- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2001

Courting compliance with a child convention

Your July 3 editorial "Protecting America's children" lets Germany off too lightly. Of course, PACT (Parents of Abducted Children Together) welcomes the reorganization of German courts if this leads to the fair and expeditious handling of child abduction cases under the Hague Convention.

However, this development, long overdue, deals only with half the problem. The legacy of the German courts' past failure to honor the letter and the spirit of the Hague Convention is a group of parents who remain cruelly separated from their children. So far, the U.S.-German commission set up to ensure cases are handled in compliance with the Hague Convention has failed to resolve this issue. Nor have they found an answer to the systemic refusal of German courts to enforce their own access orders, secured at great financial and emotional cost by parents trying to see their children.

Once these issues are resolved and the basic human rights of both parents and children honored that will be the time to congratulate Germany.


GLENN GEBHARD

Los Angeles


Glenn Gebhard writes as a representative of PACT (Parents of Abducted Children Together).

The high cost of high population

Your editorial about overpopulation ignored the quality of life issues associated with high population growth ("Population dud," July 11). Population growth is at the root of sprawl, congested roads, overcrowded schools and vanishing open space.

Around the country, communities are finding that population growth is overcrowding their children's schools, threatening the environment and causing them to spend more time in traffic and less with their families. Road and school construction can't keep up with population increases, open space is vanishing at an alarming rate and California-style blackouts are expected to spread to other states. More people also means more pollution, more sprawl and higher housing markets.

The United States has grown by 13 percent in the last 10 years, putting our population at 283 million, and the Census Bureau projects we could reach 400 million by 2050. How will we feed, school and house 117 million new people without compromising our quality of life and environmental goals?

It's vital that we examine where U.S. population trends driven by immigration rates of five times the traditional annual averages are taking us. For most of us, it's not a future that we want.


SHARON McCLOE STEIN

Executive Director

Negative Population Growth

Washington

Good news in New Delhi

Columnist James Zirin's systemwide attack on India is as puzzling as it is unjustified ("India's rocky path to greatness," Commentary, July 8). Nobody has suggested that India has solved all of its social and economic problems. However, it is undeniable that since achieving independence, India has made impressive strides in the economic and social sectors. What is more, India has chosen to do so while strengthening its democratic institutions and protecting the rights and freedoms of its various religious and ethnic groups.

Mr. Zirin incorrectly discounts the far-reaching economic liberalization that has taken place in the country over the last decade. Major areas of infrastructure and industry, contrary to Mr. Zirin's claims, are not only open to private investment, but also to foreign direct investment. In the month of May alone, the government of India liberalized the foreign-investment regime in civil aviation, urban infrastructure, the pharmaceutical industry, the hotel and tourism industry, mass rapid transport systems, telecommunications, banking and defense production.

Mr. Zirin also ignores the drastic action taken by both the government's executive and judiciary in closing down hundreds of industrial units that were polluting and causing environmental damage to the Taj Mahal and to the Ganges. Environmental consciousness in India is high, and environmentalism is espoused not only by the government but also by active non-governmental organizations and the media.

As for the social ills listed by Mr. Zirin, the literacy rate in India is now 65.83 percent overall and nearly 55 percent among women. Levels of infant mortality have been more than halved since independence. The empowerment of women is evident in all sections of Indian society; it is perhaps best symbolized by the fact that one-third of all seats in local elected bodies are filled by women. The presence of Indian women in politics, the judicial system and the arts is known to the entire world. India's nuclear capacity and missile programs are no secret, as Mr. Zirin alleges. Nor is India in breach of any international legal commitment. India's policy on these issues is responsible, transparent and guided by its national security interests.


NAVTEJ SARNA

Counselor

Embassy of India

Washington

Finding funding for the right force

Your June 28 editorial "Rebuild America's armed services," conflates two important but distinct issues when it concludes that lack of money is prompting Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to abandon the Clinton era strategy of sizing America's armed forces to fight two nearly simultaneous major regional wars (MRCs). Clearly, the military was chronically underfunded during the Clinton era, even as that administration increased the rate at which U.S. forces were deployed in contingency operations several times over. The result has been, in the words of one former senior Defense Department official, a "death spiral" in which lack of funding for modernization required the continuation in use of obsolescing equipment that needed more and more maintenance dollars, further eroding the available resources with which to buy new equipment. As the author of a 1999 study on defense spending that concluded that approximately 4 percent of gross domestic product was necessary to fund the two-MRC force, I share your view that this nation can afford whatever is required to ensure a strong defense.

That said, we should not be spending the nation's treasure buying the wrong kinds of forces. The two-MRC standard for sizing (and inevitably for costing) U.S. forces is a relic of the end of the Cold War. It is an inflexible standard that requires maintaining forces suited for a kind of conflict that is increasingly unlikely in the 21st century. Continuing to adhere to this standard will result in the maintenance of the wrong kinds of forces and, in all likelihood, inhibit the ability of the military to transform itself to meet the security threats of the future.

Mr. Rumsfeld should be commended for recognizing that the adequacy of U.S. military posture is not synonymous with its ability to fight two MRCs. Instead, the test for U.S. forces is the extent to which it is transforming to meet a broader and less predictable set of challenges. Make no mistake, transformation will not be cheap. Free of the need to maintain the force posture dictated by the two-MRC standard, Mr. Rumsfeld can use the resources liberated to invest in a host of new capabilities that will be needed if this nation is to maintain its current military advantage in the decades to come. The money could be used, for example, to purchase additional B-2 bombers, for which there is a dire need now that the decision has been made to retire a portion of the B-1 fleet. It could also fund development and procurement of innovative systems, such as the airborne laser, which are inherently transformational.

Mr. Rumsfeld has promised that the 2001 quadrennial defense review will serve as the basis for defining a new strategy and force posture, one appropriate to this nation's changing national security needs. When that review is completed, and the resulting force posture defined, the Congress and the American people should be prepared to pay what is required, even if this means more money for defense.


DANIEL GOURE

Senior Fellow

The Lexington Institute

Arlington

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