American progressives are still in denial about energy policy [Mark Hertsgaard, “The Cancún Compromise,” Jan. 3]. Even The Nation publishes commentary about climate change without acknowledging that there are millions of people in the world who need to increase their use of energy in order to live with some measure of dignity. Terms like “fuel poverty,” “energy poverty” and “energy justice” are seldom seen in US publications. In the 1930s, the left fought for electrification and enlightenment. Voters were excited about energy justice. Nowadays, self-styled liberals throw cold water on the world, saying, “Stop wasting energy. Turn out the lights.” If this is liberalism, Thomas Malthus and Ebenezer Scrooge were liberal prophets. Bah, humbug.
Robert F. Murphy
Tiptoeing the Af-Pak Tightrope
Anatol Lieven’s analysis of the Afghan/Pakistani puzzle, “How the Afghan Counterinsurgency Threatens Pakistan” [Jan. 3], is among the very best I have seen. He mentions one important variable I haven’t noticed elsewhere regarding Pakistan’s reluctance to suppress the North Waziristan Afghan Taliban, who use this border region as their rear area bolt-hole. Beyond the more recognized desire of the Pakistanis to preserve the Afghan Taliban as a rear reserve force for possible conflict with India, Lieven mentions that such a military move would be so unpopular as to create a grave government crisis. And he is right to argue that developments in Pakistan are far more important to US and Western security in the long run.
Another point, perhaps speculative but worth concern: President Karzai may be unenthusiastic and even foot-dragging about the fundamental US goal of “standing up” the Afghan army (and police) to take on the Taliban. Aside from the questionable cultural mechanics of the Afghan army’s training, Karzai may suspect, and fear, the loyalty and motivation of a large semimodern army largely made up of recruits from the non-Pashtun minorities. Past coups still echo.
In the face of somber analyses on “unwinnability,” President Obama is sending in 1,200 more troops to keep fighting during the winter off-season, perhaps to catch the Taliban hibernating or as an easy way to occupy vacated land. This sounds like one of the serial gimmicks General Petraeus keeps pulling out of the “throw it against the wall” bag of bootless ideas, perhaps for a meager but meaningless uptick in Taliban casualties.
Copyright? How Quaint
What is most disheartening about the letters [“Exchange,” Dec. 27] published in response to “The Pirate’s Prophet” [Nov. 15] and the piece itself is that the whole conversation takes for granted that no kind of culture worth having could grow or survive in the absence of copyright, the free market, the profit motive. Is this really the sine qua non of the artistic impulse, of the human spirit? This seems to be the animating principle of this argument, which has found a strange berth in The Nation. Or is merely to ask such a question hopelessly naïve, “anarchistic” or, most shameful, “romantic”? And how is it that these terms (in various dreary permutations) pass for reasoned argument, as though they were shorthand for some unassailable argument or commonplace of everyday wisdom that only fools such as I could possibly be unaware of?