- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 14, 2006

Duplicity on the border

I think most Americans are sick and tired of the duplicitous game played by Congress, when they vote for 700 miles of border fence and then fail to provide sufficient funds to do the job (“Fence funding in budget just the start,” Page 1, Wednesday).

It’s perfectly obvious that they want to use this as a campaign issue, which will be reneged on after the election.

Fool me one, shame on you; Fool me twice, same on me.

BYRON SLATER

San Diego

Effecting change inside North Korea

No one knows where the plutonium in North Korea is. The nation has one of the biggest armies in the world, and with Seoul being within easy distance of thousands of North Korean artillery guns, military action is not an option — yet.

So, what of the leader himself? By all accounts, Kim Jong-il is the most self-obsessed ruler in the world, so perhaps the leverage the international community is seeking to nullify this threat can be found in his insular state of mind.

For the ultimate narcissist, no strategy exists other than self-glorification. Maybe it is simply because he is so self-obsessed that Mr. Kim sees nothing of anyone else’s worth and is merely testing a missile without thought of increased power in the region, but only because he believes he can do what he wants.

The rest of the world should be careful not to confuse self-glorification with effectively planned strategy and a specific goal in the pursuit of conquest or war — especially if a war would cost the communist regime of North Korea all that it has.

So, how then does one bring down a narcissist? (Maybe we need psychiatrists to solve this problem rather than politicians.)

In a regime led by someone so focused on himself, there must be scant room to maneuver for those who also are enjoying the power of communist rule but want more.

The other possible scenario, however, is that because Mr. Kim is so full of self-importance, the real threat to the world comes not from him, but from those around him who have his ear and are in fact the puppet masters to Kim Jong-il’s puppet.

In either case, friends and foes of the international community should be relatively easy to pinpoint, and the North Korean regime should be extremely vulnerable to the infection of paranoia about whom to trust on one’s own side (just as befell ancient Rome during its self-destruction).

Releasing his commanders (and many more levels of authority) from the anonymity they enjoy, therefore, through international institutions such as the United Nations and the world’s media following this nuclear test may prove to be enough to kill two birds with one stone.

Such a move could make them less provocative in their actions as well as encourage Mr. Kim, if he does rule the roost, that this current period of boasting may not be the fun he wants after all, given how the lack of attention undermines his authority.

The threat that probably comes most of all from North Korea, however, is what Mr. Kim and his overgrown ego may leave the next generation of communist rulers who follow, and what I find so alarming about such countries is the number of people who are prepared to follow, slavishly, the dictator who rules at the expense of millions of people’s lives and allows them to starve without thought or care.

It is for what may follow Mr. Kim that I believe his regime should become a target for “as soon as” overthrow, not least because it is the more preferred structure if implosion were the chosen course of action.

It is completely insular; narcissism is the air that the rulers breathe; the chain of command is easily pinpointed; and the people, if not fenced in, would run for their lives.

NEIL PRICE

St Louis

Make the switch away from leather

Tom Knott’s article “PETA is balls of fun,” (Sports, Wednesday) delivers a message of personal frustration, along with the idea that being compassionate toward other living beings is just unacceptable, and therefore ridiculed.

There is nothing wrong if NBA is happy with a faux-leather ball, forward thinking is something to promote not to obliterate, even if it might save a cow’s life.

Mr. Knott seems to ignore in his article the human and environmental impact that the choice of faux-leather versus leather represents. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged that livestock pollution is the greatest threat to our waterways. Animals on factory farms produce 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population, without the help of waste treatment plants.

Furthermore, although some leather makers deceptively present their products as “eco-friendly,” turning skin into leather requires massive amounts of energy and dangerous chemicals. People who work in, and live near tanneries, are dying from cancer caused by exposure to toxic chemicals used to process and dye leather. Switching to faux-leather, then, not only reduces exploitation, but it is also environmentally sound.

CINZIA MADDALENA

Potomac

Path of reason in Iraq

The coalition forces have not “lost” Iraq while we are still there (“The president’s Iraq challenge — and ours,” Editorial, Friday). But the Iraqi government appears to have lost Iraq. It’s time for us to reconsider our military commitment to defeat divisive minorities that defy us and their own government, increasingly murdering defenseless citizens.

We must devise a way of leaving Iraq relatively stable, or at least draw on containment sponsored by neighboring belligerents and the sectarian groups as well as terrorists over whom they have influence.

Multi-hatted former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III, a co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, is the voice of reason. Countering Sen. Joseph Biden’s plan to “divvy up” the country along sectarian lines, Mr. Baker observed, “that in itself will trigger a huge civil war because the major cities in Iraq are mixed.”

Surely the West learned the lessons of drawing up boundaries from the experiences of colonial administrations in Africa, for example, where borders were drawn without regard to ethnic cohesion and where still-raging wars show the consequences of blowback.

Sending more troops would be a real-life enactment of the anti-war movie “Paths of Glory” where troops are sent to sure defeat and death to further a commander’s political aims.

We can’t let politics, rather than security, determine our next step in Iraq. We must not send good troops after “bad.”

Furthermore, Mr. Baker suggested in an interview on ABC News that the United States should do what this administration seems to dread: namely talk to influential adversaries of ours in the region.

We have to determine, while simultaneously maintaining and even furthering our mission to prevent Iran from going nuclear, what Iran and Syria want from “trading” with the West. If it’s talking one on one, we must bite the bullet. As others have suggested, perhaps student exchanges and a U.S. Embassy in Iran would do the trick.

We cannot let Iraq spiral out of control, which it would do if we left precipitously. That would spread that civil war to the region, destabilizing the Middle East even more, and thereby, “blowing-back” to the world at large.

ONA BUNCE

Bethesda

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