- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2008


Break the silence

The U.S. response to the crackdown in Tibet has indeed been one of “muted protests” (“Chinese restraint urged on Tibet,” Page 1, Tuesday). President Bush has not said a word publicly about the situation or about human rights in China in advance of the Olympics. This silence sends the wrong message to Beijing.

The facts regarding China’s mistreatment of its citizens are mostly indisputable. The State Department’s annual report on global human rights last week rightly chronicled a litany of abuses in China — such as harassment of activists and defense lawyers, arbitrary detentions, “severe cultural and religious repression of minorities” and “tightened restrictions on freedom of speech and the press.”

The Olympics begin in five months, and so far, Beijing still seems to be getting a message that it can abuse its citizens without too many consequences. Mr. Bush will attend the August games. It’s past time that he break his silence.


Asia advocacy director

Amnesty International USA


The firearms debate

In the Monday letter “Turn in your guns,” William Garrett asserts that because there is no militia, there is no need for personal gun ownership.

He starts by assuming, for the sake of argument, a proposition of another letter writer, Jack Webb, that “a ‘collective’ right to bear arms [in militias] … can only work if individuals have the right to firearms” (“The right to bear arms,” Letters, March 7). Furthermore, Mr. Garrett’s argument goes, because there are no militias nowadays — their function having been subsumed by “the police, the National Guard and the … armed forces” — “there is no reason for citizens to own guns.”

However, this assumes that there is only one reason for citizens to own guns: so they can form militias. Mr. Webb’s proposition says something quite different: that the right to bear arms in militias entails the right of individuals to bear arms.

Could there be other reasons, other legal arguments, for citizens to own guns? Sure there are. In fact, these reasons are being considered this week by the Supreme Court in the so-called D.C. handgun ban case, District of Columbia v. Heller.


Front Royal, Va.

Missile defense

I must correct one of several distortions Peter Huessy created in his Op-Ed column attacking my recent congressional testimony (“Ploughshares blather,” Monday).

He claimed that I denied that anti-missile systems have any role in the defense of our nation. On the contrary, after detailing the dramatic declines in the missile threat over the past 20 years, I said today’s limited threat can be addressed through diplomacy, deterrence and measured military preparedness — including anti-missile weapons.

Specifically, I said in the conclusion of my testimony: “If missile defenses prove feasible, particularly those designed to counter the more prevalent short-range missiles, they can be an important part of these efforts. But they should never dominate policy. The sooner the balance the Joint Chiefs called for 10 years ago is restored to our assessments, budgets and diplomacy, the better prepared the country will be for the genuine threats we face.”

Anti-missile systems cannot effectively intercept long-range enemy missiles. That is a fact. If short-range defenses prove lethal in realistic tests, they should be deployed. However, it robs our military of vital funds and perpetuates a myth to the American people to pretend that the holes dug in the frozen tundra of Alaska provide any real defense.



Ploughshares Fund


Diplomatic courier?

The headline for Monday’s lead editorial, “World class hype,” was far more descriptive of the content of the second editorial, “Cheney’s Mideast mission.” To suggest that Vice President Dick Cheney’s trip to the Middle East is to pursue diplomatic solutions is more than a stretch. In fact, on the same day, Arnaud de Borchgrave, in his Commentary column “Fox Fallon’s fall,” reminded us that the last time Mr. Cheney “made a similar, well-publicized trip to Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries in March 2002 … War followed a year later.”

The Bush administration, supported if not managed by Mr. Cheney, has failed to demonstrate any fair or balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The increased violence overall in the Middle East is shaped in large part by that fact. War has been the only solution ever offered by this administration in response to Middle Eastern problems. It boldly and publicly supported the Israeli attack on Lebanon in 2006, which resulted in strengthening Hezbollah and greater problems for Israel. The administration was slowly repeating the mantras in its planned march to war against Iran but was stopped by the late 2007 publication of the National Intelligence Estimate showing Iran had stopped trying to develop nuclear weapons in 2003 and now Adm. William Fallon’s publicly stated opposition to any attack on Iran.

Mr. Cheney is many things, but can he never be tagged a diplomatic courier. That is truly “world-class hype.”


West Springfield

Nimitz redeemed FDR

Michael Barone gives President Franklin D. Roosevelt too much credit for selecting the best men “early on” to command our armed forces in World War II (“Importance of Fallon’s fall,” Commentary, Tuesday). Roosevelt is often credited for the selection of Gen. George Marshall as Army chief of staff before World War II. However, as military historians know, Roosevelt paid little attention to the Army. In any case, with the support of both World War I hero Gen. John Pershing and the then-incumbent chief, Gen. Malin Craig, Marshall was the obvious choice.

By contrast, Roosevelt considered the Navy his personal fiefdom, personally selecting all its chief commanders, and his record there is mixed. The most important command in the armed forces before World War II was the Pacific Fleet, known until 1941 as the U.S. Fleet. Until early 1941, that fleet required two four-star admirals to command it at a time when the entire Army, including the Air Force, had only one four-star general: the chief of staff. Yet Roosevelt, in 1941, had to replace the two men he had selected to command that fleet — Adm. James O. Richardson, who disagreed with Roosevelt over moving the fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor, and Richardson’s successor, Adm. Husband Kimmel, after the Pearl Harbor debacle.

Depending on one’s perspective, Roosevelt’s 1939 choice to head the Navy, Adm. Harold Stark, either jumped or was pushed out of his position as chief of naval operations after Pearl Harbor. The reputation of his successor, Adm. Ernest King, also chosen by Roosevelt, has diminished considerably since World War II.

The one brilliant selection Roosevelt made was that of Adm. Chester Nimitz to succeed Kimmel. At the battle of Midway, which Nimitz planned, his forces not only stopped the Japanese dead in their tracks, but changed the whole course of the war, enabling Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill to make the European theater the major theater of operations as they originally had intended. That victory also enabled Marshall, MacArthur and, later, Eisenhower to fight their war as well. In choosing Nimitz, Roosevelt redeemed himself of any of his previous mistakes, but he did not choose the right commanders “early on” as Mr. Barone writes.



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