Letters to the Editor – Weekly Issue of March 21, 2011

Readers write in about the power of the Internet to transform – or not – our physical world and the merits of US involvement in supporting Middle East democracies.

Web can't change everything

While I do agree with Bill Davidow's Feb. 28 opinion ("The Internet is about to change our physical world") that the Internet changes the way we shop and receive mail, it is an overstatement to say that it will change our physical world to the extent he believes. It is true that our homes are not optimized for the digital age, but they can easily be optimized for it, without the need for a construction boom.

Personal interactions cannot and will not just disappear. Mr. Davidow says that we will increasingly conference and work at home, changing travel patterns and prompting new kinds of cities. But people travel for reasons deeper than just speaking and agreeing face to face. There's something to be said about in-person interactions, which engender a trust and confidence that can't be replaced.

Ian Byrne

Concord, Mass.

Obama's role in Arab world

The Feb. 28 editorial on "Obama's democracy cred" proposes that President Obama beef up his policies to support democracies in unstable Middle Eastern countries. But it seems to only mildly oppose Mr. Obama's hesitant actions during the recent uprisings, which have cast a negative light on American foreign policy and made it seem at times as if Americans support dictatorships over freedom.

Obama, who is the beacon of a "successful" democracy, should be the first to shrug off old affiliations with aging dictators in support of fledgling democracies that could become US allies if we play our cards right. If Obama did actively support the people of the Middle East in their quest for democracy and human rights, it might usher in a new era of pro-American feeling.

Isabella C. Masiello

Providence, R.I.

Encouraging US involvement in the Middle East reflects the same mistakes the government has made in the past. Our policies have included propping up dictators considered "friendly" to us or Israel, extending foreign aid to despots who line their own pockets, and generally meddling in other nations' business by use of force or sanctions.

It is difficult to watch events in the Middle East – particularly in Libya, where Qaddafi is actively attacking his people – but this does not mean we should be the ones to install a "stable democracy" there. This is nation-building, and it has almost always resulted in disaster down the line.

Look how well that has worked out in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places. Have we not enough economic disaster looming without another foreign engagement we can ill afford? Does all of our meddling bring peace to the world, or generate more enemies? We should promote peace and freedom by pursuing noninterventionist policies, free trade, and restoring our freedoms at home.

Janice M. Moerschel

Spokane, Wash.

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