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American Responses to a World in Flux

October 24, 2002

Re "This Is Oil -- This Is a No-Brainer on Oil," by Arianna Huffington, Commentary, Oct. 22: Waiting for the American public to get religion on energy conservation would be like waiting for President Bush to concede defeat in the 2000 election. Our most effective weapon against Saddam Hussein and Middle Eastern terrorist organizations would be to reduce oil consumption by driving smaller cars, carpooling, walking and riding bikes. The U.S. could go to war without risking a single soldier's life.

But Americans have somehow come to believe that driving the vehicle of their choice in the manner they see fit is the highest form of liberty and freedom. They will gladly give up civil or privacy rights as long as they can drive their SUVs, alone, at 75 mph.

Greg Gilmore

Santa Ana

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Re "An Iraqi Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Day," Oct. 21: Now that Hussein has declared amnesty and generously sent jubilant prisoners -- dangerous, petty, innocent, guilty and political -- out of his jails into the arms of loved ones and before the cameras of awaiting press photographers, those of us on the left must warily contemplate our response.

Do we ignore the laws of cause and effect and just cheer the consequences, or must we hold our noses and credit the tough talk of George ll? I forget ... does the end ever justify the means? It's too complicated. Let's pack a lunch, cheer the goodwill of the Palestinian people, jeer the "Neighborhood Bully" (as Bob Dylan ironically titled a song about Israel) and march arm in arm for peace.

Michael H. Weinberg

Pasadena

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I was very amused by the Sean Kelly cartoon in the Oct. 20 Opinion section. Uncle Sam cannot use his megaphone to speak to our European allies because the wall plug does not fit. In the accompanying article, "Winning Hearts and Minds of the Europeans," Seth Gitell is only partially right when he wishes we still had the CIA-financed Congress for Cultural Freedom to give our side of the issues. The problem is not just the substance but the way our government often speaks to our friends.

You'd think we were about to aim those precision-guided bombs at Paris or Berlin whenever our allies voice the slightest doubt about the wisdom of our foreign policies in the world. There is no need to beat them about the head with our superior power. True power does not need to advertise: Everybody knows if you have it. International leadership calls for gentle persuasion, not muscular posturing. We need more Secretary of State Colin Powell and less Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Peter H. Merkl

Goleta

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