Fareed Zakaria and Kishore Mahbubani got warm reviews for unconventional columns on China's Tibet crackdown. One reader agreed, "Putting public pressure on the Chinese is futile and counterproductive." Another called for the West to recognize China's "deeper integration into world affairs."
Responsibility for Terrorism
In "Gone in 11 Minutes Flat" (May 26), William Dobson suggested that the Singapore government's hesitation in disclosing information about the escape of Mas Selamat Kastari revealed its uneasiness over the people's "taking too active an interest in security matters." The government recognized early that extremist terrorism is not defeated by governments but ultimately by the people. The harm from a terrorist attack is not just the loss of lives or property but the fractures to social cohesion and intercommunal trust. Hence, we have always kept the public informed and engaged on matters of national security. While the government certainly strives to protect its people from the threat of terrorist violence, it has never pretended to have omnipotence or to be "ultracompetent," guaranteeing its people perpetual and absolute security. The government immediately accepted responsibility for Mas Selamat's escape. It made a full accounting to Parliament, including disclosing the findings of an independent committee of inquiry. These candid and detailed disclosures no doubt invited criticism of the lapses, but ultimately they strengthened public confidence in the integrity of the Singapore system and its processes.
Toh Yong Chuan,Director
International and Corporate Relations Division
Ministry of Home Affairs
Perspectives on China and Tibet
After reading Fareed Zakaria's "Don't Feed China's Nationalism" (April 21/April 28) and Kishore Mahbubani's "Tibet Through Chinese Eyes" (May 5), one cannot agree more with both opinions, especially Zakaria's. If European leaders try to take advantage of the Olympic Games to pressure Beijing to reach the negotiating table with Tibet, they will exacerbate the Chinese nationalist view toward the Tibetans and further alienate the East from the West. It's also a question of face, an important idea in Chinese culture (and not mentioned in either article): "If you give face you will receive face," which means if the majority of European leaders are present at the opening ceremony, they will have the unique opportunity to present a powerful united front (not a virtual political one) to push the Chinese government to move toward a true dialogue with the Dalai Lama. This presence will be seen not only as recognition of China's tremendous economic development of the past 20 years (and not by the unreasonable, outdated, "Asia is better than Europe" logic that permeates Mahbubani's last book), but also as a powerful symbol of Europe's desire for Beijing's deeper integration into world affairs. In return, I believe the Chinese central leadership will be more flexible on the Tibetan issue. As the saying goes, giving face is in the interest of everyone, and in the meantime you can keep the Tibetans from bearing the brunt of the conflict.
How utterly refreshing to read Fareed Zakaria's "Don't Feed China's Nationalism." I agree wholeheartedly that putting public pressure on the Chinese regime to make substantial changes to any of its current policies, whether at home or abroad, is not only futile, it is counterproductive. It is unfortunate that the opinion-poll-obsessed leaders in the West continue to express views on China more to serve their own best interests rather than those of China. The anger expressed over the torch relay, and talk about who's going to the opening ceremonies, will at best serve to confirm to the Chinese leadership and the Chinese people that we simply do not understand them. At worst, they will lead to retrenchment and distrust, and we will be left wondering why the Chinese do not embrace Western values and ethics. I would wager that the overwhelming majority of torch protesters could not find Tibet on a world map if their lives depended on it. And I can only imagine the outcry if Chinese leaders told us they wouldn't ship any more products until we vastly improve our education; take far better care of our elderly; reduce sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancies and drunkenness, and do something about the enormously wasteful consumption of scarce resources. China is already undergoing change at an unprecedented pace. If we wish to encourage that change—and it is in our best interests to do so—the most effective mechanisms will be more, and more open, dialogue; a continued lowering of the barriers to travel and the exchange of ideas, and an acceptance that the massive challenges faced by the Chinese regime are beyond the average Westerner's ability to comprehend.
Kishore Mahbubani's analysis of Chinese protests against Westerners was very pleasing. I'd like to add one more point to the reasons for dissent: traditionally, politics has a higher priority over everything—including religions—in China. And most Chinese cannot accept the coexistence of religious freedom and politics, especially when it's in Tibet, which was once a religious country. That's why the Chinese think China must not yield to the West. I would also like to clarify the fact that Tibet was actually controlled by China for only about 300 years, since the Ching dynasty, not the Yuan. The Yuan was a Mughal dynasty, and whether the Mughals should be considered Chinese is a matter of dispute. After that, Tibet was again an independent country. To form the Ching dynasty, Manchurians conquered extensive territory in East Asia, which became today's China.
Regarding the article "Tibet Through Chinese Eyes" by Kishore Mahbubani, I fully concur with his views concerning the hypocrisy of politics in the United States and Europe, especially in their foreign policies. I also stand against any country that denies anyone his human rights. However, the article contains misinformation about the history of Tibet that must be discredited. The real history forms the basis of why "Free Tibet" activists insist Tibet is independent of China. The article states, "Chinese leaders believe that China has exercised sovereignty over Tibet for 700 years now, ever since the Yuan dynasty—one reason the 'Free Tibet' slogan angers them so much." The Yuan dynasty was a khanate of the Mughal emperor, Kublai Khan. This khanate included Mongolia and the conquered territories that form most of modern-day China, part of Burma, part of India and Tibet. The Mughal Empire was made up of many khanates that stretched over most of Asia to the borders of Europe and also included parts of the Middle East. The Ming dynasty of the Han people, the majority race of modern-day China, overthrew the Yuan dynasty in 1368, and the Mughals fled to Mongolia. Tibet at this point became independent of the Mughal Empire—not of China. In my view, from the 14th century until the 20th century Tibet was an independent country either invaded or occupied by Mughal tribes, the Han Chinese (Ming dynasty), the Manchus (Ching dynasty), the Gurkhas of Nepal and the British. More recently, Communist China invaded Tibet in 1950 and has occupied it until the present day. People in China have an excuse for not being able to freely determine whether Tibet is independent or under Chinese sovereignty, as the state controls information, the media and the Internet. But information is available to "liberal Western-educated Chinese intellectuals" and Chinese people living abroad. What is their excuse? Will Chinese imperialism be tolerated and China permitted to expand into the other khanates of Kublai Khan without question?
Greece: Neighborly Acts
I am writing regarding an error in "The Essence of Greece" special advertising section produced by Medialinks International, published in the April 21/April 28 edition of NEWSWEEK. Alexandros Tsiatsiamis, special secretary of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was quoted in the section using the term "Macedonia" to describe Greece's northern neighbor in the context of the Hellenic Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans. As your publication may be aware, it is the Greek government's position that this country should be referred to as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Tsiatsiamis has always employed this term when referring to the country verbally or in writing. That said, what should be remembered is Greece's continued involvement in its neighbor's development through programs such as the Hellenic Plan for Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans. This key initiative will see Greece contribute some €550 million toward infrastructure and private projects in the region by 2011, thereby aiding economic progress in southeast Europe.
The Depth of His Experience
What could be better for the United States than having a president who is "at home in the world" ("A Man at Home in the World," April 21/April 28)? Richard Wolffe's essay on Barack Obama's foreign-affairs experience is right on the mark. I was born and raised in the Netherlands and remember the Nazi occupation during my childhood, and I totally understand where Obama is coming from. His experiences are deeper and more varied. He also has the right temperament and the communication skills to connect with the rest of the world. His life experience and vast understanding of the world's problems will help avoid unnecessary and bloody conflicts, especially military ones. If and when that red phone rings at 3 a.m., I sincerely hope Obama is the one to pick it up. He would be thoughtful about the significance and consequences of any would-be emergency. We have a chance to make history. Let's use it wisely.
Tueke Van Werkhoven
Is America ready for Barack Obama? More to the point, is America ready for John McCain and four more years of body bags and Uncle Sam's wealth leaving his land? With Senator Obama there's a feasible chance that things as they are won't remain the same.
Michael G. Driver
Ichihara City, Japan
I would like to comment on a special report in your April 21/April 28 issue. The article "Following the Rules" gives Western women tips on what to do or not do while traveling in the Middle East and countries around the Persian Gulf. The article advises women to avoid any kind of behavior that might lead to cultural misunderstanding. It says that women should avoid too much eye contact and shouldn't get in the front seat of a taxi; these behaviors can be easily misunderstood. This reminds me of how some foreigners view my country, Turkey, as being the same as these Eastern countries. In the television and print media, they use images of Turkey's most conservative aspects while giving news about, for example, a political issue. Foreign TV channels broadcast images of women with headscarves, or magazine articles present pictures of mosques when the topic isn't even religion. However, Turkey, a secular country, a lot more modern than most of the Islamic countries in the Middle East.
Voices From Generation Petraeus
I applaud NEWSWEEK for recognizing the way America's officer corps has been transformed five years into the Iraq War ("Scions of the Surge," March 24). However, this is a debate that started many years ago. I used to be one of Capt. Tim Wright's West Point classmates. As an adviser to the Iraqi Army in 2005, I routinely found myself and my team at odds with our senior commanders over how to win the war. In military parlance, whoever controls or retains the key terrain possesses a decisive advantage. My chain of command continually emphasized that the Iraqi population was the key terrain. But despite my team's pleas to move on to the Iraqi base, the same chain of command rejected our request outright due to "risk." Our forces migrated to larger and larger U.S. bases, areas complete with coffee shops and a Burger King. Like Captain Wright, we expressed our thoughts to an incoming American unit on cohabitating with the Iraqis, only to be dismissed by our senior officers again. I left the Army after six years in the infantry and, like many of my peers, entered business school. The war has vanished from my life not because I wanted it to, but because I became a "normal" American. Staying connected to the war in a meaningful way was difficult, even for someone who fought in it. The modern military experience is one of incredible burdens and isolation. Rather than your cover line, THE PETRAEUS GENERATION, a more fitting description might be THE DECOUPLED GENERATION.
As an "old generation" soldier, I am gratified to see an Army leadership finally emerge that understands we must be prepared for all contingencies. When I arrived as a young lieutenant colonel on the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College faculty in 1981, my instructions were to keep the counterinsurgency doctrine alive until such time as we could have leadership that would "get it." At that time the Army's premier school for developing senior leadership devoted all of nine hours out of a curriculum of more than 1,600 hours to counterinsurgency. When I left the faculty for another assignment, we were up to about 33 hours—still woefully inadequate. Thankfully, Gen. David Petraeus, Capt. Tim Wright and many other fine leaders at all levels of our Army "get it."
Col. James young,U.S. Army (Ret.)
Pinehurst, North Carolina
Imagine if the mayor and police chiefs of Chicago or Los Angeles came forth with a program for limiting gang violence by paying gang members to join the police and stop their violent activity. Imagine what the reaction of the surge supporters would be. Imagine what the payouts to the insurgent groups in Iraq could have been used for in the United States (does New Orleans still resonate with anyone?). What happens when the money to pay these groups in Iraq runs out, or, better still, what happens if a group such as Al Qaeda or the Iranians comes in with an offer of more money? What kind of allies will these insurgents be, whose allegiance must be bought and paid for?
Jeffrey J. Sieburg
Let me see if I have this correct: with middle-class families unable to send their children to college because of dwindling federal loans; with America's infrastructure and economy crumbling; with thousands of schools in dire need of repairs and updating, millions without health care and returning vets not getting what they need or deserve, the U.S. government is giving insurgents and terrorists roughly $24 million a month to rat out other insurgents and terrorists. Did I miss something?
The March 24 cover photo of Capt. Tim Wright and his men on patrol, and the accompanying story on the Iraq War, illustrated not only the scary warrior image of the Americans that Iraqi citizens face but also what seems to be a growing dependency among Iraqis on the occupation. This dependency is not only on our military presence but also on bribes, coercion and fragile alliances. The efforts of Gen. Petraeus, Capt. Wright and others to negotiate and present a more humane face to the U.S. occupation are admirable, but we remain a foreign occupying force. That has been the problem all along.
Hamilton, New York
Plan B for Financial Crises
Your April 14 article on the subprime crisis ("High Finance Laid Low") raises the question: Should the U.S. government rescue the subprime sufferers or should it be left to the players to sort out matters? Since the average citizen is a victim of this mess, the government feels obliged to step in. Economists like Robert Samuelson seem to rationalize that such financial epidemics are not new and that, as in the past, solutions will be found eventually. Would the government and those responsible (careless bankers included) have the same attitude if this were a health fiasco—maybe a poor treatment option that misfires and leaves many dead or incapacitated? Could we learn some lessons in the preventive mechanisms that governments have instituted for such disasters? In the free market, governments feel obliged to stay away and leave the players to make the rules, referee the games and declare the results. When the results lead to public wounds, the government is forced to chip in. This is an unintended malady of the free-market system. Taking cues from the active health-management role that governments assume, there must be a "rule book" for the financial markets as well. The bureaucracy has enough hands and brains to come up with the antidote for the machinations of audacious bankers. One might also charge the banking customers as accomplices. How can we expect a 20 to 25 percent return on our investments when bank interest rates, even in the best of times, are about 5 percent? Collateralized debt obligations, derivatives and other yet-to-be-invented poisonous knives are results of this greed. Effects of the housing trickery are already spreading to commodities sectors like oil and gold. The rise in prices in these sectors is outside of supply-and-demand effects. Is anyone watching? Who will be the whistle-blower?
Financial Gain at Greater Cost
"Mismanagement 101" (March 24) highlights the effect of poor management on our sorry economic situation. In my opinion, here is the cause: many of the CEOs of banks and businesses are the offspring of the '60s generation of rebels. Their kids grew up with a passion to achieve fame and fortune by whatever means possible. Risky accounting practices and selfish motives drove some financial institutions to offer—if not push—credit to unworthy clients, both individual as well as corporate. Ignorance and indifference on the part of federal government officials concerning sound monetary policy have brought the value of the dollar to a new low, and no one in charge seems to have a clue about how to fix it.
Arthur L. Pengelley
The Trouble With Wireless
Reading your April 14 article "Power from a Distance," I was quite surprised—and disappointed—that your writer makes no mention of the safety issues that wireless power raises. Several recent studies have shown that electromagnetic fields create health hazards and many modern wireless devices using radio waves of various frequencies are under scrutiny by medical authorities. Creating electromagnetic fields in our homes should not only raise the question of efficacy but also of the risk posed by exposure to them, especially if they're strong enough to provide power from one room to another. There's no doubt that such technology could potentially be revolutionary, but awe of a technological achievement should not prevent a writer to wonder if such advances really come with no "cords" attached.
Paying Debts With Daughters
As the father of two teenage girls, I read "The Opium Brides of Afghanistan" (April 7) with disbelief. I could not imagine sacrificing a daughter to life with a middle-aged opium dealer for the sake of settling a debt. I was also struck by the irony of the line: "Islam forbids charging interest on a loan, but moneylenders in poppy country elude the ban by packaging the deal as a crop-futures transaction." Charging interest for a loan is forbidden, but selling a daughter isn't?
Michael J. Davis