A Syrian Quagmire?
Thanks and praises for “In Dubious Battle” [May 27], your concise summary of the Syrian situation and the pitfalls and implications of military involvement. The warmongers never seem to learn from history. As you state, the only sensible approach is to provide humanitarian aid for the growing refugee problem and use this cooperation to avoid a broader conflict.
New York City
Having spent 2004–06 in Syria, I am disheartened by the blind rush to oust Bashar al-Assad. I remain in contact with many Syrians who would prefer not to have a new government forced on them at the end of a gun by the outside world. I witnessed the aftermath of US intervention in Iraq, where I was filming in 2011, and am terrified of the specter of intervention in Syria. These days, Iraq is a wasteland. Every Iraqi I met said that as much as they despised Saddam Hussein, they wished he was still in power.
Assad is not nearly as bad as Saddam. I had access to film him and the first lady several times. Assad has more in common with Obama’s cool demeanor than the bizarre excesses of dictators like Saddam, Qaddafi and Ben Ali. Diplomacy is free; military actions transfer billions of tax dollars to Halliburton et al. Diplomacy does not risk civilian lives; military intervention guarantees death and destruction.
JEAN MARIE OFFENBACHER
Cheap Clothing = Death
After reading several paragraphs of “The Price,” JoAnn Wypijewski’s May 27 “Carnal Knowledge” column, I heard a thin, high-pitched sound, and only as I clutched my eyes (dislodging my glasses) to stem my tears did I realize that the sound came from me. When I first encountered the photo she mentions of the two dead Bangladeshi workers in an embrace, I was so stunned I couldn’t feel anything. As the days unveiled the particulars and the magnitude of the catastrophe, I continued to shake my head, as we do, at the senselessness of it all. I want to thank Ms. Wypijewski for giving me back myself, my humanity and my resolve to make a difference, by reaching into my soul with her words.
MARY ANN SCHROEDER
Thoreau: a Walker as Well as a Talker
Re Wen Stephenson’s “Thoreau’s Radical Moment—and Ours” [May 27]: Henry David Thoreau is characterized primarily in terms of his essay “Civil Disobedience.” Let’s not forget another side of him also pertinent to Keystone XL and fossil fuel use: Thoreau walked. In the first chapter of Walden, he describes the economics of walking to Fitchburg as opposed to taking the then-new railroad. Waking early, he noted, he could make the journey in a single day. Or he could invest half a day riding the train and another full day earning the fare.
Let’s apply that logic to twenty-first-century America. Must we drive so much? Thoreau already had the right answer. As one who in my fifty-one years has never driven, I find it possible, though sometimes inconvenient, to get from Concord to Fitchburg, or wherever, with minimal fossil fuel use. Far more radical than a single act of civil disobedience is the habit of leaving the car in the driveway.