Letters to the Editor: Is Afghanistan Our Vietnam?

On 'The Blue and the Great': "There was nothing unusual in 1959 about laying down insightful improvisation on nascent tunes or the notion of black and white musicians playing in harmony. Indeed, those are the hallmarks of the modern jazz genre."
Tracy Leverton, Vienna, Va.

To Achieve Victory in Afghanistan
Your Feb. 9 essays on Afghanistan were brilliant and seminal. In "Obama's Vietnam," John Barry and Evan Thomas masterfully examined the similarities and differences between Vietnam and Afghanistan, and Fareed Zakaria made some common-sense suggestions in "A Turn-around Strategy." But I object to the title "Obama's Vietnam." Not because I dispute the similarity of the two wars, but rather because it undeservedly and prematurely connotes and ascribes defeat and failure to our new president. If we do not succeed in Afghanistan—and we must—it will not be Obama's Vietnam. It will be America's tragedy.
Maj. Dorian De Wind, USAF (Ret.)
Austin, Texas

Your cover story could have been headed "Obama's Vietnam: Is the Afghanistan-Pakistan Problem America's to Solve?" I was brought up in "Afghan-Pak country." These people see the United States as a bull—purposeless, enraged and lethal. The Afghan-Pak people must be allowed to define their destiny, even if it is at excruciating cultural, ethnic, economic and casualty costs. All the U.S. can do is support the region in a nonviolent manner, sidestepping the "terrorism trail."
Majid Ali
New York, N.Y.

If Afghanistan is in fact made up of a group of tribes held together artificially in the way Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia once were, perhaps the solution is obvious. Why not divide the land along tribal lines into a series of "new" countries? This should please most warlords and local leaders. Coalition resources would then be truly able to focus on nation building while placing fewer personnel and civilians in harm's way.
Joel L. Goldman
Toronto, Canada

The first two paragraphs of "Obama's Vietnam" demonstrate the problems we have not only in Afghanistan but in the region at large. This is both a military and a cultural war. As with Vietnam, we don't really understand the culture we are confronting. Power-hungry imams and mullahs have created a mass of undereducated youth to follow their violent directives. Weapons cannot change beliefs; understanding can. Why not replace our soldiers with people who understand the culture and can help bring understanding into a knowledge vacuum and preach cooperation and tolerance to those who have never known it? We will ultimately save more of their lives than our own.
Jeremy Gorman
Wilmington, VT.

Israel on the IAEA's Ineffectiveness
The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei ("On Nukes, Tread Softly," Feb. 9), has failed to persuade Syria to allow a visit by the IAEA's inspectors to three sites suspected to be part of Syria's covert nuclear program. He has also failed in his feeble demand for a proper investigation of Syria's bulldozing the wreckage and the cleanup operation at the Dair Alzour site, where Syria is suspected of constructing a North Korean nuclear reactor in clear violation of its Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement with the agency. Instead, ElBaradei lashes out at the state of Israel. Unfortunately, this has become a common practice by the director of the IAEA in his efforts to divert attention from his failure to conduct a vigorous and conclusive investigation amid mounting evidence of gross violations of international obligations under the NPT by some of its Middle Eastern members.
Nili Lifshitz, Spokeswoman
Israeli Atomic Energy Commission
Tel Aviv, Israel

The Pope and the Far Right
As a Roman Catholic long active on an interfaith board, I concur with Christopher Hitchens that Pope Benedict XVI's reinstatement of Lefebvrite bishops— including the Holocaust-denying "bishop" Richard Williamson—is a grievous error ("The Pope's Denial Problem," Feb. 9). Thankfully, the pope called upon Williamson to recant such an opinion. However, Hitchens himself needs a serious education in history and theology as he continues his conflated assault on belief. He misunderstands everything from the meaning of the Tower of Babel to the role of Pope John XXIII in convoking the council (and not living to see the reforms) to the fact that there is never a "mass" on Good Friday. Critique this action and the pope, but ground thyself better, Christopher!
David E. Pasinski
Fayetteville, N.Y.

Having Christopher Hitchens comment on Catholicism seems a bit like asking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to enlighten us on Judaism. NEWSWEEK could have called on countless Catholics whose sense of outrage over the pope's decision would have been deeply grounded in Catholic theology and the best of Christian tradition.
Rose Hoover
Gainesville, Fla.

Memories of a Stillbirth
Never has an article made me cry as did "A Vast and Sudden Sadness" (Feb. 9). The subject of stillborn babies was dealt with in such a sensitive matter that it evoked memories of the loss of our first grandchild. I thought I was through crying, as it has been more than 10 years, but I agree that taking photos, holding a stillborn and the sharing of grief made our memories more precious. Dealing with death in this way is acknowledging life itself.
Brenda Lacaze Froisy
St. Amant, La.