Mail Call: Run, Mike, Run?

Readers were intrigued by our Nov. 12 story on a possible presidential bid by New York's mayor. "Mike Bloomberg understands how to restore America to a respected leadership position in the world," one declared. Another added, "This will add some fresh air to a so-far stale and lackluster campaign."

A Possible Presidential Bid
Your cover story on New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made for fascinating reading ("The Revolutionary," Nov. 12). Should he decide to run as an independent in the 2008 presidential election, he will add some badly needed fresh air to a so-far stale and lackluster campaign. Bloomberg's considerable skills as a businessman, his ability to work with people while respecting views that are different from his own and his prowess in thinking outside the box would leave a significant mark on the political landscape even if he doesn't make it to the White House in the end. Of all the third-party candidates I can remember, he stands the best chance of enriching and enlivening the traditional camps of Democrats and Republicans.
Werner Radtke
Paderborn, Germany

I lived in New York City during the Rudy Giuliani-Michael Bloomberg mayoral baton handoff in 2001–2002 and remember feeling agitated by Bloomberg's elitist manner in how he "bought" his way into city hall. Admittedly, I was also caught up in Giuliani's charismatic public persona, especially after 9/11. But as time passed, my perspective shifted. I began seeing substantive results in Bloomberg's centrist leadership style versus Giuliani's autocratic style. Today I hope Bloomberg "buys" the presidency, and as a gay man and a liberal Democrat, I really don't care if he runs as a Democrat, Republican or independent. Bloomberg's clearly the right leader for breaking through bipartisan barriers, mending international relations, ending the Iraq War, keeping the United States from going to war with Iran, stabilizing the economy, balancing social issues and fighting global warming. He's also one of the most philanthropic men of our day.
Dan Bray
Orlando, Florida

You chose to launch an unabashed "trial balloon" for Bloomberg. Given that the current front runners for the two main parties are Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, a Bloomberg candidacy would result in a presidential race between the current and former mayors of New York City and the junior senator from New York state. With 49 other states in the Union, Americans need candidates from other states, with other political viewpoints. America doesn't need (or want) a presidential race among three New York liberals!
Steven Collins
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

How does splitting the national vote three ways unite the United States? If Bloomberg somehow defeated both major-party candidates, does he expect Democrats and Republicans in Congress to hold hands, sing "Kumbaya" and follow his lead? America has a political democracy in which the president governs through his allies in Congress, not a monarchy with a subservient legislature. I'll support those who joined in the primary battles instead of shirking from the fight.
Don Judson
Woodburn, Oregon

Wouldn't it be nice for America to finally have a candidate who has tried both tired political parties and decided like so many others that they are both way out of step with mainstream America? The polarization over the past decade has resulted in a dysfunctional, bloated Washington behemoth that is neither listening nor responsive to the concerns of most Americans. Bloomberg is a proven leader who understands priorities, negotiating for results and, most important, the restoration of America to a sensible but strong and respected leadership position in the world.
R. L. Mullins
Tucson, Arizona

Will Iraq Still Dominate in 2008?
I must take exception to Fareed Zakaria's Nov. 12 article ("This Won't Be the Iraq Election"), which concluded that the Iraq War would not be the No. 1 issue in next year's presidential election. While U.S. casualties appear to be trending down right now, probably due to the surge, everything I have read is emphatic that the surge cannot possibly continue beyond the first or second quarter of 2008. Nor has any form of political reconciliation within Iraq even begun. Throw in the fact that America is considering giving more arms to the Iraqi Army; the political unrest in Pakistan; the United States' relationship with Iran, Israel and Turkey, and oil being close to?$100 a barrel, and I can't help but conclude that Iraq is going to be very much on the minds of every American voter 11 months from now.
Tom Smith
Indianapolis, Indiana

Not All Activism Is Helpful
Thank you for your article "Do-Gooders Gone Bad" (Nov. 12). As a college student, I have seen my fair share of rallies and campaigns with slogans like "Save Darfur" or "End Poverty Now" take place on campus. It is imperative that activist groups know how their voices and funds will help the spotlighted crisis. Are they oversimplifying the problem? How will the government in their country and in the other party's country effectively respond? I commend the efforts of those who have dedicated their lives to helping others, but I implore them to consider what long-term impact their actions have on others.
Carrie Lam
Evanston, Illinois

Sarkozy and an American Admirer
French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a big blunder by walking out before his interview with journalist Leslie Stahl from CBS's "60 Minutes" was over ("Sarkozy Is Looking More Like the 'French Rudy' Every Day," Nov. 12). Prior to that, Sarkozy had extolled the virtues of America as the greatest democracy in the world. How is it that when it came to questions about his private life, Sarkozy abruptly backed out of an interview? I have to wonder whether he is willing to embrace genuine democracy. Former presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton went through the same process. They never complained. This is how democracy truly works. Should Sarkozy be given a pass? There is no French exception in democracy. The French president should abide by democratic rules as fairly practiced in the United States.
Dan Chellumben
Amboise, France

French With an American Sensibility
In "An American (Style) In Paris" (Nov. 12), a key point was missed that makes French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde's idea of getting the French to work harder an extremely silly and wrong notion that will create more unemployment, not less. Only an obtuse person would believe that the monthly unemployment figure in France is 8 percent. This figure comes from a political definition of unemployment, not an actuarial one. I calculate the real unemployment figure in France to be 15 to 20 percent. What is needed in France, and elsewhere, is a workweek of four nine-hour days so that all French workers have some work to do rather than some doing all the work, the latter being the current situation and the only logical outcome of Lagarde's plans. Lagarde has missed the point that the historically unusual full-employment golden age, from 1945 to 1975, has gone forever. Lagarde also implies that if the French work harder, they will receive higher wages. Nonsense. There is no guarantee of that at all. In her beloved United States, American workaholic dingbats are working harder than ever before (for the CEO class), but their real wages are declining, particularly in comparison with upper management.
Marcus L'estrange
Bangkok, Thailand

Parsing Hillary on Her Positions
So Hillary Clinton is a "congenital lawyer" ("Congenital Lawyer Redux," Nov. 12)? Thank goodness. What America desperately needs is a good lawyer in the White House. Lawyers are trained to analyze situations, anticipate their adversaries' strategy and prepare for worst-case scenarios—none of which the current administration did in planning the quagmire that is Iraq. With Harvard Business School M.B.A. Bush in the Oval Office, the United States is essentially being run by the sales and marketing department—the people who sell products to customers who can't pay. This is a recipe for disaster and bankruptcy, as any accounts-receivable clerk will tell you.
Dolores Cordell,Esq.
Fairfax, California

Has anyone considered that when we elect a politician to office to represent us in the government, the result violates all legal norms of a contractual relationship? They can hold closed-door meetings and tell us nothing of the result. They can declare that what they say and do is secret. This is impudence. If our political representatives do not provide us with what they promised, we cannot terminate the relationship. We must continue to pay their salary and pay for things such as their office and domestic and foreign travel. We would prosecute nonpoliticians who acted this way. Why do we, as thinking beings, allow politicians to get away with this?
William W. Morgan
Tulsa, Oklahoma

A New Atlantic Alliance
Congratulations on Stryker Mcguire's cover story ("Bridging the Gap," Sept. 10). Published around the anniversary of 9/11, the new Atlanticism reflects a healthy portion of realpolitik, which is shared by a good many of the new-generation political leaders in Europe. Europe, "old" or "new," and the United States need each other. A revived transatlantic alliance is a geopolitical, economic and international security must. Each European country must decide the level of its participation in the new transatlantic alliance, as the European Union has been totally incompetent in formulating a common foreign policy. French President Nicolas Sarkozy should renew France's membership in NATO and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown should stick to his instinctively pro-American feelings instead of seemingly being obsessed with putting enough clear blue water between himself and his predecessor Tony Blair. Any anti-Americanism among public opinion across Europe can be changed—provided the new post-Bush administration in the United States ditches unilateralism and adopts a multilateral approach to world affairs.
Karl H. Pagac
Villeneuve-Loubet, France

The Battle for Moscow Re-Examined
In response to the article about the book "The Greatest Battle" ("Stalin's Tipping Point," Sept. 10), I wanted to make a clarification. This is not the first significant instance of the "almost failure" of the Battle of Moscow to be published. In Dmitri Volkogonov's book "The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire," he pointedly describes Stalin's miscalculations about German maneuvering; Red Army officers in terror over the punitive organ, which had eliminated thousands of them under Stalin's purges, and even how when the Soviet government came to visit Stalin at his haven in Kuntsevo, Stalin assumed they were coming to arrest him for his strategic failures.
Patricia Houck
Karaganda, Kazakhstan

Should the Draft be Reinstated?
America's disbanding of its armed-forces draft in the early 1970s came about as the result of a backlash against the war in Vietnam, serving as a protest against the war ("Why We Need a Draft," Sept. 10). Unfortunately, in the country's zeal to demonstrate our anguish over the war, Americans threw the baby out with the bath water. The "baby" was democratic representation, for, if the draft did nothing else, it better ensured that everyone was subject to serving. The armed forces, in turn, mirrored their country and—in many ways—served it as its best representatives. Granted not everyone relished the prospect of being drafted and shipped off to fight a war, but this was democracy at work. This is but one dimension of why the United States needs a draft.
John W. Schiffeler
Verneuil-En-Bourbonnais, France

Although I sympathize with Cpl. Mark Finelli, as he has served in and survived the hellhole Iraq has become after escaping alive from the hellhole of the South Tower on 9/11, I'm afraid he just doesn't get it. It's not a draft that America needs; it's a responsible, informed and intelligent administration. Like Vietnam, Iraq is a war the United States should never have fought. There were no terrorists in Iraq until the Bush administration's ill-considered actions created them. The place to go after Al Qaeda was Afghanistan, but the administration for whatever reasons—stupidity or cupidity chose to ignore the advice Richard Clarke and other counterterrorism experts had been giving it from the very beginning, and duped the nation into going along with its pre-9/11 plan to invade Iraq. I think Corporal Finelli should stop and ask himself: would it be right to draft young Americans who did not volunteer to be sent to risk their lives in an unjust war, as was the case with Vietnam? The draft should be used only when America is actually threatened by external enemies, not to throw away the lives of youth on the follies of their elders.
Jef Westing
Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue, France

I'm a Vietnam veteran who reached the same rank as Cpl. Mark Finelli after I had received a college deferment for four years and then was drafted a year later. His opinion piece in favor of reinstating the draft is the best I've read about this important debate. In addition to dealing with such problems as our too-small military's being spread too thin, too-short breaks between tours and inappropriate use of the National Guard, a draft of diverse citizens would enrich and challenge the military as well as ensure that our future leaders have firsthand knowledge of the culture, activities, strengths and weaknesses of this critical sector of society, something that is now sorely lacking among those under the age of 50. Like it or not, the United States is in a war with radical Islam that will last a very long time. Except for folks related to members of the military, U.S. citizens aren't personally invested in this war, something that must occur if America is to fight it effectively. Drawing troops from both the low and the high economic strata of society and from politically influential and noninfluential families will lead to just such an investment. To me, the issue of bringing back the draft is a no-brainer—it should be done. Unfortunately, the odds approach certainty that Congress will lack the political guts to do so.
Charles Biernbaum
Charleston, South Carolina

Cpl. Mark Finelli couldn't be more right, but for the wrong reason. America needs a draft to keep politicians intellectually honest when they consider the use of military force. If the war in Iraq depended on a draft, U.S. troops would have been withdrawn long ago, or, even better, would never have gone there in the first place. The American public sees the failure in the decision to invade Iraq, the failure in postwar planning and the failure to recognize those failures by keeping troops in Iraq. It is a shame that America's leaders don't have the vision and understanding of the American public. There is collective wisdom in the voice of the American public. Politicians would be wise to listen to that voice. They will be forced to listen in November 2008.
Richard Hopgood
Nicholasville, Kentucky

The EU Pays Lip Service to America
The French and Dutch rejections of the EU constitution are not "symptoms of a Europe that does not know where it is going" ("The European Disunion," Sept. 10). It is a statement of where individual people—not member states—wish to go. A European superstate may fit well with politicians and businessmen in their pursuit of a homogenous global society, but it does not fit well with a large swath of the European electorate. To assert that there can be no alliance with America without an EU constitution will probably be regarded by many as a little naive. Others might respond, "So what? I made my choice." Although the British Labour Party may seek an end to "nationalistic sectarianism," it is this very quality that gives us the nonhomogeneous global society that politicians and businessmen detest but that the public wishes to maintain. If governments want the support of the public, a little more transparency and explanation of the true benefits and drawbacks of an EU constitution, alliance with America and other accords and arrangements would go a long way toward helping politicians and business leaders truly appreciate what the public actually wants.
Damon Moran
Via Internet From France

Editor's Note
After publication, the story"Rough Justice" (Dec. 10), which describes the special justice system Rwanda set up to deal with the 1994 genocide, was changed online to more accurately reflect the views of sources critical of that system. Herewith the more-accurate sentences:

Critics argue that the system is also decidedly one-sided: it gives ethnic Tutsis the right to denounce their Hutu persecutors but doesn't offer Hutus the equivalent right to accuse the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front, which eventually ousted the murderous Hutu regime in 1994 and then set up the current government. Zarir Merat, head of the Kigali office of Lawyers Without Borders, says, "When you have part of the population not being able to obtain justice, how do you obtain reconciliation?"