- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2001

NATO and the West will produce another Cold War

Considering the strategic "chess playing" the West has employed against Russia, why is it a surprise that Russia is acting in its own self-defense? ("A Russian game of chess," Op-Ed, March 14)
For example, NATO was formed to counter the Soviet threat after World War II. With the dissolution of the Soviet empire and the democratization of a weakened Russia, why does NATO still exist?
Not only does it exist, but it has directed the illegal and barbaric destruction of Yugoslavia, contributed to the poisoning of the Balkans with depleted uranium, provided little security to non-Albanians in Kosovo and turned a blind eye to the suffering of non-Albanians in general.
By these actions, NATO has shown the Russians that it has a vicious side that its leaders arrogantly believe they can violate international law and global security with little regard for the consequences.
The expansion of NATO right up to the borders of Russia and the West's interference in the Caspian Sea region (such as "securing" the Balkans for the construction of an oil pipeline) have provoked the Russians to their limit. Consider the recent joint statements made by Russian and Iranian leaders in regard to Russia's sale of nuclear arms to Iran.
Had the West treated Russia with fairness and equality as a European strategic and democratic partner, we would find ourselves in a significantly different and globally safer situation.
We likely would not have found it necessary to bomb the Serbs. Because of our lack of strategy and vision in foreign affairs and because of the moral bankruptcy of former president Bill Clinton (and his administration), who sought power at any cost, we may soon find ourselves in another Cold War.
Costly NATO has once again found a purpose for its senseless and pathetic existence.

Las Vegas

More 'arrogance, indifference' from the mayor's staff

Once again, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and his staff demonstrate their arrogance and indifference to opinions other than their own ("School board sidesteps mayor with funds plea," March 14).
The school board wants increased funding and has decided to ask the D.C. Council to change the mayor's submitted budget. But the mayor's chief of staff, Abdusalam Omer, said, "The only person who can submit the budget to the council is the mayor."
Mr. Omer learned at least one lesson from U.S. Government 101. But I think he missed other important points: the legislative power of the purse and the importance of citizen input. The mayor can submit any budget he wants, but the council has an equal say in setting budget priorities.
One of the most important ways council members determine their budget priorities is by listening to their constituents, be they individual residents, advisory neighborhood commissioners or school board members.
As much as they may dislike it, it's time for Mr. Williams and his staff to realize that the council is an equal branch of government, elected by the same voters who elected the mayor.


Emperor's conversion doesn't make case against faith-based initiative

In his March 14 Commentary column, "Church of the state?" Cal Thomas writes, "Constantine expected the Christians to serve the state in his military and in official capacities. When many refused, persecution broke out, reaching its culmination under Constantine's successor, the Emperor Nero." Not exactly. In fact, not even close. As every classically educated schoolboy knows, the Emperor Nero reigned in the middle of the first century. Every Catholic schoolboy knows this because it was under Nero that St. Peter, the first bishop of Rome, was martyred. Constantine, on the other hand, was converted to Christianity and reigned in the fourth century (not the third century, as Mr. Thomas has it) and thus was separated from Nero by a longer period than we are from 1776. Constantine's triumph essentially meant the end of anti-Christian fervor, except for the historical blip of Julian the Apostate, who tried to impose a sort of new-age paganism to restore Roman glory. Indeed, the great state theological battle after Constantine concerned whether the empire should be Catholic or Arian Christian. The idea of state indifference to religion doesn't manifest itself in any considerable way until the Enlightenment, more than a millennium later.

WashingtonCal Thomas compares President Bush's faith-based initiative to the Emperor Constantine's freeing of the Christians in Rome from criminal status and his adoption of Christianity as the state religion. Fair enough, but Mr. Thomas' consideration that Constantine's conversion could have been purely political is unfortunate.
Before he fought his way to the throne, Constantine was well-disposed to Christianity. According to tradition, he attributed his success in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge to the appearance of a cross in the heavens with the subscript, "In hoc signo vinces" ("In this sign, you will conquer.") His mother, Helena, already was publicly a Christian.
Mr. Thomas' consideration of the possible political motives for Constantine's conversion border on historical revisionism. His Edict of Milan, which established toleration of Christianity throughout the empire, was not popular, either in the Roman Senate or among the populace, and the idea that he expected to fill up his legions with pacifist Christians who had no reason to love or fight for Rome is risible.
Why ignore the probability that Constantine simply had become a Christian? He deeply involved himself in Christian theology. He interfered at the Council of Nicaea (325) to his political disadvantage, when staying aloof would have strengthened his position in the Eastern Empire.
Finally, Mr. Thomas should at least get his dates straight. Nero reigned from 54 to 68 and succeeded the Emperor Claudius. Constantine became emperor 300 years later, in the fourth century.
Mr. Thomas may be right about faith-based government initiatives, but his command of facts does not give one confidence in his arguments.

Woodbridge, Va.

Cal Thomas reveals his lack of knowledge of history when he writes: "Constantine expected the Christians to serve the state in his military and in official capacities. When many refused, persecution broke out, reaching its culmination under Constantine's successor, the Emperor Nero." To begin with, Constantine was emperor from 305 to 337 and Nero from 54 to 68 The Apostles Peter and Paul both were executed during the reign of Nero.
Constantine did not persecute the church. As a matter of fact, he enthusiastically supported the church when the Council of Nicaea rejected Arianism. Mr. Thomas might have had Julian the Apostate in mind. Emperor from 361 to 363, he was a nephew of Constantine. His most severe persecution of Christians, though, was an edict in 362 forbidding them to teach the classics.


Columnist should get some air

In his Op-Ed article arguing that European bureaucrats and environmentalists are misrepresenting science to achieve political ambitions, Malcolm Wallop states that CO2 is "the most naturally occurring gas in nature" ("Whitman blows it," March 14). Perhaps he lives a little too close to one of those unregulated coal burning power stations he favors, because elsewhere nitrogen is the most plentiful (comprising a little under 70 percent of the atmosphere), followed by oxygen. The former Senator would do well to check his high school chemistry facts before accusing others of misusing scientific data.


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