- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 27, 2000

Military manpower does not ensure readiness

With regard to an Aug. 18 letter to the editor from Tom Hale of Fairfax, titled "Army is taking care of manpower problems," the following is germane:

Those who understand military readiness realize that initiatives by Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, to shore up combat readiness in understaffed Army operational forces, although proper steps, do not automatically and significantly increase military readiness of those divisions, despite their being fully staffed numberswise.

Transferring bodies from the support forces to fill vacancies in the operational forces makes the manning levels look good, but until those transferred receive the initial or refresher training that they need to perform the combat functions required of them, individually and collectively as a team, readiness is not enhanced that much.

But more important, if these somewhat enhanced operational forces were called upon to function in a combat environment in the near term, while their support forces were significantly decimated from a personnel and training standpoint, most knowledgeable military personnel would conclude that a major problem still exists. The problem is that, at best, the now fully manned operation forces would not function well in combat beyond the short term because the support forces upon which they depend for resupply and other necessary functions can not deliver the products needed because of their own shortfalls.

Hopefully, with plenty of money, successful recruiting efforts and much more time, the Army operational and support forces will reach the level of readiness needed for sustained combat operations. For anyone to think they are there now is wishful thinking and classic obfuscation of a serious issue facing this country.

DONALD K. FORBES

Captain, U.S. Navy (retired)

Montclair, Va.

Home school, public school comparison unfair

I read with great interest the article "Home schoolers No. 1 on college-entrance test" (Aug. 22) and was amazed at the way this fact was used by your reporter. Though the article was noted by the Educational Commisssion of the States, I find its conclusions problematic. Of course home-schoolers' test scores are higher the number tested is extremely small.

You report that 4,593 home-schooled students took the ACT but, without qualification, compare their average 22.8 with the average 21.0 scored by 1,065,138 high school students. That's like comparing the 22.7 achieved by 12 percent of graduating seniors tested in Oregon with the 18.7 achieved by 84 percent of seniors tested in Mississippi.

The difference in the testing pool explains much of the difference in scores, even without taking into consideration huge differences in the two states' demographics.

I noticed the reporter didn't quote anyone from ACT Inc. saying that this was an apples-to-apples comparison. Obviously, it's not.

WENDY PRATT

Oklahoma City, Okla.

Sinn Fein cannot be excluded from Irish parliament

I appreciate The Washington Times' Aug. 22 editorial about the political changes caused by the Good Friday peace accord, "Sinn Fein's bad idea." However, you omitted some important factors about Sinn Fein's right to participate in the Republic of Ireland's Dail Eireann (Irish parliament).

First, the 1998 agreement says every person born on the island of Ireland is entitled to be part of the Irish nation. Also, every person entitled to citizenship under Irish law also is entitled to be part of the Irish nation. Thus, any U.S. citizen who has a parent or grandparent who was born in the Republic of Ireland is entitled to Irish citizenship. Irish citizenship confers the right to vote in elections in the republic.

Second, any person born in Northern Ireland has the right to seek election as president of the republic; indeed, the current president, Mary McAleese, was born in Northern Ireland. Mrs. McAleese, however, cannot vote for herself as president, because she is a resident of Northern Ireland.

Third, Sinn Fein is the only 32-county political party on the island. Suppose Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail, Mrs. McAleese's party, form a coalition government following next year's elections in the republic. How can Sinn Fein not be admitted to debate and vote in the Dail?

Finally, elected members of Parliament in London are required to swear an oath of allegiance to the queen of England. Two Sinn Fein ministers were elected in Northern Ireland and thus have the right to represent their constituency in the British Parliament. Their constituency, however, does not recognize Queen Elizabeth II as sovereign. Sinn Fein officials requested the right to take their seats at Westminster without swearing the oath, but they were denied. Conversely, the government of the republic, as party to the 1998 agreement, has an increased involvement in the governance of Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein's political philosophy does not recognize Britain's right to govern any part of Ireland, and it is entitled to that philosophy. As a legal party, Sinn Fein and its constituency, similar to the pre-revolutionary Colonials in America, are enduring taxation without representation.

Sinn Fein should be allowed to have representation in any governing body with decision-making powers affecting any of its constituency.

SUZANNE DEBOLT

Niceville, Fla.

Gay groups intolerant of scouts

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has gone too far in its attack on the Boy Scouts of America ("Boy Scouts targeted for ban on gay leaders," Page A1, Aug. 22). It is difficult to find words that adequately express my indignation, not only toward the Task Force and similar groups, but also toward the Democratic Party for supporting this attack and the media for promoting it. It is difficult to maintain my compassion for this movement as I witness its aggressive behavior toward an organization that chooses not to accept the gay and lesbian political and ideological agenda, an agenda that appears to include bringing all Americans to their collective knees in unprotesting assent.

During this past century, the Boy Scouts of America became an American social institution. It is one of the few organizations in modern society that continues to teach boys how to become men with morals and values, a responsibility that our public school system has abandoned and a goal some in our culture appear to oppose. Thousands of churches and civic organizations sponsor local troops of Boy Scouts because this organization teaches the social skills and moral responsibilities that have been major contributions to the success of our country in the world. These values are stated clearly in the Scout Oath and Law. With few exceptions, young men who participate in the Scouting program throughout their adolescent years continue to live by these values and become responsible, contributing members of our society.

Now a group of political activists with a special interest that they hope to force on the rest of society seeks to destroy this venerable organization. The Boy Scouts of America is a private organization with clearly stated parameters and values. Boys have been choosing to join this organization, and their parents have been supporting it, for more than five generations. Activities often are family events, and many fathers are engaged in leadership and modeling roles, all of which are important and fundamental to the well-being of our society. All boys who wish to join are welcome. Those who do not subscribe to the Scout Oath and Law do not have to participate in the program, and some choose not to participate. Sexuality is not an issue in the Scouting program where the boys are concerned. Adult leadership, however, is considered carefully, and training is provided at all program levels. Adults who do not uphold the stated values of Scouting and do not function as appropriate role models may be asked to leave or may be removed. This is not discrimination. This is choice, choice to participate or not in a clearly defined program. It is called freedom with responsibility.

The real issue in this case is an attempt to force an independent organization to submit to the agenda of an unrelated special-interest group through intimidation and coercion. Let us hope the American people will see through the smoke to what is cooking on the fire. Any Boy Scout would.

E.C. Buie

Fort Worth, Texas

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