- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Onward with democracy

The recent movement in Maryland and Arkansas to change the national elections has a very interesting and important upside (“O’Malley signs bill to change electoral voting system,” Metropolitan, April 11).

If even one state decides to give its electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide, that will force changes in the way other states conduct their elections. At least one of those changes will be counter to Maryland’s intentions. This will cause delays in deciding every election and likely will throw every election into the Supreme Court. Here is why: It has been six years since Al Gore lost to President Bush, and we are still arguing about who won the popular vote. Who will get to decide if we change things and it actually matters?

The silver lining in this cloud is that those states that do not bother to count their absentee ballots unless the margin of victory is so close that it could affect the results will be forced to count those ballots. The absentee ballots are largely from the members of the military who are away fighting for our freedom. In the Gore loss, these service members may have voted for Mr. Bush. There were enough of them that the best Mr. Gore can claim for sure is that he was ahead when we stopped counting votes. If an accurate count of the popular vote is needed, those votes would be counted before Maryland cast its electoral votes.

That is not all that will change. Some states have millions of illegal voters: Some vote twice, some vote using the names of dead people, some noncitizens vote, some van pools vote at many precincts, and at least one man was caught with a voting machine in his car. Those issues certainly will have to be addressed. The good news is that we will move closer to democracy again.


Chester, Md.

Pre-emption and Iraq

Serge Wing makes a valid point regarding pre-emption not being the sole basis of President Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq (“Prevention and pre-emption” Letters, Sunday), but it would be revisionist history not to admit that pre-emption was the only plausible legitimate reason. Mr. Wing’s assertion that “a technical state of war exists until a peace treaty is signed” is ridiculous for two reasons.

First, there is not always an official declaration of war for which a peace treaty would be relevant. Second, there are rarely official peace treaties between many warring nations and groups, but the simple absence of an official peace treaty would never be a valid reason for a full-out invasion and occupation of another nation.

The Bush administration’s new “pre-emptive doctrine” was created specifically for military attacks with or without any other preconditions other than the strong suspicion that something really bad might happen. The catastrophic failure of this better-safe-than-sorry doctrine is clear. Mr. Bush’s invasion of Iraq has not made us any safer, but there is ample sorrow to go around.

Mr. Wing’s second failure of logic is assuming “pre-emption has its place and is appropriate” and using President Kennedy’s response to the Cuban Missile Crisis as proof. A blockade is not an invasion. If Mr. Wing believes a blockade is an act of war, then it would have been appropriate for the Soviet Union to launch a pre-emptive strike against the United States. Deterrence is not pre-emption, and pre-emptive strikes are not a deterrent. Pre-emptive actions are, as Mark Bachelder stated in his letter, “a provocation” (“Take the civilized path,” Thursday).

Given the unprecedented and still accelerating destructive power of biotechnology and its affordability worldwide, there is every reason for nations to be fearful of other nations, radical groups or wealthy, irate individuals. So, if any nation fears for any reason a likely threat to its survival, then it also would be justified in launching a pre-emptive strike. Given the current tensions between many countries throughout the world, pre-emptive doctrine is a clear recipe for Armageddon.

Mr. Wing believes “the letters to the editor on Thursday would have us ignore the lessons of World War II.” This is the pre-September 11 mind-set we cannot fall into. The threat al Qaeda poses is really nothing like the Nazi threat our civilization faced in the 1940s. The Nazi forces made up a clear and identifiable enemy that could be decapitated. Trying to decapitate al Qaeda would be like trying to cut off the head of Medusa. A dozen more venomous heads will sprout. It is the very method of hunting down and executing suspected enemies and the inevitable collateral damage that goes along with it that fertilizes the growth of new murderous heads.

It’s not the “slow progress in Iraq” that has the majority of Americans frustrated. It is the perpetual decline of conditions in Iraq that is contrary to what the leading Republican politicians have been saying. These perpetual lies are the primary reason “Americans don’t like politicians.”


New Port Richey, Fla.

Clarifying military titles

I enjoyed the article “Laughter best medicine in Iraq” (Page 1, Monday) but your editing of Sgt. Maj. Charles E. Stanley’s military title was incorrect and confusing. On second and third references, you referred to him as Maj. Stanley. However, Maj. is a separate rank that is unrelated to sergeant major. A major is a midgrade commissioned officer; a sergeant major is a senior noncommissioned officer.



Chief, Public Affairs


The next Howard Dean

Though it is not surprising to see Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s negatives increase at this point in the campaign, much of Sen. Barack Obama’s current popularity can be credited to little more than his being a fresh face (“Polls see Obama gaining as Hillary appears waning,” Page 1, Sunday).

Many people dislike Mrs. Clinton because they feel like they know her; they have been exposed to her policies and her personality for years and dislike one or both. Many like Mr. Obama, but how many of them really know anything about his policy positions or very much about his personality?

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign will not continue to let Mr. Obama glide through without ever having to specify real policy positions on real issues, and when those debates (whether direct or indirect) come along, Mr. Obama’s lack of intellectual heft and political experience will come home to roost. Mr. Obama is peaking too early, but it could not be any other way. Once his views become better known, Mr. Obama will become the next Howard Dean: very popular with the left wing of the Democratic Party but obviously not electable in the general election. Despite recent polls showing her not “wearing well,” Mrs. Clinton is still most likely to be the Democrats’ nominee.


Nederland, Colo.

Education and technology

Thanks for the column on “Democratizing education” (Forum, Sunday). It tells about the great deficiency in the U.S. education system and what needs to be done to remedy the problem.

However, it doesn’t include the use of basic technologies such as video-game platforms, small portable hand-held TVs and other inexpensive devices that are ideal for learning. These have replay, fast-forward and freeze-frame controls, which are needed during the learning process, and they cost less than $150.

These devices can be used any time, at any place, on any path at any pace. They allow individual student-centered learning rather than the “teacher-centered” bricks-and-mortar models.

Kudos to the Basics Project for explaining the problem so well.


Silver Spring

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