- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Protest as a tactic

Suzanne Fields’ blanket assertion that protesters “by nature are compelled more by emotion than fact” (“The disputed urge to surge,” Op-Ed, Monday) is wrong.

Around the world, millions of people joined marches protesting the plan to invade Iraq. Their primary argument was that the United States was embarking upon an illegal war against a sovereign nation that had not attacked us. That was a fact. The march to war was the emotional response. This administration deliberately cultivated our fear to gain support.

History is rife with protests that have changed the world for the better. Was Mahatma Gandhi emotional and ignorant of the facts when he conducted his peaceful protests against the British empire? Was Martin Luther King Jr. suffering from a deficiency of facts when he marched to bring freedom to his people here in the United States?

It would be ideal if opposition could be voiced in sit-down negotiations — but even our vaunted democracy is failing. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have shown that the election results and the stated opposition of the American people will have no effect on the course they pursue in escalating the war in Iraq. That is a fact. Protest is a valid tactic.

JOAN SALEMI

West Springfield

Oil runs through it

Austin Bay makes a number of interesting observations about “The age of proximity” (Commentary, Friday). Modern technology and energy allow the distant to become proximate, but this effect relies in part on cheap energy, which may be more of a temporary phenomenon than a lasting new world order.

Air travel is 100 percent dependent on oil, and the rest of our travel isn’t much less oil-dependent. But oil runs out at exactly the rate we use it. Production is depletion, and we have been producing/depleting at a fearsome pace in recent years. World oil discoveries peaked in the early 1960s. We have been burning more than we have been discovering since the 1980s. World oil production will enter a decline sooner rather than later. Then physical proximity again will matter greatly as a means of reducing the energy we use in transportation, while the cheap energy that made distant things proximate will wane.

Mr. Bay says “diminishing the threats posed by the Age of Proximity requires action.” However, the war on terror isn’t the answer to the threats of proximity as he suggests. It is a misguided distraction from more pressing issues. The biggest threat of the age of proximity is its collapse. When oil enters decline, what becomes of the economy we have built on cheap oil? The action we need is to end cheap oil through a tax shift before it ends through depletion. A tax shift to increase the price of oil (while reducing other taxes) would provide the market signal that we must use less oil. Depletion would send the same signal but also would transfer our wealth to the oil-exporting nations. We can use far less oil if we live near the jobs, markets, schools and such that we use. Proximity in the final analysis is the answer, not the problem.

CARL HENN

Rockville

Formulating ‘endless war’

Jack Kelly exposes a profound ignorance of modern technological reality, World War II history and democracy all in one short column, “Thresholds of victory” (Commentary, Monday).

Mr. Kelly claims that we are “foolish” if we “permit [Islamic extremists] to obtain nuclear weapons, or to seize control of the oil-producing regions in the Middle East.” He claims these things will happen if “Islamic extremists of either stripe take over in Iraq.”

First, it’s impossible to prevent any group from building or obtaining nuclear weapons or biological weapons, which are even more deadly, affordable and easy to make. The dual-use nature of this and other increasingly ubiquitous and powerful technologies makes disarmament virtually impossible. Just attempting to prevent their acquisition would require U.S. military forces to monitor invasively every village, tunnel or mosque throughout the Middle East, as well as every other Muslim-populated nation throughout the rest of the world. Mr. Kelly and others ignorant of foreign realities might disagree, but invasive U.S. foreign policy is the single greatest source of anti-American sentiment and Islamic extremist blow-back in the world.

If one believes Iraq disarmament efforts have been problematic and costly, just imagine forcefully occupying Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Lebanon — for starters. Then imagine trying to keep all Muslim populations in all nations from developing covert weapons of mass destruction that eventually could be used against us. Even a Nazi-like occupation force worldwide wouldn’t prevent the development of such weapons somewhere.

Our invasive/aggressive U.S. policies are turning a majority of the world’s Muslims against us. Any democracy coming from such a majority might be stable, but it won’t be pro-United States. And the Muslims will control Middle East oil. Even with our occupation of Iraq, we can’t prevent billions of dollars of oil profits from going to terrorist operations. (“Refinery corruption seen funding terrorism,” World Scene, Monday.

Second, it was the “paternalistic policy” concluding the world wars that brought us the mess we see today in the Middle East. Treating other nations paternalistically is one mistake we must stop repeating.

More U.S. troops in Iraq might pacify Baghdad for a time, but it also will provide more targets for increasingly anti-American insurgents and even more motive for anti-American forces to seek weapons of mass destruction. This isn’t a threshold for victory. It’s a formula for endless war for which no victory is possible.

CHUCK WOOLERY

Rockville

Fight on all fronts

What motives could possibly explain Americans letting America fail in battle?

What gains are there for the Democratic Party in retreating from Iraq?

As Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, put it, legislators and members of the administration would lose nothing personally (and thus gain nothing) whether America wins or loses in Iraq unless they have immediate family members serving on the battlefield (“Rice, Gates face Hill heat over Iraq plan,” Page 1, Friday). Otherwise, it is impersonal. What does Mrs. Boxer gain? Possibly making Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice look unqualified — but are Mrs. Boxer’s real intentions very personal?

The Democrats act as though they are on a roll. After being in the minority for 12 years, they took over Congress. Now they crave the White House. That explains why they have no plan for winning in Iraq. They don’t need one because for America to win in Iraq is not their objective. Their objective is for Democrats to win Congress and the White House in 2008. It is the political version of the “Me” Generation, their way of regaining their lost personal political power.

The Democrats are engaging in the same tactics they used in the last congressional campaign: attacks, rejection, objection, obstruction, denigration, criticism, condemnation, misrepresentation, carping and quibbling on all fronts. They don’t argue issues using facts. They present the same negative conclusions no matter what the question. Hitler explained the tactic: Tell a lie, a big lie, and repeat it over and over again. Eventually, people believe it. The Democrats are using Iraq to manipulate the vote in 2008. The press is helping.

Forceful action and a constant insistence on hard facts are good counters for plans and arguments with no substance. However, the White House has three wars to fight — the one in Iraq, the one on Capitol Hill and the third in public opinion. It needs to boldly and objectively outline the hard facts for all Americans, fighting misinformation and personal ambition. We must win all of these wars, as victory for America in Iraq is personal for every American.

E. GOWLAND

Sterling, Va.

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