The Dangers of Amnesia

In his cover story “Who Is Matt Duss and Can He Take On ‘The Blob’?” [Feb. 25/March 4], David Klion misleadingly describes Barack Obama’s adviser Ben Rhodes as a critic of the “interventionist consensus” of the US foreign-policy establishment. Actually, as Rhodes explains quite clearly in his 2018 memoir The World As It Is, his worldview was shaped by books like Samantha Power’s A Problem From Hell, in which she calls for intervention against genocide. Rhodes was also deeply influenced by the Clinton administration’s failure to intervene in Rwanda, and he approved of the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 and supported the very costly but totally futile Obama surge in Afghanistan. Moreover, Rhodes joined Power in pushing for action against Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. Finally, Rhodes felt the United States “had to do something in Syria,” and he urged Obama “to go big” there.

Strangely, Klion suggests that Bernie Sanders’s call “for an international progressive movement to combat authoritarian leaders and kleptocrats from Russia to Brazil” is another way of “challenging the interventionist consensus.” Klion appears to have forgotten that denunciations of foreign leaders such as Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein have been justifications for US military interventions and regime-change campaigns under Democrats like Bill Clinton, as well as for Republicans like George W. Bush and John McCain.

Progressives who cannot remember the past will be vulnerable to being suckered again, and they will not be able to effectively oppose the interventionist bias of the foreign-policy establishment.

David S. Foglesong
princeton, n.j.

A Brief History Lesson

In “Striking Lessons” [Feb. 25/March 4], Sarah Jaffe writes that, in the early 2000s, United Teachers Los Angeles wasn’t the force it is today. Actually, an even more powerful contrast is with 1970, when teachers struck for the first time to win a 5 percent raise, smaller classes, and the creation of advisory councils. Their victory was short-lived, however, after the courts ruled that California law did not authorize school districts to engage in collective bargaining and nullified the contract. It was only in 1975 that the Rodda Act made such negotiations legal.

Walt Gardner
los angeles

No Nukes Are Good Nukes

Thanks to Bill McKibben for his profound review of new books about energy and the climate crisis [“Endless Combustion,” Feb. 25/March 4]. Yet I am troubled by the claim that Richard Rhodes, in his book Energy: A Human History, “argues persuasively that the risks of atomic energy have been overstated, at least when compared with the dangers of carbon.” No such argument could possibly be “persuasive.” A nuclear-power plant is many things, including, unavoidably, a factory for making the raw material for atomic bombs, a tempting target for terrorists and other malefactors, a disaster waiting to happen, and a producer of radioactive toxins so dangerous that they must be isolated from the environment for hundreds of thousands of years. And it’s not even carbon-free.

The magnitude of the climate crisis is infinitely great. But to see nukes as any part of the solution is, frankly, unrealistic.

Ed Gogol
glenview, ill.