- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2006

Guerrilla warfare

We have heard a lot about the lessons of Vietnam, yet it appears that most either ignore the real lessons or just do not understand guerrilla war, in which the enemy uses the worst form of terror as a weapon (“Deadly Anbar harbors ‘rat lines,’ ” Page 1, yesterday).

In Vietnam, we failed to cut off supply lines through Laos and Cambodia. When we finally made the concerted effort, it was far too late. The north had well fortified the trail. Controlling logistics is extremely important, albeit difficult, when the enemy is a guerrilla force needing relatively few supplies to accomplish its goal of terror with the help of “innocent” civilians whom our enemy uses to feed and house itself.

We also refused to understand in Vietnam, and now in Iraq and Afghanistan, that our enemy includes the citizens who support them. In Vietnam, we failed to fully appreciate what the enemy was willing to sacrifice to defeat the United States. Now we have an enemy who has convinced its troops that it will gain the ultimate reward by dying for the cause of jihad. At the same time, a large percentage in this country believes that anyone even volunteering for our military must be sick or evil.

The single biggest difference between this war and Vietnam is that North Vietnam didn’t state that it wished to destroy the United States. It did not attack our homeland.

I still meet people daily who believe, as many believed before World Wars I and II, that we should just come home and leave the world to fend for itself. They were wrong then, and they are even more wrong today.

I meet others on both ends of the political spectrum who cannot imagine the United States losing this war. Though I know we have the ability to win, I am not convinced that we have the desire and dedication, nor do I believe many understand fully what losing this war would mean.

EDWIN W. IRBY JR.

Tallahassee, Fla.

The time to act

In yesterday’s editorial “Don’t do it, Mrs. Pelosi,” the writer finds it incomprehensible that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi may have decided to remove Rep. Jane Harman of California from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and replace her in January with Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida.

It refers to charges of bribery — 17 counts — against Mr. Hastings when he was a U.S. district judge, for which Democrats in Congress voted 413-3 in 1988 to impeach him. The editorial further informs readers that after Mr. Hastings was elected to Congress, Mrs. Pelosi appointed him to the House Intelligence Committee.

In view of the Republicans’ recent action to seal documents taken from Rep. William Jefferson’s office by the FBI, action that gives Democrats 45 days to deal with Mr. Jefferson’s suspected bribery, why shouldn’t Mrs. Pelosi do it?

When the 45 days are up and the FBI resumes its pursuit of the case, the Democrats will have protected their party from Mr. Jefferson’s disgrace by having taken some action against him.

Meanwhile, the Republicans have done nothing about his supposed crime except to appear to protect him. It is the Republicans’ spinelessness that I find incomprehensible. Republican officials ought to memorize Herman Melville’s words: “I believe that much of a man’s character will be found betokened in his backbone. I would rather feel your spine than your skull, whoever you are. A thin joist of a spine never yet upheld a full and noble soul.”

Where stands reform?

Henry I. Miller has accurately identified the serious problem of the near-absence of oversight over the billions of dollars provided by the United States to the United Nations and its specialized agencies (“Un-diplomacy at the U.N.,” Commentary, Sunday).

Every year, for instance, the United States provides $1.2 billion to the World Bank alone. Extremely busy congressional committees don’t have time to schedule oversight hearings, and even when senators, representatives and senior congressional staff members are aware of the repeated failure of reform and the refusal to adhere to written promises and commitments by multilateral organizations, they are reluctant to take any action, perhaps fearing the formidable public-relations machine of the multilateral agencies.

Rapidly, the organizations are able to shift attention from reforms promised but not delivered to the heart-wrenching challenges presented by poverty and mismanagement in many developing countries. Few senators or representatives ask aloud if indeed those crises that appear with annual regularity are linked to the decades of failure of alleged reform efforts.

DR. SUNIL CHACKO

Vienna

Yugoslavia, then and now

Jeffrey T. Kuhner observes that Yugoslavia is dead (“Yugoslavia, rest in peace,” Commentary, Thursday). Actually, Yugoslavia was stillborn. Even as it was being cobbled together as part of post-World War I peacemaking, Croats (and other nationalities) resented Belgrade’s domination. Stjepan Radic of the Croatian Peasant Party was interned for petitioning the peace conference for Croatian autonomy and later was shot in parliament.

Yugoslavia was part of a far larger drama and tragedy that unfolded in 1920. By creating an unworkable European order, the peacemakers following “the war to end all wars” actually laid the groundwork for a greater conflagration 19 years later. In the process, they dismembered Hungary to mint new multiethnic entities — Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia — and to greatly enlarge Romania with territory that included a significant number of minorities.

The peacemakers, some motivated by vengeance, were ignorant or ignored the region’s history. By drawing artificial borders and transferring more than 3 million indigenous ethnic Hungarians and more than 70 percent of the country’s territory to foreign rule, they violated the very principle of self-determination they invoked to rearrange Europe, and they truncated a state that had been a self-contained, geographically and economically coherent formation in Central Europe that boasted one of the longest-lasting historical borders in Europe.

This European order, reimposed in the 1947 Paris peace treaty, collapsed at the end of the ColdWar.Ethnicgroups throughout the region, with the exception of the Hungarians, realized their objectives to exercise self-determination. Over Western objections against secession, Slovenians, Croatians, Macedonians and Albanians declared their independence. The Montenegrins also have embarked on that path. Kosovo, too, appears headed toward achieving either full autonomy or independence. Slovaks escaped Prague’s perceived dominance in the divorce of 1993, ignoring the status of the compact Hungarian community living in southern Slovakia.

The Hungarian communities living as minorities in several of these newly divided post-Cold War states do not fully enjoy the benefits of the rearranged Europe. Their very identity is threatened, as they are denied a range of minority rights. For example, the Romanian government refuses to restore the Hungarian-language university in Cluj-Napoca (Kolozsvar) that was eliminated by the communists. Hungarians of Vojvodina, a province of Serbia that historically had never been part of that country, face mounting pressure from extremist Serbs.

The Hungarian minorities have democratically expressed their aspirations to be free from discrimination and intolerance and to be granted various forms of autonomy. To date, their legitimate aspirations have been denied. The new states of the region ought to change course by promoting enlightened minority policies that would advance both genuine democracy and stability. Then, states such as Yugoslavia will not have to be buried; rather, cultures will be able to flourish.

FRANK KOSZORUS JR.

American Hungarian Federation

Washington

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