- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

An inept Iraq analogy

As a former midshipman and the son of a career naval officer, I must confess to a certain sardonic amusement at the ceaseless attempts by Republican politicians to depict Democrats as the party of “cut and run” (“Troop ‘redeployment’ sought by Democrats,” Page 1, Wednesday). I must assume that none of them is aware of the genesis of the phrase.

“Cut and run” is a nautical term that applies to the predicament in which a ship’s anchor can’t be freed from the sea floor. In that situation, in order to protect the vessel, it may become necessary to sever the anchor rope, allowing the ship to “cut and run.”

The maneuver is analogous to a coyote in a steel trap, chewing off its leg in order to survive.

Were one to incorporate the metaphor of the “ship of state” to current circumstances in Iraq, I can think of no more apt description of the need to save our “ship” from the peril in which she has been placed by the misfeasance of an inept captain.


Vienna, Va.

A necessary summit

Your recent article “Letters against gun meeting swamp U.N.” (Page 1, Friday) fails to point out the necessity of yesterday’s U.N. conference and what actually will take place over the next two weeks. Every day, 1,000 people die from armed violence, and millions more suffer the consequences of small-arms proliferation and misuse.

The NRA is using this conference to promote a political and fundraising agenda, and the letters and supplemental literature are a complete misrepresentation of the conference. The United Nations met to assess progress made in implementing the 2001 U.N. Programme of Action, agreed to by all U.N. member states, including the United States, to address the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects, not a global gun ban, as the NRA claims. With this conference, the members of the United Nations rightfully are seeking a variety of ways in which they can prevent continued tragedies around the world.

Without question, the NRA’s voice is much louder than those silenced by these weapons every day — the people from whom the United Nations needs to hear. Though the NRA has sent more than 100,000 letters protesting the conference, a photo petition with images of 1 million people from more 160 countries that calls for an end to the uncontrolled proliferation of weapons that fuel conflict and abuses worldwide will be presented to Secretary-General Kofi Annan. While the NRA churns out rhetoric to satisfy its political base, the stories of those suffering from the devastating consequences of small-arms proliferation and misuse are absent from news headlines.


Senior analyst

Center for Defense Information


Government broadcasting then and now

Suffice to say that George Lesser’s Thursday Commentary column, “Bring back the USIA,” was right on the money. However, the return of the U.S. Information Agency probably would be too late to do any good for this administration for the simple reason that good, effective public-diplomacy planning takes years and is in very short supply.

The issue is complicated and requires more room than a letter to the editor provides. This writer spent 13 years as an editor in the Voice of America newsroom, 10 years as a deputy chief of the European Broadcast Division and finally, another 10 years as a media analyst and Euro/Soviet expert in the U.S. Information Agency, the parent agency of the Voice of America.

All three areas were crucial in their own right in the battle “for hearts and minds” in winning the Cold War. Of course, it involved a lot more than the simplistic shorthand of “hearts and minds.”

Yet, it has been customary for the United States to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Both Democrats and Republicans were anxious to dismantle the structures instrumental in victory, erroneously thinking history had ended.

They set about destroying the agency and putting its remnants back into the Department of State, from whence they had been removed in 1953 after it was determined that the two had no business cohabiting. The destruction of USIA was one of the worst mistakes ever made in the post-Cold War era. We are reaping the whirlwind.

A number of studies have been conducted over the past several years, all of them urging the revival of public diplomacy. Some have tried to be nice to the State Department, suggesting improvements within the current framework.

Others have been more forthright, practically demanding the re-creation of the USIA as an independent agency. For this writer, the only way to wage the “word war” in today’s world is to agree with Mr. Lesser and bring back the USIA.

From the time of the divorce, the State Department had been waging a war to regain control over the USIA and finally succeeded in 1999 because of total misunderstandings in Congress of the missions involved. Efforts by many professionals to prevent the administrative butchery failed.

One of USIA’s most notable directors, Edward R. Murrow, set the tone: “To be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable, we must be credible; to be credible, we must be truthful.”

We must be able to tread the fine line between journalistic credibility and national-security interests. That is a very difficult issue, as one must be truthful while not sacrificing the security of the American people. Especially in today’s war against terror.

Finally, as one of my newsroom colleagues used to say, “In your otherwise excellent story,” Mr. Lesser is a bit faulty in an otherwise good cause. He says that “the reason many if not most people listen to the Voice of America is to learn English.”

The millions who listened to VOA in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union did so for far more cogent reasons, such as to learn the truth and cling to hope while risking arrest. The great majority did so by listening to VOA in their native languages. A program called “Special English” was a learning tool — and a very good one.

This does not take anything away from the importance of broadcasting in English, America’s native language. The elimination of English-language broadcasting is just another anomaly in the annals of a dictatorial bureaucracy called the Broadcasting Board of Governors. It never should have been given the powers it has. In short, it should be reorganized or abolished.



Friends like these?

In a letter on Friday, “Make friends not war,” Chuck Woolery states: “Real security is a function of not making others in the world so hateful that they are willing to commit mass murder.”

However, by their own admission, the most hateful and aggressive antagonists are those who explode themselves and any and all others who won’t convert and submit to a different religion or who just offend their sensibilities. It’s difficult to make friends with such people.

Although he admits that improving border and port security is desirable, he suggests that we abandon missile defense because no nation would risk our retaliation. The head of Iran apparently disagrees with him.

The letter’s recommendation for security improvement is that we merely make more friends, but the logic of that is in total opposition to Mr. Woolery’s reliance on others fearing our retaliation if attacked by, say, North Korean or Iranian missiles.

The letter largely presents platitudes, not solutions.



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