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Letter from an alumnus about ‘Reality check’ rechecked

Date Posted: January 26, 2005

In his letter headlined “Reality Check” (Nov. 17), Martin Feder ’78 makes a number of dubious assertions that deserve analysis.

1. We (the West) are at war with radical Islam. While it is undeniable that American soldiers are fighting and dying in Iraq, it is important to remember that the Baathist regime we went to war to oust was a secular regime, which in its day had been a murderous enemy of Islam in Iraq.

Furthermore, let us not forget, the war in Iraq was not forced on us. Unlike Afghanistan, it was a war of choice, and that choice was misguided. It has created more jihadists than it has eliminated. If its purpose was to improve our security, it has failed miserably. Clausewitz taught that war is the continuation of policy by other means. It is worthwhile to consider what we are trying to accomplish in this war, to see if our strategy and tactics are appropriate, and then to decide if it is worth the cost.

Before March 2003, Sadaam Hussein (although as despicable a tyrant as any that Donald Rumsfeld ’54 had ever shaken hands with) had no weapons of mass destruction and was in no way a threat to the United States. Because of this ill-thought-out war, the prestige, standing, and power of the United States throughout the world have declined precipitously.

If Mr. Feder is correct in saying we are at war with radical Islam, then perhaps we shouldn’t be. Our current government’s policies seem designed to strengthen our putative enemies.

2. Anyone who wants an equitable solution to the Palestinian problem is trying to “screw the Israelis.”

Mr. Feder is correct in that the United States has no right to tell Israel what to do. However, the corollary is that we are also under no obligation to continue to pay for its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. According to Israelis in the peace movement, if it were not for American financial support, if Israel had to pay by itself for the settlements that are now the main obstacles to peace, internal Israeli politics would be much more open to accepting a genuine two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is hard to find any geopolitical or strategic advantage for the United States in our one-sided support for Israel. Our tax dollars finance the occupation. What benefit do we get from it? Support for Israel is a strategic cost to the U.S., not a benefit. Maybe all those billions of dollars would be better spent at home. If Mr. Feder doesn’t think the U.S. has a right to suggest solutions to Israel that could create a more stable, peaceful, and just Middle East, then perhaps his country should stop taking our money.

3. We should shut up and support our troops.

Almost all of the men who planned this war managed to avoid serving in the U.S. military. I suspect few have even been in a bar fight. They now send younger, poorer, braver men into the dangerous conditions they, by using their connections, escaped. If they believe so deeply in “bringing democracy to Iraq,” perhaps they (or at least their children) should be on point in Fallujah. Instead, our fine young soldiers are getting shot at so that these middle-aged armchair warriors can pursue their misguided geostrategic theories from the comfort of their Washington offices.

I found Mr. Feder’s letter self-righteous and more than a bit racist. He, of course, has a right to his opinions. The rest of us, I hope he will agree, also have a right and indeed a duty to look deeply at our current government’s policies and decide for ourselves if they improve our security or benefit our nation.

T.N.S. '79
London, England

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