- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2007

Minus a moral framework

Paul Belien’s Op-Ed column “Europe’s culture war” (Wednesday) concludes with a quote from Karl Popper: “Nothing is more dangerous than the destruction of this traditional moral framework, as it was consciously aimed at by Nazism. In the end its destruction will lead to cynicism and nihilism, i.e. to the disregard and dissolution of all human values.” History suggests that the consequences of the eradication of a moral framework in Europe after two millenniums of Judeo-Christian culture (its human weaknesses notwithstanding) will be even more serious, as cultures absent a transcendent moral framework invariably breed unbridled self-interest and the pursuit of pleasure, and a corresponding rejection of commitment and self-donation; practically speaking, fewer children, fewer committed relationships, fewer patriots.

This decline of a strong moral framework within society, and especially in the leadership strata, historically has led to tyranny. It also has produced societies where reason is replaced by rote and emotionalism. Witness Roman republicanism giving way to imperial dictatorship, the amoral monarchy in France giving way to Jacobin brutality and an early-20th-century Europe enamored with social Darwinism breeding vicious fascist and socialist tyrannies. Whether this new tyranny in Europe will manifest itself in an atheistic (and surely intolerant) elite or a theistic Islamic hegemony remains to be seen, but the vacuum created when a transcendent moral foundation is abandoned demands to be filled by opportunistic power.

THOMAS M. DORAN

Plymouth, Mich.

Bush’s ‘strategic vision’

This letter is in response to Maj. Daniel L. Davis’ Tuesday Op-Ed column, “To America’s generals.” This is another example of an officer who goes after the low-hanging fruit. The writer believes that the solution to our current woes in Iraq is for general officers to exhibit greater courage, greater resolve and greater ability to coordinate the various U.S. activities in Iraq.

The unspoken idea here is that we have excellent soldiers, noncommissioned officers and officers fighting in Iraq, but the critical missing element is good generals. Once we have sufficient numbers of the right generals, the thinking is, the war will be won and we can all go home.

Maj. Davis fails to decipher Gen. John J. Sheehan’s comments correctly, and in particular, the phrase “the current Washington decision-making process lacks a linkage to a broader view of the region and how the parts fit together strategically.”

What Gen. Sheehan means by this comment is that the strategic and diplomatic context of this operation is not shaped by the generals in charge, but by the president, his decision to attack Iraq and his policies regarding Iran and Syria.

The strategic vision of the president for a stable, democratic Iraq acting as a beacon to the rest of the Middle East is detached from the historic, political, religious and ethnic realities of that region. It also is detached from the powerfully negative perception most states and individuals of that region have of the United States as a global and regional bully. The current unannounced Fifth Fleet maneuvers in the Gulf of Oman only reinforce this perception.

The best of generals will have only ulcers to show for their efforts when the strategic and diplomatic world shaped for them defines victory in American terms, which most Iraqis and their neighbors do not embrace.

SCOTT R. BORDERUD

Assistant professor

Department of Command

and Leadership

U.S. Army Command and

General Staff College

Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

An alternative proposal

Last week, the D.C. Council’s Committee on Public Works and the Environment voted in support of a bill to provide a one-time exception to the District’s alcohol beverage regulations so that four nude dancing clubs displaced by the baseball stadium may operate in the Ivy City neighborhood of Ward 5. The legislation is scheduled for Council debate on June 5 (“No red-light district,” Editorial, Tuesday).

As the Ward 5 council member, I have gone on record as opposing this legislation. Unfortunately, some have portrayed my opposition as anti-GLBT because several of the adult clubs seeking to relocate into Ivy City are gay-oriented. This portrayal is incorrect. Ward 5 includes GLBT residents and GLBT business owners, and both groups are a welcome and vital part of our community. Rather, my opposition to this legislation stems from a fundamental belief that residents should be involved in shaping the future of their neighborhoods. As a legislator, ensuring that residents have a voice in what occurs in their communities is critically important to me.

I also oppose the legislation because it could hamper the neighborhood revitalization and economic development planned for this part of Ward 5. A number of residential and commercial projects are in the pipeline for the Ivy City area. Under the Home Again Initiative, 59 residential units will be built in Ivy City between December 2007 and March 2009, some of which will be situated on West Virginia Avenue near the proposed locations of two of the adult clubs. Abdo Development’s Arbor Place project is slated to add about 3,500 residential units and roughly 200,000 sq. ft. of retail space at New York Avenue, Montana Avenue and Bladensburg Road. Additional development is planned for sections of Ward 5 adjacent to Ivy City.

Furthermore, the legislation ignores the D.C. Office of Planning’s recommended revitalization strategy for Ivy City. In its report, “Northeast Gateway: Many Neighborhoods, One Community,” the Office of Planning recommends mixed-income redevelopment for Ivy City, including coordinated acquisition of vacant and abandoned properties, development of mixed-income and mixed-use communities, housing and public realm investment, and the creation of a “gateway.”

While I appreciate the concerns of the displaced establishments, a broader, more cohesive strategy for assisting these businesses is warranted. With this in mind, I have suggested to my colleagues on the council that we hold a series of public roundtables on developing a holistic approach to relocating the displaced establishments. By working together, the council can avoid the piecemeal approach of this legislation and fashion a comprehensive plan to address the issue.

HARRY “TOMMY” THOMAS JR.

D.C. Council

Ward 5

Washington

The trade deficit and unemployment

While it is true that the unemployment rate in this country has decreased at the same time the trade deficit has increased (“Driving a hard trade bargain,” Editorial, Tuesday), it is disingenuous to suggest that the labor market in the United States has improved in spite of the drag the deficit creates. In fact, it is much more appropriate to say that the trade deficit has widened because of a strong U.S. labor market, which has spurred consumption and therefore imports.

The trade deficit tends to widen in times of economic prosperity and tighten during recessions. It follows the consumption patterns of retail purchasers, who tend to buy foreign-made goods. So, if there is low unemployment and people are spending money, we as a country tend to spend more and make the deficit wider.

The trade deficit in this country has followed this cycle for the past several decades; the only noticeable improvements in the deficit occurred during the recessions of 1981, 1990, and most recently, in 2001. It is common sense, and basic economics, to state that if the trade deficit were lower at any given point in the business cycle, U.S. unemployment would be lower as well.

Further, while the World Trade Organization and the Doha trade talks are both potential solutions to the trade imbalance with China, they also are both arbitrary and short-term solutions. Perhaps the right goal should be to advocate a freely floated yuan, determined by market forces far from the politicized and public discussions on the multinational stage.

PAUL R. MROCKOWSKI

New York

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