TO THE EDITORS:
Strangely enough, I had just finished reading Katha Pollitt's "Put Out No Flags" when I happened upon "Fault Lines" (by Peter Beinart, October 1). The Nation has consistently provided a forum where all is not flag-waving and unabashed patriotism. In the current political moment, to not support Bush and his military strategies, to turn a skeptical eye on the idea of "America as profound victim" is to be a Commie, unpatriotic.
Contrary to Beinart's beliefs, America is not all good. And America is an international supporter of democratic ideals only when they mirror its own. Yes, America has provided relief for many in need the world over. No, America did not act to save those slaughtered in Rwanda. America's sanctions against Iraq do propel suffering and starvation against Iraqi citizens. Whether or not Saddam Hussein is exporting foodstuffs does not justify continuing sanctions that, if lifted, would obviously ensure that fewer people would starve. I do not deny Beinart's right to wave the flag for American victim hood and benevolence, nor should he deny The Nation's and my own right to dissent against what we see as spin, rush to judgment, and virulent unilateralism.
Long Beach, California
TO THE EDITORS:
In this time of crisis we have seen many writers and public figures rise to the occasion and demonstrate much of what is great about the United States. For others, unfortunately, this crisis has brought out an ugly side. Peter Beinart's opportunistic attack on critics of globalization is a disappointing example of the latter ("Sidelines" September 24). Beinart selects a few anonymous comments in a chat room on a British website to support his argument that, although they clearly had nothing to do with bombings, "anti-globalization" protesters hate the United States and are somehow sympathetic with Osama bin Laden. To bolster this absurd claim, he cites passages from a relatively obscure, new academic work, The Empire, proclaiming that it is "the bible" of the movement. The reality is that very few prominent globalization critics have ever heard of—let alone read—The Empire.
In fact most of the responsible and leading critics of the current system of globalization share a core belief in democracy, the rule of law, and peaceful cooperation. They have worked for more than two decades to reform existing institutions-such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization—while exploring alternative institutional structures that might better address these problems. This movement includes labor unions, farmers, environmentalists, the religious community, and protesters of all stripes and persuasions. It is, in short, a manifestation of a thriving democracy.
A debate over these important issues is necessary and welcome. Instead, however, Beinart takes the undemocratic position that in the current environment of crisis, "domestic political dissent is immoral" It is astonishing to hear this kind of McCarthy-style rhetoric from an American writer in 2001. This country has a long history of political dissent during wartime. Would Beinart call those who objected to the Vietnam War "immoral"? Moreover this new war on terrorism will likely last for years, not months: Are we to silence the constructive critics of economic globalization for the next decade? Surely Beinart has overreacted in the heat of the moment. Your publication can do better. This is indeed a time for Americans to come together. We can do so in a spirit of internationalism, a spirit of multiculturalism, a spirit of flourishing democracy with a grand tolerance of differences-ideological, religious, and cultural. Look to the high ground, Beinart.
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
PETER BEINART RESPONDS:
Ben Lilliston says I argued that "'antiglobalization' protesters hate the United States." He's wrong. I argued that some anti-globalization protesters hate the United States and that "the antiglobalization movement is not unified in its disdain for America. It is divided by it." Even more dishonestly, he quotes me as writing that in this war, "domestic political dissent is immoral"—a statement he calls "McCarthy-style" But he conveniently leaves out the rest of the sentence. What I wrote was that "domestic political dissent is immoral without a prior statement of national solidarity." Immoral is not illegal; I think flag burners are immoral too, but I don't want them arrested. My point was that when the United States is under siege from people who hate us, critics of U.S. policy--be they Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson on the right or the anti-globalization movement on the left--should disassociate themselves from those within their ranks who share that hatred. Lilliston could have spared us his pious indignation had he actually read what I wrote.
TO THE EDITORS:
Gregg Easterbrook's article "Open Door Policy" was full of flaws (October 1). As a captain for a major U.S. air carrier, I can tell you that transponders don't transmit location or speed to air traffic control (ATC). Only altitude and a unique code that is assigned to each aircraft are transmitted to the radar; a computer at the ATC facility derives all else. Transponders are on from takeoff to landing and, for the most part, are turned on manually. Not all aircraft have cockpit windows that "pop out"--the Lockheed L-1011 and the Boeing 747 being two. However I do think that stronger cockpit doors would be a good idea.
Sky marshals would indeed be expensive. And who would bear that cost? Ultimately the public, of course. But do you realize how inelastic an aircraft seat is? Just add it to the price of the ticket? Why do you think airline management gets so bent out of shape whenever "fees" are added? Market inelasticity and extremely slim profit margin result in declining revenue. You can't just raise ticket prices at will.
The most implausible idea yet is the "panic button." Easterbrook is correct in saying that an entire flight can be made "without anyone ever touching the yoke or throttles"--almost. One must still "touch" quite a few buttons; it isn't as automatic as he thinks.
The thought that our training is outdated is true--well, after that fateful Tuesday anyway. I don't think it would be so easy to hijack an airliner now. I think the next guy who pulls a knife on an airplane will get pummeled to death by the passengers.
CAPTAIN ROBERT GALLUP
TO THE EDITORS:
As a former air crewman in Navy patrol planes, I certainly agree with Easterbrook's call for steel cockpit doors that would remain closed, but some of his other proposals represent safety hazards to flight. First, transponders that could not be turned off in the event of a fire could cause the loss of the aircraft: The electricity powering the transponder could continue to fuel a fire. Second, a "panic-button system" would also have to have a means to remove power for the above reason. Further, what if the system self-engaged and could not be turned off? How would it be able to alter course to avoid other traffic, abort landings when necessary, etc.? Third, while I cannot say that air marshals should not be armed, a bullet piercing the aircraft skin would cause a very rapid--if not "explosive" decompression, and the combination of the skin rupture and explosive decompression could cause the loss of the aircraft.
Director The Public Cause Network
Silver Springs, Florida
GREGG EASTERBROOK REPLIES:
To Robert Gallup's complaint, I was trying to write in easy-to-grasp language for a reading audience that is primarily not composed of airline pilots. Gallup is right of course that transponders do not transmit airspeed or position, but the codes they send, and the way they cooperate with ground radars, help flight controllers to ascertain such things--a reason controllers often have trouble locating general-aviation aircraft flying without transponders. His point that not all aircraft have pop-out windows is an important one, though mainly regarding the 747, since the L-1011 is just shy of retired.
To William Wilgus's objections, the automated transponders on some new corporate jets must have a fire-defeat feature, but I admit I don't know what it is. My article noted that any panic-button system would need a deactivation code. It seems to me the panic button, which would operate from information already stored in the aircraft, would be less prone to techno-snafus than the "remote piloting" idea being batted around in Washington right now, under which the FAA could assume full command of aircraft systems from the ground, and someone in a control tower would have to become a junior captain. Finally, on the subject of handguns in the cockpit, the idea may be good or bad, but the Air Line Pilots Association proposal specifies that weapons be loaded with "frangible" rounds incapable of breaching the hull. And consider, military pilots have been wearing sidearms for years without shooting themselves down.
TO THE EDITORS:
Reasonable people can disagree about how justice should be achieved, and I disagree strongly with the views expressed by Eliot A. Cohen ("How to Fight," September 24). Cohen's screed urges that the United States wage unlimited war against the terrorists who struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the countries that harbor them. Cohen's remarks are deeply disturbing because, as he concedes, they are totally inconsistent with the constitutional principles that this country has historically stood for (not to mention the longstanding moral positions and beliefs I thought were held by the editors of THE NEW REPUBLIC). I was particularly outraged by Cohen's suggestion that, in order to wage war successfully against the terrorists, the United States must engage in "outright assassination"--conduct that he accurately points out Americans have "flinched at" up to now and rightly so.
I continue to flinch. While it may be morally acceptable in certain rare circumstances for one sovereign nation to wage war against another where armies fire upon armies and death is an unfortunate but necessary evil, it is totally unacceptable for this country, the home of a constitution that is the envy of the world, to engage in outright murder for revenge, which is exactly what Cohen advocates. Cohen also suggests that, in waging war against terrorism, we will "pay a price ... in the full scope of our personal liberties" However--as Jeffrey Rosen so cogently points out in "Law and Order," the article preceding Cohen's--it is unlikely that the suspension of our liberties will have any effect whatsoever on reducing the threat of terrorism.
PAUL F. MACRI