide additional cover for a failed US policy and a failed presidency.

Perhaps we should remember that US democracy required two civil wars: one with Britain in the 18th century and the north-south Civil War in the 19th century.

Finding a means of living together in a free civil society requires more than noble intentions. It sometimes requires dynamiting repressive institutions and forcibly removing men who wield power for their own aggrandizement.

Perhaps the US should admit the inevitability of an Iraqi civil war. Then, a better use of US money would be to establish humanitarian relief structures, such as hospitals and staff to treat the injured, and arrangements with Iraq's neighbors to provide food, shelter, and relocation for the dispossessed.
Russell S. Read
San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Fond memories of Gerald Ford

Regarding your Dec. 28 editorial, "Gerald Ford, reconciler-in-chief": President Gerald Ford did "bridge the chasm of enmity" in Washington during his historic presidency. While a college student, I worked for the Ford presidential election campaign in the Deep South.

I was with Mr. Ford on campaign trips to Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. He never used the racially tinged code words that other politicians used to appeal to segregationist voters.

Ford understood the civil rights struggle, and he never once suggested turning back the laws that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others fought to get enacted.

Jerry Ford was a great man. I am honored to have known him. He was a political inspiration to me and was my hero.
Jim Patterson
Member, Gerald R. Ford Foundation
San Francisco

Moderate child-safety measures

I loved Brooke Williams's Dec. 29 Opinion piece, "A toilet-lock mom confronts child-safety fears." I grew up in India, and one of my first culture shocks after coming to the US was the degree of care given to the kids here – temperature- controlled strollers, childproofed everything, and the list goes on.

The most security I think I got as a kid was probably a couple of pillows around my bed.

I can't help but think that all this attention will make kids grow up to be adults who think that life should provide them with everything they need.

I wish there were a little more moderation when it comes to child care. But I understand the fear that parents face as they are bombarded with all the "ifs."

We need more media whose success doesn't depend on keeping people in a state of perpetual fear.
Gineesha Abraham
Fairfield, Conn.

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