- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 24, 2002

The problem with deterrence

Commentary columnist Paul Greenberg's fixation on nuclear weapons is understandable given the real threat we face ("Safety in thinking of the unthinkable," March 21), but his approach to dealing with the threat suggests that he suffers from the malady "cognitive dissonance," which Tony Blankley mentioned in his March 20 Op-Ed column, "A fear of the nuclear." Mr. Greenberg ignores the reality of a swiftly changing world and clings to his cherished notion of nuclear deterrence.
In reality, deterrence only works if you know who the bomber is. Knowing the source of the weapon isn't enough. A suitcase nuclear device or material for a dirty bomb might originate in Russia, but that doesn't make Russia the guilty party. The anthrax used against Americans likely originated in U.S. bioweapons labs.
Further, the culprit may very well be a person or group who are not deterred by the thought of incineration. They might actually welcome it, knowing that if the United States responds by using nuclear weapons, it will confirm their propaganda that the United States is brutal and uncivilized. Most people oppose the nuclear option because it crosses a threshold of civility and results in the deaths of innocent people.
The nature of other weapons of mass destruction, such as biological weapons, makes deterrence, detection or pre-emption almost impossible. These weapons can be developed, smuggled and released far more cheaply, easily and anonymously than nuclear weapons. They can be just as lethal and damaging to our economy and just as disrupting to our way of life as a nuclear bomb. Just the threat of such weapons is already forcing a complete reorganization of nearly every aspect of our government.
U.S. efforts to improve our nuclear force miss a point to which Israel is still blind. Peace does not come from overwhelming military superiority. It comes from the rule of law law made and enforced by a democratically elected government, applied equally to all and protective of basic inalienable rights.
Until our values of life, liberty and justice for all are applied equally and globally, we will have no way of preventing what Osama bin Laden predicted during the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan. Observing America's homeland response, he said, "I tell you, freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people in and the West in general into an unbearable hell and a choking life."
Already, expansion of government surveillance systems, the curtailment of domestic freedoms and the call for unconstitutional powers to respond to future attacks are leading us down this road. Building better weapons and waging more war is not "thinking outside the nuclear box." Aspiring to justice for all and creating democratic international institutions (such as the International Criminal Court) capable of holding criminals accountable is our only means of maximizing both our individual freedoms and our nation's security.
Our choice is not between freedom and security. It's among freedom, security and independence. We can have any two of these, but not all three. Independence is a myth, but security is a possibility. We must choose between the false idol of national sovereignty and our collective desire for security.

CHUCK WOOLERY
Rockville

Why we still need land mines

We have not heard much from the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) lately. I suppose an organization that had its genesis in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) has had trouble promoting its agenda, what with September 11 and the recent wave of American patriotism.
Even charter member Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, has supported President Bush and the war on terrorism. Yes, the same John Kerry who was filmed throwing his military decorations over the White House fence after his tour of duty in Southeast Asia was an outspoken member of the VVAW. The fact that those same military awards are on display in his Senate office now belie his patent hypocrisy. The VVAF's recent campaign against the United States for not signing on to another left-wing feel-good program outlawing land mines is similarly hypocritical.
In his March 19 letter to the editor, "Land mines the lingering problem," Joseph Donahue of the VVAF sets forth his disdain for Ernest Lefever's March 15 Commentary column, "Land mines myopia." Mr. Donahue, a Special Forces officer, has spent time in various countries defusing old land mines left by warring factions. The world is grateful for his efforts. However, Mr. Donahue has failed to understand that signing a proclamation that outlaws land mines is as effective as requiring criminals to register their firearms. Outlawing land mines will not deter those who seek to take advantage of law-abiding people.
As a combat Vietnam veteran of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, I can testify to the great rewards of the Claymore mine with which so many veterans of the war are familiar. These were command detonated (requiring the soldier to fire the weapon), and we never left them on the field of battle. They were of great support in defense of our positions, whether in our loggered-in sites at night, fire support bases, or major landing zone perimeters. I don't know in how many ambush missions Mr. Donahue was involved, but Claymore mines were the first weapons fired in the ones in which I participated.
We did not use any tank mines during my service in Vietnam. With enemy armies such as Iraq, I suspect anti-tank mines will be needed again and the common grunts such as myself will welcome them.
The enemies of this country will use any method to kill Americans. This country should respond to such force with all means at our disposal. The rest of America understands. Why doesn't Mr. Donahue?

EMMETT LAUER
Silver Spring.

Evolution as pet theory

After simply asserting that biological evolution is a "scientific theory" and intelligent design a "nonscientific idea," Mr. Spilhaus attempts to belittle the increasing body of theoretical and scientific evidence for intelligent design, calling it "nonsense" and stating that "scientists would be racing to publish their results" if the evidence were true. But that's not necessarily so.
As intelligent-design authority Phillip Johnson demonstrated in his investigative work, academia discourages scientists from supporting intelligent design. Scientists fear losing promotions and grant money for publicly supporting the idea.
Mr. Spilhaus attacks Mr. Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, arguing that it would be a bad idea "to teach that the Earth is 6,000 years old." But this is a strawman. Try as I may, I can't find anything in the senator's column even hinting at such a notion. He never mentions the Bible or Earth's age.
Good scientists never read their own biases into a debate, as Mr. Spilhaus does with Mr. Santorum. And Mr. Spilhaus fails to address a point the senator does mention namely, that probability models, even ones with extremely favorable conditions, show that chance creation of even the simplest of living molecules is vanishingly remote. I refer readers to the works of James F. Coppedge and Marcel E. Golay.
Ms. Karlen seems to think antibiotic-resistant bacteria is proof of evolution, but such bacteria remains bacteria; it doesn't become a different organism. Its ability to develop resistance to antibiotics like our ability to develop resistances is an inherent trait, demonstrating the possibility of intelligent design. Evolution's proponents have yet to provide replicable experiments or scientific evidence that is not open to valid alternate interpretations of the data.
From their dogmatic opposition, it seems evolution's defenders aren't worried so much about schoolchildren as they are about their own pet theories being left behind.

SCOTT A. BYRD
Vienna


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