PURELY ACADEMIC

Reading the Iraq issue provided a sense of what is going on there("Iraq: What Next?" November 2). It also provided a sense of thenotions held by a few upper-middle-class people who earn theirliving thinking and writing in comfortable neighborhoods inWashington, D.C.; Princeton; Cambridge; Palo Alto; and othernon-war zones in the United States where water, food, rule of law,and utilities are taken for granted. What one wonders after readingthe issue is, of the 16 views published, why the editors chose notto publish any perspectives by a) Iraqis--Sunni, Shia, or Kurd; b)American military personnel who served in Iraq; or c) anybody wholives and works in the neighboring countries. Wouldn't Iraqis andAmerican military personnel be in a position to test the viabilityof the ideas expressed in The New Republic by writers who havenegligible direct experience with the realities of this war? Whatyour magazine does is publish articles by people with fine academiccredentials who believe in the superiority of their thoughts andwho do not realize how limited they are by the combination of theirprivileged experiences, their inadequate knowledge of the regionand circumstances, and the influence of the safe cities in whichthey reside. The ability of author after author to reference theterminology of the region is impressive. Yet this capability amountsto a faux authority--kind of like someone who can weave into hislanguage references to musical terms but cannot play a melody. Bypublishing this issue, the editors conveyed the message that theonly important views are those of people who are like the editorsin professional background, temperament, and geographical comfort.Next time, dare to try the unconventional tack of asking Iraqis,American military personnel, and other affected people what theythink should be done. Moreover, it is striking that, in all theessays published, no author wrote a single sentence exploring whynone of the recommendations expressed have been put into action.What is the point of holding a dinner party in which you servedishes to which the guests are allergic? Finally, it is interestingto see the editors apologize for their espousal of the war, becausethis apology gives rise to the question: If reason alone (incontrast to reason coupled with the experience of people who areconfronting the realities directly) led the editors to a wrongconclusion, what basis is there to believe that, this time around,reason alone--from people far removed from the realities of thewar--will lead to the right conclusion?

sandeep puri

New York, New York

Shiite Happens

Only James Kurth offers a way to withdraw from Iraq and win the warat the same time ("Crush the Sunnis," November 27). In fact, it isthe only way we can make the lives lost and the money spentworthwhile. We have given the Iraqis more than enough chances torise up as a strong, independent country with some semblance ofdemocracy, but the Sunnis have sabotaged it from the verybeginning. So let the civil war begin. But let's make sure that wearm the Shia so heavily that they not only win, but win quickly anddo so without any help from Iran. We will also have to let the Shiause whatever methods they choose to interrogate captives andintimidate the civilians who hide insurgents. This strategy isproactive rather than passively reactive. We will be leaving Iraqbetter than we found it, and, when we leave, we will have a goodrelationship with two out of the three factions. In fact, the Shiastate will depend on help from us to fend off its enemies.

mark t. moberg

St. Cloud, Minnesota

Half-Baked

Martin Peretz gave us good cause to ignore James Baker based on thesupport he gave Saddam Hussein's regime after its 1991 militarydefeat ("Ignore James Baker," November 27). Baker's reflexivepreservation of the old regime was part of a broad pattern thatplaced the United States on the wrong side of history in two otherforeign policy theaters. Faced with the breakup of Yugoslavia byindigenous democratic forces representing long-standing nationalaspirations, Baker and fellow commissioner Lawrence Eagleburgersignaled that our government would not support separatism unlessYugoslavia consented. The Serbs took that as a green light to useforce that soon morphed into genocidal catastrophe. Baker'srationale was that accepting the breakup of Yugoslavia would hastenthe disintegration of the Soviet Union, which he feared above all.Baker saw himself as the conscience of a status-quo power--so muchso that he sportingly struggled in vain to save the adversary whenthe cold war was won. His talents and temperament were bettersuited to the Florida election aftermath that has been his lastingtriumph. There, he achieved the success that eluded him inYugoslavia, the Soviet Union, and the first Iraq war.

everett d. emerson

Rancho Palos Verdes, California

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