Letters to the Editor

Readers write about Americans' role in US policy, how to measure failure in Iraq, shielding children from TV violence, and the UN's role in solving conflict.

American people must share responsibility for US policy

In response to the May 9 article, "Young Americans and Egyptians talk, but don't see eye to eye": Thank you for this unusual window into the complexities of cross-cultural discussions. I was struck by the author's comment that "many of the Americans felt ganged up on over US policies that they're not responsible for." This distinction – the idea that citizens of a country are not responsible for their government's policies – is relatively common, but it is still peculiar.

We Americans are part of a democratic republic. Certainly we may disagree or even loathe some of our government's policies, but to claim that we are not responsible for them is disingenuous. Even though we don't personally write the legislation or decide on a course of action, we vote for the lawmakers who do.

Pretending that we should be immune from criticism because we're somehow "not responsible" for American policies is not just wrong, but ignorant of the very ideals on which the US was founded.

Amanda Bergson-Shilcock
Fort Washington, Pa.

Are yardsticks for failure appropriate in Iraq war?

In response to David Peck's May 11 Opinion piece, "Why President Bush needs a yardstick for failure in Iraq": I have a couple questions for Mr. Peck. First, what would he have considered yardsticks for failure in World War II? Losing 19,000 men in the Battle of the Bulge? Losing 7,000 men on Iwo Jima? Losing nearly 5,000 American, British, Canadian, and French troops on the beaches of Normandy in one day?

What would he have considered yardsticks for failure in that war that would have required us to capitulate to Adolf Hitler or Hirohito?

Perhaps the more relevant questions today are: What are his yardsticks for failure in the war against Al Qaeda, whose main battlefield is Iraq? At what point do we tell Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri that we give up and that they can have Iraq? And at what point do we declare our campaign in Afghanistan a failure and simply tell the Taliban and Al Qaeda they can have it back, because we don't need the headache?

John Simpson
Nashua, N.H.

Regarding David Peck's May 11 Opinion piece on setting standards for failure in Iraq: From a purely business standpoint, no manager can live without timelines and measurements.

Business projects have timelines and milestone charts and are tracked regularly. When a project is a failure, it is usually canceled; those responsible for the failure are usually fired.

So why is there resistance to these proven methods when it comes to the war in Iraq? Generals are managers, and they should be expected to forecast operations requirements and come up with a timeline for success. A war is a project, and we need the same planning and management discipline as with any project.

After four years, we have spent hundreds of billion in taxpayer money and lost thousands of lives, and we don't know if we are winning or losing. In the business world, everyone involved in this project would have been looking for a job a long time ago.

There is an old saying that "failure to plan is planning to fail." That is exactly what we have now.

Mike Mitte
Edmonds, Wash

Tame TV violence

Regarding your May 10 editorial, "Time to tame TV violence": Thank you for speaking up in favor of curbing violence on television and in other mediums of communication. I go to extra expense to have a digital video recorder to record only the shows I think are appropriate for my children. Some of those children's shows are riddled with inappropriate ads during commercial breaks.

Plus, if the V-chip is disabled by a guest in my house, all the world's evil is before the eyes of a 4-year-old little boy. Children should be allowed to be children and should face evil only as they develop the maturity to handle it.

I won't have a radio in my house much longer. Have you heard the garbage lyrics that sing from radio speakers in department stores? And there is no V-chip for a radio.

Laurie Whitehead
Alexandria, Va.

Regarding your May 10 editorial on TV violence: Having control over the TV violence watched by one's children is not the same as being responsible for safe streets. The TV set is in the home. Parents have direct and total control over whether or not the TV is on or off, plugged in or unplugged – just as they have control over whether their children see an unacceptable movie in the theater or wear inappropriate clothing to school. Why do we think that the same government that is criticized in the news each day for huge mistakes and Congress, which is full of self-serving politicians, are better able to decide what our children watch than we are, as their parents? Why would I want the government involved in the ethical upbringing of my children?

Arlene Stephens
Wautoma, Wis.

UN can't be driver for Mideast peace

Regarding Helena Cobban's May 10 Opinion column, "The UN must drive Middle East peace": Ms. Cobban argues that it's time for the United Nations to drive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. However, she presents no evidence that the UN could succeed where initiatives undertaken by Quartet members (the US, Russia, the European Union, and the UN) have failed. The UN has notched up a dismal record of failure in dealing with a major conflict – Darfur being only one example. Also, a currently weak Israeli government and ongoing internecine conflict among the Palestinians suggest that, even with UN involvement, a peaceful settlement does not appear likely on the horizon.

Seymour Kessler
Berkeley, Calif.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted will appear in print and on our website, www.csmonitor.com.

Mail letters to 'Readers Write' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to (617) 450-2317, or e-mail to OpEd.

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