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U.S. Aid for the Contras

July 26, 1988

Jack Beatty's article about Elliott Abrams ("The Education of Elliott Abrams," Editorial Page, July 16) could also have been titled "the failure of narrow-minded policies." In this case, Abrams' perception of the problem in Nicaragua was that communism was the culprit, and that any means to stop this threat was justified. Yet most students of Central America know that the real problems of the area have little to do with communism and much more to do with these basic issues: inadequate housing, poor levels of education, too little medical care, overly concentrated land ownership, and overpopulation. Yet our response to these problems has largely been military.

In Central America it has been a program of low-intensity conflict (read: war by proxy)--this has turned out to be an absolute recipe for disaster. Abrams is merely the latest point man for a program which is based on faulty assumptions, using methods of extreme violence to perpetuate our ideas.

For a democratic country to use dishonest and undemocratic means to foster a wrong-headed policy has only led to political and economic disaster for Central America. Nicaragua is but one example of how badly awry our policies have become in that area. Not one nation (save Costa Rica) can honestly be assessed as having prospered from recent American foreign policy.

The best parts of American democracy will also work for Central America: recognition and acceptance of diversity; respect for the individual; a cooperative, can-do spirit and finally, reliance on the democratic process itself. This will allow for time and trial-and-error methods to resolve problems and conflicts. For all Abrams' intellectual knowledge, he seems to have forgotten these basic principles of democracy.

NICHOLAS R. RAY

Encino

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