Global rule of law, not law of force
Thomas Sowell demonstrates lethal pre-September 11 thinking by comparing the lead-up to World War II with his belief that we will soon end up like France if we don't "do something" to stop Iran ("Morally paralyzed," Commentary, Thursday).
First, our "war" against terrorism and al Qaeda's declared war against us is nothing like World War II on any level. There are no massed armies (except ours). No foreign invaders or occupiers (except us). No weapons of mass destruction (except ours, Russia's, Pakistan's, China's, India's and Israel's). No mass detention of people because of their religion (except by us). No clearly defined battle fronts (except those we create). No axis of nations is plotting to take over the world. All we have are a bunch of murderous, cave-dwelling fanatics using the aggressive stupidity of their enemies to boost their own murderous ranks.
Mr. Sowell is following the "war at any price" bandwagon that a few other columnists have jumped onto over the last few months. They all argue for targeted strikes to stop Iran's nuclear capacity. What about Iran's biological capacity? In our post-September 11 world, a biological weapon like smallpox is a far greater threat to our freedom, prosperity and survival than a few loose nukes.
Today's situation is far closer to the world conditions prior to World War I that Harlan Ullman outlined so clearly in his Op-Ed "July 1914 redux?" (Wednesday). Any military strike on Iran would be like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. It would spark and effectively fuel a real global holy war.
The lesson we failed to learn from both previous world wars is the need to create an enforceable global system of government that is more than a talkfest, one that can effectively protect human rights and eliminate war as a means of solving problems.
In reality, any form of mass murder (war, terrorism, genocide) is a crime against humanity. Those who commit such crimes of mass murder should be effectively prosecuted and brought to justice. We need a global rule of law, not the continued global law of force.
The increasing and irreversible global availability of mass-murdering technology (nuclear, biological, chemical and even conventional) cannot be controlled. All nations, groups and individuals will be able to obtain it. Not even the most powerful nation or the most intrusive and repressive world government created by those fearing for their lives will be able to stop the level of mass murder that will be attained if humanity continues to chose the law of force over the rule of law.
Only an enforceable global bill of rights can effectively replace the right of nations to do as they please in response to any perceived threat. Throughout my childhood I swore allegiance to my flag without fully understanding my words. Now I can only hope we all take that pledge and its first and last words seriously "I pledge... liberty and justice for all." We can use the powers of this great nation to achieve it, instead of sparking and fueling the next world jihad/crusade.
A high minimum wage is counterproductive
The answer to Mike Fishman's question — Why doesn't the United States have a minimum wage that enables workers to provide for their families? — is simple: because a high minimum wage is a bad idea and is economically counterproductive ("Increasing the minimum wage," Op-Ed, Wednesday).
A fundamental tenet of a capitalist economy is that a customer is not obligated to pay more for an item than it is worth to him. Indeed, he must not be forced to do so, since his refusal to pay a higher price provides important feedback to the supplier that his product is overpriced for the current market.
The vast majority of workers that earn minimum wage fall into one of two categories. Either they are beginners — usually students who are still learning — or retirees who are supplementing their pensions. The former, if they work hard, almost certainly will receive regular and substantial raises as inducements to stay on. The latter don't really care; they just want to keep busy and earn spending money.
In the end, a high minimum wage ends up being counterproductive since it forces employers to move jobs overseas in order to remain competitive or to move the load onto existing employees. So, instead of a new worker earning a higher minimum wage, he earns nothing.
Should we wait for Armageddon?
Stanley Orman and Maj. Gen. Eugene Fox ("Dubious defense analysis," Letters, Friday) completely miss the point in their assessment of my Monday Op-Ed titled "Back to the 1930s."
First, I did not propose that we move to the production of the Airborne Laser, only that we move to demonstrate its capability in a shootdown scheduled for mid-2009. The House Appropriations Committee (HAC) agreed, moving to address this issue by nearly fully funding the program at $498 million. The committee report further noted: ". . . the technical progress that the Airborne Laser (ABL) program has made over the last three years with the early accomplishment of the firing and refurbishment of the high energy laser and the continuing flight testing associated with the beam control /fire control (BC/FC) system. These technical challenges were accomplished while the program stayed within the government determined schedule and budget." The committee then concluded that it "looked forward to continuing strong support and commensurate funding by the Missile Defense Agency of the ABL." The HAC mark is an improvement over previous House and Senate action and is thus consistent with what I recommended.
Second, while the proposed third site in Europe might use a de-scoped Kinetic Energy Interceptor or KEI as Mr. Orman and Gen. Fox claim, they are off-base as well in their assessment. The HAC called for the KEI to be returned to a boost phased program and increased funding for the program to $372 million, adding some $145 million to the program while noting "the KEI has met each knowledge point while remaining on schedule and on budget." Again, this is exactly what I have recommended.
Third, while there is no doubt that proving the military effectiveness of advanced missile defense concepts takes time, Mr. Orman and Gen. Fox seem unaware the United States and its allies are at war with countries such as Iran whose leaders former CIA chief R. James Woolsey describes as genocidal maniacs. There are two clocks moving simultaneously: the terror states' timetable to deliver a nuclear weapon on a U.S. city and the efforts of the United States and its allies to stop such an attack. While the intelligence community says a long-range Iranian missile threat might not emerge until 2015, the time to develop a missile defense even under current plans would not see a mid-European deployment until 2013.
That does not leave much room for error and places in stark relief the failures of the 1990s when missile defense was put on the back burner by the Clinton administration. As Churchill ruefully noted after World War II, if the allies had only moved more quickly to defend Europe against the Nazis, the death of some 60 million people could have been avoided. And we only have to remember the North Korean threat analysis of 1995 by the U.S. intelligence community that turned out to be wrong.
Fourth, the threats we face are just as serious. The U.S. government, in its recently released national security assessment, declares Iran to be the most serious terror state threat we face. Reports now indicate North Korea has shipped some 18 BM-25 ballistic missiles and their associated launchers to Iran, missiles with a 3,400-kilometer range, which puts all of central Europe at risk. In addition, a just-released poll also found that over 80 percent of the American people support the deployment of a mid-European missile defense site to defend against Iranian missile threats.
Fifth, Mr. Orman and Gen. Fox call for realistic tests to determine future capabilities and that is exactly what the ABL and KEI programs are designed to achieve in the next few years. Over the past few years, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has successfully demonstrated intercept capabilities in 28 of 36 tests. The deployment of missile defenses is now scheduled to reach more than 1,000 interceptors shortly after the beginning of the next decade. The MDA is moving responsibly but prudently to provide America and its allies a necessary layered, global missile defense to protect our liberties and our security. My question to critics such as Mr. Orman and Gen. Fox is simple: What is it these critics want us to wait for in order to support the forward movement of missile defense with some urgency rather than the business-as-usual acquisition process that is not relevant to today's threats? Armageddon?