- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Can America export democracy?

The editorial reminder of President Bush’s words in his second inaugural address (“Notable 2005 remarks,” Sunday) raises a question that has troubled America from the beginning: Can America export democracy?

In that address on Jan. 20, Mr. Bush said: “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.”

This modest statement contrasts with Mr. Bush’s more crusading pronouncements about bringing democracy and freedom to Afghanistan and Iraq.

From the beginning, U.S. presidents have stood for the basic rights of other peoples, but they have not believed the United States could export democracy or freedom.

John Quincy Adams put it clearly: “Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will be America’s heart, her benediction and her prayers. She goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

His words can serve as a warning when some Americans speak, glibly I fear, of imposing democracy or establishing freedom in other countries.

All our presidents have been motivated by moral considerations and national interests, though they have defined those terms differently. Woodrow Wilson’s idealism fed unrealistic expectations. However, all our presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Mr. Bush have recognized our responsibility to nudge history in a more humane direction.

During the 1940s, we knew that Nazi Germany and imperial Japan had to be defeated. Our intervention was not a crusade, but a just war.

During the Cold War, we gradually learned that the world could not long endure “half slave and half free.” Deftly combining realpolitik and ethics, Ronald Reagan called Moscow an “evil empire” and said bluntly: “Mr. Gorbachev: ‘Tear down this wall.’ ”

ERNEST W. LEFEVER

Chevy Chase

A degrading influence

I wholeheartedly agree with Monique E. Stuart’s observations concerning the generally degrading influence the “Sex and the City” series has had on our society and women specifically (“Slutty feminism,” Forum, Sunday). However, I would suggest that television’s debasing influence has been even broader.

“Sex and the City” was carried on a premium cable network that is able to go beyond the boundaries established for commercial stations. However, the commercial stations themselves continue to challenge the established content guidelines established by the Federal Communications Commission in an effort to compete with cable. TV has become something I believe most of us do not want in our living rooms. We are by our very nature lazy, however, so “TrashVision” is allowed to contribute to the general degradation of our whole society.

Also, because TV has become such a mainstay in our daily lives, its influence, projected through its shows and stars, continues to debase our attitudes and morals on a daily basis. This can be seen clearly if we simply look around and observe what I call “slutty fashion.” Don’t get me wrong — I am no prude, but slutty fashion does not contribute anything to real beauty. It merely degrades the wearer.

Slutty fashion, along with slutty feminism, is being used by those with a secular agenda to destroy the morals of this great country of ours. If allowed to continue on the downward spiral that they follow, they may well succeed.

THOMAS M. KEELEY III

Ocean View, Del.

Preserving national parks

The funding challenges that for too long have plagued America’s national parks demand new approaches to meet ever-growing needs (“National parks seek ways to raise funds,” Nation, Dec. 27).

On average, national parks across the system operate with just two-thirds of the funding they need to repair and preserve historic buildings, protect natural resources and cultural artifacts, and educate the millions who visit annually. What results from these shortfalls are closed visitor centers at places such as the C&O Canal National Historical Park, rusting cannon carriages at Gettysburg National Military Park, and frustrated conclusions like the one recently drawn by the state of Pennsylvania — that the state would make a better steward of our nation’s heritage at Valley Forge than the National Park Service, which operates Valley Forge National Historical Park.

To examine parks issues in depth and to identify solutions to these challenges, Rep. Mark Souder, Indiana Republican, hosted an unprecedented series of field hearings on national parks funding over the past year. He and 60 fellow House Republicans and Democrats are co-sponsoring the National Park Centennial Act as an innovative way to increase funding for maintenance and natural and cultural resource preservation needs in our national parks through 2016. (Sen. John McCain has introduced a bipartisan companion bill in the Senate.)

Though sufficient annual federal funding for parks is necessary, developing nongovernmental financial support for parks should not be dismissed. As your article points out, the Centennial Act would give taxpayers the opportunity to make voluntary contributions to the parks through a federal tax return check-off box. However, your article incorrectly implies that the check-off box would allow individuals to allocate tax dollars to the National Park Service. Not so. The check-off box would solicit donations above and beyond any required tax payments to support the elimination of the parks’ multibillion-dollar backlog of deferred maintenance. Moreover, the bill specifically notes that any such contributions must be supplemental to park budgets; Congress must not use donations to avoid its financial responsibilities.

Americans love our national parks. Protecting and preserving these icons for future generations will continue to demand ingenuity and investment.

STEVE BOSAK

National park legacy director

National Parks Conservation Association

Washington

Linguists still in short supply

Rep. Peter Hoekstra is to be commended for recognizing a serious problem (“Needed: Arabic translators,” Op-Ed, Dec. 23). However, his column oversimplifies solutions.

There is likely much in the collection he mentions of foreign papers, documents, electronic media and other materials from U.S. operations in Desert Storm, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the continuing war on terror that could help with the prosecution of former officials from Saddam Hussein’s regime and with counterinsurgency and law enforcement. New recruits for the security forces could be more completely vetted.

Most of these materials should be screened and digitized. That could facilitate exploitation in many places and, also, permanent U.S. retention of the records. (An Iraqi government eventually will demand return of the country’s government records.) Some things cannot be readily transferred to the Iraqis or publicized.

Files containing derogatory information from persistent Iraqi security surveillance and manipulation could greatly complicate the politics and interethnic and interreligious conflict of new Iraq and the lives of millions of individuals who may have collaborated or been accused.

Mr. Hoekstra does not address our government’s failure since September 11 to substantially expand the supply of Arab linguists. We should have at least several thousand more by now, using a combination of means (including recruitment of Arab Americans in the same manner that the Army enlisted Japanese Americans into its World War II Military Intelligence Service).

Just opening the records to all comers definitely is not a solution and is not in the interest of the United States, either. (Fancy all the anti-U.S. propaganda that could be generated by our foreign adversaries engaging in selective use.)

WILLIAM HORN

Washington

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