- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 1, 2004

Restore sovereignty gradually

As noted in your Tuesday editorial “The transfer of power …” Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi “has raised the prospect of imposing martial law to end the violence.”

He may need to impose a state of emergency to counter the shock treatment that alienated former Iraqi military and government members. “Shock and awe” worked militarily but has not worked as a political doctrine in Iraq.

The defunct Coalition Provisional Authority, in its first task under L. Paul Bremer, levied the shock by disbanding the top four levels of the Ba’ath party and dismantling the military. More recently, the CPA was trying to entice acceptable members of these groups back to enhance stability.

This mass firing not only left a security vacuum, but also let loose unemployed military functionaries with Ba’athist weapons on U.S. and other forces and presences, including fellow Iraqis. As an opportunist afterthought, it draws armed foreign militants as well. Moreover, plans for elections if the country is not secure would make voters targets.

Mr. Allawi has said he may delay the Jan. 31 date for National Assembly elections and that a state of emergency could include curfews and limits on public movement.

This makes the case for a strategy of “gradualism”: As Mr. Allawi consolidates order and security throughout the country, he could lift a state of emergency, enhancing democracy. The soft-spoken prime minister seems wired in and self-confident enough to recognize this option and to have the patience to apply it successfully.

ONA BUNCE

Falls Church

Low-rate troubles

James Galbraith and Jude Wanniski join forces in their column “Rate hike reservations” (Commentary, Tuesday) to challenge the need for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. I too share their concerns, and for the same reasons, regarding the depth and durability of the recovery.

At the same time, their piece overlooks the dangers of the current low interest rates, consideration of which leads to a deeper Keynesian critique of economic policy over the past decade — a period of both Republican and Democratic administrations.

The lowest interest rates in 46 years are causing bubbles all over the place, and in particular, they are causing a household-debt bubble. That means lots of trouble down the road, when debt has to be repaid and assets come to be cashed in. Moreover, the greater the debt bubble, the greater the future problems. Driving up prices today beyond what is economically warranted tomorrow has severe consequences.

The core problem today is that the aggregate demand generated by the asset-price and borrowing bubbles is leaking overseas, owing to our flawed international economic policies. Last year, the trade deficit was equal to 5 percent of the gross domestic product. The right solution is to depreciate the dollar and fix our flawed trade arrangements while raising interest rates to a neutral level that discourages bubbles. That way, borrowing will not get out of hand, and what borrowing households do undertake will stimulate economic activity in the United States rather than leak offshore.

However, getting there is easier said than done. Too many policy-makers and economists see nothing wrong with our international economic policy configuration. In addition, we have assiduously constructed a global trade and financial architecture that makes such adjustments increasingly difficult to accomplish. Beyond that, there are problems in our domestic economic arrangements that require borrowing to fill the demand gap created by our skewed income distribution. Such borrowing needs ever-lower interest rates to be sustained, but eventually, it too will hit the wall, as households reach their borrowing limits and interest rates hit the zero floor.

The bottom line is that the Federal Reserve may be stuck between a rock (maintaining the bubble) and a hard place (raising interest rates). Its policy recommendations have contributed to this situation, and the chickens may finally be coming home to roost for the policies espoused by the artful Alan Greenspan.

THOMAS I. PALLEY

Washington

Carbohydrate complications

Your Page One story about high-protein diets caught my attention (“High-protein diets linked to infertility,” Wednesday). Because it leaves out the larger context, the story appears to be an alarmist warning about high-protein diets. In reality, it is the high-carbohydrate diet that is unnatural and interferes with the human female reproduction cycle.

Archaeologists have long known that when humans switched from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural ones it affected human reproduction. Before that, a woman would remain infertile for up to three years after giving birth. As with other mammals, this is a natural state meant to allow a mother to bring a helpless child to a state of minimal biological viability before giving birth to another. Breast-feeding is part of the process designed to accomplish this, as well. The introduction of agriculture, with its attendant shift to a high-carbohydrate diet, interferes with that natural cycle. Excessive carbohydrates in the diet not only get stored in fat cells to produce an obese society (as evidenced by other articles your paper has published), but it also prematurely returns women to fertility after giving birth, long before the natural biological cycle intended.

Rather than being alarmist about the effects of a high-protein diet, we should keep that information in its larger context and recognize that this is how nature intended human biology to work.

DAN LOVE

Vienna, Va.

Ensuring a clean election

It’s heartening to read that accuracy and security are the goals of the Maryland State Board of Elections (“Voting machine scrutiny urged,” Nation, Wednesday). I hope to read similar reports from all states and territories.

However, I don’t see how we can trust the vote unless each vote that is cast by computer is also printed out onto a paper ballot that the voter double-checks and places in a secure box.

I don’t think we can hope to replace paper ballots with computers and ever be sure a computer operator hasn’t fiddled with the count, but we can hope for a clean election if we use both systems. It may cost a little more, but peace of mind is well worth the expense.

ELLEN THOMAS

Washington

Shortchanged on the facts

The U.S. Maritime Administration remains committed to the environmentally safe disposal of obsolete ships. That is why it was disappointing to read a critical Associated Press article in The Washington Times on June 8 that failed to tell the entire story of the Maritime Administration’s ship disposal program (“Bill would ease scrapping ships,” Metropolitan).

Just recently, I announced that three high-priority ships will be leaving the James River Reserve Fleet this summer to be dismantled in an environmentally safe manner by Marine Metals of Brownsville, Texas. Additionally, I have stated that after prolonged inactivity on this important issue in the 1990s, it’s the goal of this administration to ensure seven additional high-priority ships will leave the James River Fleet this year. This is real progress compared to the past, and we will continue our work on this very important issue.

The United States only exports ships for recycling to countries and facilities that meet the highest standards for environmental, worker and health protection. To date, ships only have been exported for recycling to the United Kingdom, where local contractors have demonstrated they can properly dispose of obsolete vessels. This Maritime Administration is working diligently to find real solutions to dispose of these ships in a responsible and expeditious way.

CAPT. WILLIAM SCHUBERT

Maritime administrator

Washington

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