Volume 17 • Issue 15 | SEPTEMBER 3 - 10, 2004


Koch, Bush support

To The Editor:
Re “Why Democrats should vote for President Bush” (Talking Point, Aug. 20 – 26):
We’re very happy to hear this — that some of us, like Mayor Koch, don’t wait until it’s too late to smarten up.
Good for you, Ed.
Clyde and Jan Zunker

Complicated question

To The Editor:
Ed Koch argues that we should vote for Bush in November because of the Bush doctrine (Talking point, August 20-26, “Why Democrats should vote for President Bush”). I believe that the root of terror is the lack of opportunity for disaffected Arabs to express themselves other than through Islamic ultra-piety and anti-Western diatribes and that the solution is to introduce pluralistic democracy. At times, it requires joining the dissidents militarily to change their regime.

I wholeheartedly agree that Afghanistan and Iraq are both instances where this is appropriate. I further agree with Bush’s call to desist from our prior policy of supporting friendly repressive regimes at the expense of supporting democracy. However, I have to disagree with the notion that the president is a steadfast and decisive promoter of liberty. In Afghanistan, instead of sending our finest forces into Tora Bora, he sent the notoriously corrupt Northern Alliance with the result that Osama, Mullah Omar and their followers got away. This is not a result, as some on the left will say, of diverting attention to Iraq, since troop mobilization for Iraq had not begun by then. It is a problem of leadership. In Iraq, he left Muqtada al-Sadr alone when he began showing that he would become dangerous but was still weak enough to be dealt with. Now he is virtually in charge of Sadr City, a neighborhood of 3 million people, mostly devoted to him and willing to take up arms on his behalf. In Fallujah, he promised to exact vengeance on the terrorists in Fallujah, only to call it off just as our troops were ready to move in, opting instead for ill-equipped and ill-trained Iraqi forces who let the militants operate as they please.

The Bush record on promoting democracy elsewhere in the Arab-Muslim world looks more like the policy he decried last year of supporting friendly autocrats than support of democracy. Whether in Pakistan, Morocco, Algeria or Egypt, the message has been cooperation in the war on terror trumps all; arrest a few terrorists and you can stifle dissent as you please, at least if no American citizen is involved. Furthermore, Libya’s Khadafi has also gained significantly improved treatment without any liberalization simply by renouncing his weapons of mass destruction. In the meantime, the populations of these countries become turn to the only safe forms of dissent, Islamism and anti-westernism, thus breeding the next generation of terrorists and cynicism about America’s commitment to spread democracy.

Finally, while it is necessary to pursue the terrorists abroad, it will be a long time until they can be defeated. Until then, it will be necessary to defend the homeland. On this front, Bush has shown disinterest, whether securing nuclear material from the former Soviet Union or protecting chemical plants or port facilities at home.

My one concession is that Kerry has given problematic, albeit not completely clear signs as to not recognizing when threats abroad need to be confronted. However, as University of Chicago political scientist Daniel Drezner asked, is it better to have a well-formed policy with a fouled up policy process or a half-baked policy with a decent policy process. Drezner concluded that with a good policy process, there is a chance for a good policy to emerge, while with a poor policy process, even with a decent initial policy, would not permit corrections as necessary. That is why Kerry, despite being less than ideal, would be better for the war on terror.
Scott Smith

Defending Serra

To The Editor:
In response to “Building blocks meet the sky,” by John Reed (Arts article, Aug. 27 – Sept. 2, arts section):

This is my first public response to an article written about contemporary art. I could not allow myself to read another loose, overly simplified response to great art. My hope always lies in wait for a writer who forges his writing, rather than loosely constructing it. Michael Kimmelman and A. C. Danto come to mind when I think of forging an essay or piece of critical writing. Mr. Reed has provided Richard Serra as “an example” of sculpture that he describes as “brutal constructions” in his recent article on Andy Goldsworthy’s “Stone Houses” on the roof of the Met.

Is this an opinion? I cannot speak for Serra himself but I believe calling the work of Serra “brutal constructions” is not only a generalized, watery statement; it is simply ignorant, uniformed and wrong. If any one artist’s work could meet the challenges of the 21st century and not “echo” architecture but stand in relation to it, it is Serra’s beautifully forged pieces. So, in defense of Serra I take my stand and look forward to writers on contemporary art that “move slowly and steadily” to more articulate and informed critical writing.

Construction: “A visual work of art that is put together from a variety of different materials, abstract in design and usually three dimensional.” Is this really what John Reed meant?
Jason D. Szalla

Protecting Southbridge

To The Editor:
Rebuilding Downtown Manhattan after the worst disaster ever to befall us should not be a reason to saturate the area so that every inch of earth yields monetary value for the real estate developers.
The density of the skyscraper structures that are going up leaves no room for breathing space, a necessity for life, no room to maintain our quality of life, no room for open park areas, and shadows that will be thrown over the landscape, leaving a streak of sunlight only here and there. What will become of the bits of foliage that we are lucky to have, foliage needed for oxygen, and of course beauty of landscape?
We at Southbridge Towers have won an important victory for the environment, at least in a small part of Downtown Manhattan. S.B.T. is a Mitchell-Lama middle-income development and is not to be polluted by real estate developers seeking some financial advantage for themselves and not necessarily for the good of the people.
Thanks to your smart, civic-minded shareholders, we stopped just such urban density by the Rockwell architectural firm that would have built on the S.B.T. site a luxury high-rise and cultural facility.
Geraldine Lipschutz

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