- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2006

Gun-death numbers

In criticizing my Sept. 15 letter against gun ownership, Tim Dudenhoefer asked why, if owning guns is bad, Switzerland has both a strong gun tradition and a low homicide rate (“More guns, less crime,” Letters, Sept. 17). He included a figure for the number of homicides. He said the chances of being killed by a criminal with a gun in England is 50 times that in the United States.

His figures on Switzerland, even if correct, did not take into account the small population, and the numbers on England are incorrect.

In 1999, the homicide rate per 100,000 persons was 4.08 in the United States, 0.50 in Switzerland and 0.12 in England. Put more clearly, this means that the chance of someone getting murdered by a gun in the United States is 8.16 more than for someone in Switzerland and 34 more than for someone in England.

This data was collected by Philip Alpers while he was a senior fellow at the Harvard Injury Control Center, and HELP network.

WILLIAM G GARRETT

Harrow Middlesex, England

What Virginia needs

James H. Webb Jr. is something of an icon for military folk, among whom he often approaches demigod status because of his decorated service in Vietnam and his directness and intellect. However, his recent debate with Sen. George Allen (“Allen, Webb face off on NBC,” Metropolitan, Monday) highlighted two fundamental reasons why he would be the wrong choice for senator.

Most important, Mr. Webb seems to have forgotten the lessons penned in his historical novel “A Sense of Honor” (a leadership course book at the Air Force Academy when I attended), in which he argues effectively that, above all, a public servant must maintain his integrity in order to lead.

His two-stepping on his positions on women in combat and affirmative action and his recent use of the name of Ronald Reagan to bolster his campaign show me that he has traded in the integrity he so eloquently wrote about for a base political pragmatism. Time to try to win an election, I guess.

Second, as a military theorist, he certainly knows better than to castigate those who have not worn a uniform as somehow unfit for public office. Not only does this commit a fallacy (ad hominem), but one only need look to the example of Jimmy Carter, himself a Naval Academy graduate and officer, to realize that honorable military service is not a precursor for effective military command. It is certainly not a trump card to be pulled out whenever your positions are challenged, as Mr. Webb did several times during the debate, most notably when his opposition to the 1991 invasion was called out.

I was hoping for a more principled tack from someone whose writings have been studied for years by cadets and midshipmen.

Unfortunately, in this debate, he did not seem to remember the words he penned several years ago about the linkage of integrity, public service and leadership.

WAYNE WILKINS

Mechanicsville, Va.

Time for school vouchers

After reading the editorial on Adrian Fenty’s stake in reforming District schools, I have to respectfully disagree with The Washington Times’ line of engagement on this issue (“The ‘passion’ of Mr. Fenty,” Wednesday).

In the editorial, which was the second with the same point, The Times again advised Mr. Fenty to put some “skin in the game” and enroll his twin 6-year-old boys in D.C. public schools. I think this is the wrong approach. Why should two little boys, presumably settled and happy in their current school, be forced to leave just so their father can garner political points?

Instead, The Times should be urging Mr. Fenty to endorse the most promising fix to the District?s education nightmare — vouchers. Let every boy and girl have the same opportunity as Mr. Fenty?s sons. Let the forces of competition do their work while allowing disadvantaged children access to better private schools now.

Or is Mr. Fenty too beholden to the public-education interests to deny other children the same advantage his have? This would be a better test of how seriously he will take his “mandate for fixing the schools.” No more tinkering around the edges; D.C. District children don’t have the time.

KRISTEN BRENNER

Leesburg, Va.

Making Pakistan an offer

Friday’s editorial “Restive diplomacy” asks the wrong question. The real question — instead of whether Pakistan can take on its responsibilities in the war on terror — should be whether Pakistan perceives the war on terror to be in its interest.

As the editorial noted, official Washington is slowly coming around to acknowledging that elements in the Pakistani establishment are behind the Taliban revival in Afghanistan. More troubling is the Pakistani refusal to shut down its local jihadist groups even after several direct links were uncovered between the groups and terror attacks in the West.

It is interesting to contrast Pakistan’s treatment of homegrown jihadists and the Balochistan nationalists. Just as in the Taliban-dominated tribal provinces, Pakistan’s military is experiencing tough guerrilla resistance in Balochistan. Yet the Pakistani establishment chose to kill Baloch political leaders and continue the military action in the region indefinitely. In the tribal frontier, however, Pakistan wants to talk peace and let Taliban leaders run a parallel administration.

If Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, can overcome political resistance and order the assassination of Baloch figures, why can’t he do the same with the Taliban, who operate openly in areas such as North Waziristan? The only reasonable conclusion one can draw is that the Pakistani reluctance to fight the Taliban and local jihadists is a choice, not a compulsion.

Gen. Musharraf himself alluded to this when he implied recently that Pakistan’s decision to support the United States after September 11 came after the United States threatened to “bomb Pakistan into the Stone Age.” Though threatening war may not be advisable now, it is reasonable to ask whether the United States should re-evaluate the basis of its Pakistan policy. At the very least, the U.S. decision to wait 30 to 90 days to evaluate this latest “peace” deal with the Taliban in North Waziristan may merit a quick reconsideration.

In 90 days, the Taliban could gain a strategic advantage that may take years to undo. Gen. Musharraf’s Washington visit is a great opportunity to persuade Pakistan to re-evaluate the Taliban deal.

If, indeed, Pakistan’s support of the war on terror came out of muscular persuasion, perhaps the United States should, in the words of Don Vito Corleone in Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather,” make Pakistan an offer that it cannot refuse.

KAUSHIK KAPISTHALAM

Philadelphia

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