NATO—Not A True Obligation
Re “Why NATO?” [May 28]: Why indeed? It was never about containing the Soviet menace. Stalin had too much on his plate after the devastation from the Nazi invasion to contemplate expansion into Western Europe. The Red Army was demobilized to supply workers for the reconstruction, and Stalin futilely tried to negotiate a united unarmed Germany in 1949.
So why NATO? The Western Allies could not put up with a neutral, unarmed Germany. NATO was needed in order to arm West Germany without upsetting the French and others. And the arming of West Germany had more to do with the care and feeding of the military-industrial complex than with countering a threat from the East. Once NATO was established, as an extension of US military power, it could hardly be retired. Old bureaucracies never die. They just soldier away!
John Nichols’s May 28 “Time to Revive the Postal Service” suggested three ways to revitalize the USPS: facilitating broadband wireless communication, becoming help centers for an array of public services and re-establishing a postal banking system. Those ideas are fine, but I think mine’s better: open a coffee shop in each post office across the country. Location, location, location.
In thousands of small towns like mine, the local post office is one of the few places people run into one another and catch up on family or local news, debate issues or just commune. And I’m sure they’d like to do that over a cup of coffee. Not sure how to make a pitch to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. But the coffee shops should not be Starbucks franchises. How about the Post Office Coffee Shop? or the Ben Franklin Cafe?
This Will Not Be Televised
I enjoyed Franklin Bruno’s review of Gil Scott-Heron’s posthumous The Last Holiday: A Memoir [“Pieces of a Man,” May 28]. It did a major service by revealing details of Scott-Heron’s early life in Jackson, Tennessee, and Chicago.
I have just one geographic nit to pick. Bruno mentions that the young Scott-Heron, his mother and most of the black South Jackson community were uprooted “by the extension of Interstate 70 from the north.” In fact, the interstate highway that displaced this black community (and runs through South Jackson) is Interstate 40.
I-40 runs through Jackson from east to west, connecting Memphis with Nashville, the state capital. Being born and raised in Nashville at roughly the same time that Scott-Heron was growing up in Jackson, I know this firsthand. I traveled I-40 numerous times with my parents and sister to visit relatives in Memphis. I-70 doesn’t come near Tennessee, running instead through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.
Bruno’s note about the displacement of a Southern urban black community in Jackson echoes the similar displacement of urban black communities by interstate highways in Nashville and Memphis (I-40, in this case). Again, his review was very good and brought back memories for me.
Wrong preposition. On checking the book, we found that the highway in question was “an extension to [not of] Interstate 70.”—Ed.
Franklin Township, N.J.
I was chair of the sociology/anthropology department at Lincoln University in the spring of 1970 and encountered Gil Scott-Heron from time to time. He was a charismatic student leader. But my recollection does not entirely match Franklin Bruno’s description of the story. Scott-Heron’s charge that “Lincoln’s state relationship included ‘COIN-TEL-PRO’ ” is likely overstated. It was, however, well-known that students from Africa were courted by some members of the political science department as potential CIA assets.