Readers of our year-end report on Ségolène Royal were skeptical of her success. One doubted that she could overcome France's challenges: "Joblessness, poverty, homelessness and corruption are all up." Observed another, "substance is second to media savvy and razzmatazz."
Your Dec. 25, 2006/Jan. 1, 2007, article "Failed Expectations" says that the Republic of Korea lacks "strong commitment to due process, rule of law or the fundamental rules of democracy ... " This outrageous allegation overlooks how long and courageously Korea has fought to achieve an exemplary democracy. Your writers say that South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun "waffled on the region's gravest security threat: North Korea's nuclear breakout." This is not true. President Roh sternly condemned North Korea's nuclear test as a serious development undermining the region's peace and stability. He said that Pyongyang is solely responsible for all the consequences of that incident. Our government's policy on the North Korean nuclear issue has always been closely coordinated with those of the international community, including the United States. Korea's track record demonstrates a longstanding commitment to achieving a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. You also claim that President Roh had "gone after the country's largest chaebol and biggest media groups for tax evasion," and compare him to other Asian leaders who use government agencies to punish enemies. But Korean laws require regular tax audits, and proper enforcement of tax laws has not diminished the voice of the Korean news media. I challenge NEWSWEEK to list countries with a press corps more critical of its government than Korea's.
Even if Segolene Royal is determined to break with the past, how committed will she remain to her new policy ("Royal Touch," Dec. 25, 2006/Jan. 1, 2007)? François Mitterrand also made big promises before he became president. Joblessness has increased considerably; poverty, homelessness and corruption are all up in the last decade. Neither the policies of the Socialists nor those of conservatives have struck at the root of these problems. A watchdog committee proposed by Royal is a bold decision indeed, but the real challenge is how to get the money to save debt-ridden France. Royal has not explained how she will clear up our long-term debts. There is a growing cynicism about politics here now. What difference will it make having a female president? What the French want is a say in their government's policy. Will Royal take this plain truth into account that others have so far ignored?
You quote a former French left-wing minister as saying that Ségolène Royal is "too much container and not enough content." But aren't most Western leaders today people of the same ilk? Substance plays second fiddle to media savvy and superficial razzmatazz now. So, having one more woman join the club will not provide any real innovation.
I was disappointed by the length of your story on Ségolène Royal. You dedicated less than a page to a person you found important enough to place on the (Atlantic edition) cover of your year-end double issue. In the Dec. 18 issue on "Women & Leadership," I enjoyed the in-depth articles about "Science and the Gender Gap" and how BBC's Mishal Husain was "Getting Back on Track" after maternity leave. But I was disturbed by the glimpses into the lives of other successful businesswomen, activists, journalists, etc. Is it fair to cram these "extraordinary" women into a special-tribute issue and dedicate two short columns to each woman's achievements? A true homage to "Women & Leadership" would be to expand your regular coverage of women like Ségolène Royal, rather than lumping them all together in one patronizingly short issue.
Fareed Zakaria still thinks George W. Bush was right? In "Losing the War, as Well as the Battle" (Dec. 25, 2006/Jan. 1, 2007), he writes: "A modern, liberal democratic Iraq would be an example, an inspiration and a spur for progress in the Middle East." First, while it may be important to spread liberal democracy in the Middle East, Bush and his neocon cohorts view "liberal" and "Democrat" as dirty words. Besides, to many people in the Middle East, an imported U.S.-style democracy is an abomination, and Bush's much-touted religious beliefs inspire horror. In any case, Bush and the neocons never wanted a democracy in Iraq: they wanted control of Iraq's oil. Had Saddam Hussein turned over all of Iraq's oil to Halliburton, he would still be in power and Zakaria would be writing gushy columns about Saddam's enlightened despotism's serving as inspiration to the Middle East. Furthermore, you can't create a democratic government by sending in the Marines, by torturing innocent Iraqi civilians in Abu Ghraib--Saddam Hussein's personal torture chamber--and killing thousands of innocent Iraqis with friendly fire. There's no way Bush's military mission could have succeeded. If we really want to export democracy, we need to make it work in America. That means eliminating voter fraud, dirty tricks and rigged elections. It means eliminating corporate influence on politics and putting folks like Karl Rove out of business.
William Joseph Miller
Los Angeles, California