Readers of our July 21 cover story on America's conflicts had mixed reactions. One said, "Fareed Zakaria fails to distinguish between real wars and the War on Terror." But another advised, "Stick to the Pakistani border, where terrorists hide." A third simply noted, "When enemies talk, tensions go down."
Fareed Zakaria's July 21 article "America Needs a War President" makes some dangerous comments about what war is, and what it is not. Zakaria fails to make the distinction between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—which are "real" wars, where soldiers are deployed and fight for their countries—and the War on Terror, which is not a war in the sense of an ongoing armed combat. Yes, George W. Bush erred by declaring a War on Terror. This should have been left to the intelligence agencies worldwide. Zakaria says, "For a superpower, being involved in a military conflict somewhere is more the norm than the exception." Really? Is it normal for a country (even a superpower) to be involved in military conflicts since 1945? Is it normal if the American people don't care about the fact that their troops are deployed overseas, and they just want to live their normal lives? Finally to give these wars neat names like "use of force" or "military strikes" is even more dangerous. My definition of a war is: soldiers of one country fight for their country's national security. Thus, Afghanistan and Iraq are definitely wars. Not calling them wars invites many problems the United States already has with its image. It opens the doors for outsourcing these wars to mercenaries and it makes Americans insensitive to what their country does in other countries. I hope America's next president will have the courage to end the Iraq War as soon as possible, and to fight the war in Afghanistan with all necessary haste. Fighting wars should never be "more the norm than the exception" for any country.
Does America need a war president? OF course not. Why and for how long must the Iraqis and Afghans suffer in their war-torn nations? Iraq is populated by three Islamic sects, whereas Af-ghanistan is governed by warlords and regional commanders. The once mighty Soviet Union failed to tame Afghanistan in the 1980s, and the Coalition Forces are likely to meet the same fate. Has no one learned this lesson? The West has its pride, as do the Iraqis and Afghans. They do not want foreign intervention. What they need is help in rebuilding their shattered lives, restoring their dignity and finding decent jobs. If the West wants to halt Al Qaeda's activities, they should stick to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, where the terrorists are thought to hide.
A number of years ago President George Bush said that there is no conflict of civilizations, in an apparent reference to the prevailing disharmony between Western civilization and Islamic fundamentalism. Even though there's a huge truth in that notion, the selection of the word "conflict" in the statement and subsequent unilateral actions taken by the Bush administration did not help solve the problem. It conveyed a wrong message to the worldwide Muslim community and created more fertile ground for Islamic extremism. And every action America takes has roused the suspicions of the Muslim world. America was wrongly portrayed as the enemy of Islam. And now the world can say hallelujah because a potential American president has a different approach to the problems facing our world, including religious extremism. He is a believer in dialogue and accommodation. That's an immensely positive philosophy. When enemies talk to each other not only the price of oil, but also tensions go down. In the 21st century we need leaders who believe in and pursue the power of diplomacy and accommodation rather than the might of arms and isolation.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Reading about Barack Obama's faith was both enlightening and inspiring ("Finding His Faith," July 21). As a Christian I am pleased to know that Senator Obama shares my beliefs, and I am happy to recognize him as a brother in Christ. Senator Obama's rhetoric and actions, personally and politically, give strong hints as to his authenticity. Having been raised in an evangelical community I was taught that Republicans were godlier than Democrats, and therefore better suited for service. Growing up I thought that all Republicans were devout Christians who read their Bibles and prayed to the same God I did, while all Democrats were godless. But over the years, and with considerable evaluation, my understanding of religion and politics has changed. I am still a Christian who believes passionately in the truth of the Bible, but that no longer means I must also be a Republican. Sadly, as NEWSWEEK's excellent reporting indicates, there are still those who judge a man's soul based not on his deeds, but on his political association. For them, the only litmus test for salvation (and leadership qualities) is whether one is a Republican or a Democrat. This would be laughable if it were not so harmful to our country and to the Christian faith. When will we evangelicals accept the fact that no one political party has a monopoly on God?
As a headline for your article on Barack Obama's religiousness, "Finding His Faith" seems a lot more appropriate than "What He Believes." I appreciate your drawing attention to his speech on Father's Day, which I missed. Wearing the Lord's name on one's sleeve is in and of itself no qualification for being a good president. John McCain, for one, is comparatively reticent on his spiritual beliefs, at least in public. George H.W. Bush remained largely private on his, but did that render him a worse leader than his son? In Obama's case, as he explains in his memoir, "Dreams From My Father," expressing his beliefs comes naturally. For him, the phrase "the journey is the destination" describes a quest, and many a voyage has moved in mysterious ways.
Who cares if America's next president is black or white or what his religious beliefs are? As long as he is virtuous, capable of doing an excellent job dealing with the current economic storm and able to work toward a greener world for all, he deserves to be respected as a good president.
Concerning your piece "Finding His Faith," on Barack Obama's beliefs, I pity the presidential hopeful for the questions he has to answer: does he always carry a Bible on his trips, does he go to church regularly? Obama aspires to be a head of state, not the head of some Christian denomination, and what makes him especially appealing to people in Europe is the expectation that he will take a more secular vision of things than an American conservative would. After nearly eight years with George W. Bush, even American voters must have realized that strong Christian beliefs do not necessarily make a good president. At the same time, the interview with Obama (" 'I Am a Big Believer in Not Just Words, But Deeds and Works' ") stands in contrast to the dismal American creationistresponses to Darwin's belief that mankind was no longer the culmination of life, but merely a part of it ("Who Was More Important: Lincoln or Darwin?"). While the United States strives to be a leader in science and technology, results of a similar survey on evolution in a country like Afghanistan or Iran would be attributed to the medieval, fundamentalist mind-set of the respondents.
s Contributions to Turkey
I read "The Plot Against Turkey" (July 21) with distress and astonishment. I cannot understand how a decent and educated guy can underestimate or even condemn Kemal Ataturk's contributions to Turkey. If it weren't for him, Turkey would be a typical Middle Eastern country that would not even dare to consider joining the European Union. How can I rely on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who claims he has abandoned his Islamic past but said that democracy is like a train; you may step off the train when the time comes? His version of democracy is one-sided and apparently applies only to Islamic matters. Why was he reluctant to investigate the assassination of the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, for example, if he is so fond of democracy?
Recently I subscribed to your magazine because after having read it a few times, I thought it was fair and intelligent. I am sad and amazed to read in your July 21 issue that you plead for impunity for torturers ("The Truth About Torture"). "Men and women who made grievous mistakes while doing dirty work" certainly wrecked their victims' lives and should be punished for it.
Emancipator and Scientist
Before one answers the question "Who Was More Important: Lincoln or Darwin?" (July 21), I would like to know what the questioner's basis of comparison is. If it is the number of books written about them, such a comparison would be superfluous and preposterous. Given an American viewpoint, you appear to favor Abraham Lincoln. The British may decide otherwise, as might many others worldwide. Charles Darwin may still face opposition from the church, but that does not necessarily mean he should be downsized in comparison with Lincoln. For starters, Darwin was a scientist, whose contribution to the world of science has been crucial, a giant in his own right. Undoubtedly, Lincoln was an emancipator and is recognized worldwide. So what is the point of posing a superficial question aside from the fact that they were born on the same day in the same year, Feb. 12, 1809?
Chern Ven Ze
Chaos in Malaysia
Thank you for the excellent analysis provided in "Comeback, Interrupted" (July 21). More than 50 years ago, the Malays, Chinese and Indians joined efforts to bring about Malaysian independence. Alliances were formed and the nation prospered. Gradually, the Malay elites managed to garner more and more power in the government, leaving the non-Malays out of the main political arena. In the late 1970s, power struggles among the stalwarts in the ruling party surfaced. As years passed it worsened, culminating in the grand split of the United Malays National Organization in 1987, and Malays have been pitting themselves against one another ever since. Now things get uglier by the day. Dirty linen is washed in public, mud is thrown and names are smeared. The sodomy accusation against Anwar Ibrahim, the de facto opposition leader and former deputy prime minister, is another example. To cling to power, politicians degrade themselves to gain a small advantage. Is it not pathetic, if not undignified? With a chaotic political scene, it does not augur well for the future. Having witnessed the birth of our nation, I feel sad that we don't have a true leader who cares for all Malaysians.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Irish Views on the EU
I was puzzled by some comments about the Irish people's unwillingness to accept the proposal for EU members to adopt the so-called Lisbon Treaty ("The Decider," June 16). First, the EU is not synonymous with "Europe," since nations like Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are not members. Also, Europe consists of many national states, and the EC/EU was not designed to merge all these nations into one, like the "melting pot" in the United States. The Treaty of Lisbon surprised many by transferring power away from national governments. The EU has been popular in Ireland. Now the Irish don't want anything to mess with self-rule, as the British once did. National referendums in all member nations would strengthen democratic rule —which is needed, considering Brussels's bad reputation.
Count In the Dutch
The caption under the photo accompanying "Brown's Battleground" (July 7/July 14) reads: "Firing Line: Britain is one of Europe's only nations to send troops to fight in Afghanistan." Not so: we have sent more than 1,500 troops and associated air support in an area of Uruzgan where the Taliban are very aggressive.
R. P. Perie
The Hague, Netherlands
An Adequate Democracy?
Hats off for your enlightening article "One Mob, One Vote" (July 7/July 14), which pointed out that South Korea's "democratic excesses have undermined the national interest." Thanks for making that clear, so my country and fellow citizens can refocus on manufacturing affordable goods while Americans enjoy your so-called adequate democracy. As you say, full democracy (like full freedom and full human rights) is not for everyone, but can be enjoyed only by the qualified. I will look for the follow-up on how we can find the golden ratio of our adequate democracy.
Seoul, South Korea
Of Bald Eagles and Wolverines
The U.S. endangered species act is supposedly concerned with species that are at risk of becoming extinct, not subpopulations such as wolverines in Montana ("The Race for Survival," June 16). I would accept a special case for the bald eagle, since it is the national bird and symbol. If there truly are healthy populations in Canada and Alaska, then the wolverine is not endangered, and should not be listed. Personally, I think this is a difficult conclusion to come to, but I believe people need to make the distinction between species and subpopulations and honor the original intent of the act.
The Sichuan Earthquake
Despite rampant corruption, human-rights abuses and the tight control of an authoritarian government, Chinese leaders reacted to the Sichuan earthquake in the most open, transparent and responsible manner. Compare Prime Minister Wen Jiabao with President George W. Bush. Wen was in the disaster area within hours of the first big quake, directing rescue efforts, and even got on his hands and knees to help free those trapped. Bush merely flew over New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The international news media reported freely from the Sichuan disaster zone. Donations and material help from all over the world were welcome, and rescue teams from Japan, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong were allowed in. The Chinese behaved in the most courageous and civilized manner. There was no breakdown in law and order. People readily helped each other and in orderly fashion. This is the kind of behavior I saw in Japan after the Kobe earthquake in 1995 and, quite frankly, never expected to see in China. It was a defining moment in modern Chinese history. Yet you have chosen to practically ignore this event. Why? There has been no lack of negative coverage of China in the Western media. The Chinese have been blamed for exporting substandard goods; endangering tigers, sharks and bears for medicinal or gastronomic purposes; consuming too much oil and other natural resources, and releasing too many greenhouse gases. A full and fair coverage of the Sichuan earthquake would no doubt have improved China's image in Western minds.
Wishing for Tibet
Your May 5 article "How China Sees Tibet" correctly interprets the effect of Chinese propaganda on the Tibetan people. But the belief of Chinese leaders that China has exercised control over Tibet is wrong, both historically and today. Furthermore, their believing so does not make it so. If wishes were horses … And why, if Tibet was already theirs, did they need to send in the People's Liberation Army to occupy it in 1951?
Gun Nidhi Dalmia
New Delhi, India