Use 'smart power' on Iran
The Dec. 19 editorial "How to avoid war with Iran" offers a sensible solution to the significant threat Iran poses, one that avoids the usual knee-jerk military response from "the world's greatest military superpower."
US and Israeli caveman-style reliance on a bigger club to effectively alter perceived dangerous foreign action has lately failed to endear either country to many downtrodden citizens living under tyrannical regimes. They often see the countries as meddling bullies, even when they may be sympathetic to their goals.
America might ask itself: How different would its behavior be if it were not the world's military giant? How differently would the US then defend its national interests or those of its allies? Instead of wading in with machinery that destroys homes, schools, and infrastructure, not to mention killing and maiming innocent civilians, it might be forced to play smarter and more humanely.
America would need to resort to more patient deliberation and diplomacy that relies on wiser, less costly use of its assets.
The editorial seems to suggest this alternative path to change in Iran – by leveraging the internal and external forces already working to bring down the current Iranian regime.
Julie Crandall Foskett
More to teen pregnancy
The Dec. 19 article "Teen birthrate hits record low" makes excellent connections between sexual health education and the lowering of teen pregnancy rates. However, it does not acknowledge several other important factors in analyzing teen pregnancy.
First, the United States still has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the "developed" world. It is more than twice that of its culturally and economically similar neighbor, Canada, where national comprehensive sexual health education guidelines have informed sex ed curriculum since the early 1990s.
Second, the article looks at a gender studies professor and her daughter, a student at Harvard, as an example of how parent-teen conversations have affected the teen birthrate. The example is poignant, but it also points to the relationship between economic and educational privilege and young women and men's knowledge about and access to birth control.
Poor teens go to worse schools, which are struggling to meet high-stakes testing requirements and often neglect minimum requirements for sexual health education. Poor children also tend to have less time with their parents, who, if they are working, often have to work more than one job.
To support the health of US society, focusing on comprehensive sexual health education, better schools, and structures for mentoring youth would go further than focusing on pregnant teens.
Morna McEachern, PhD
School of Social Work
University of Washington