Is America becoming the world's bully?Evidently, those who...

the Forum

January 29, 1991

Is America becoming the world's bully?

Evidently, those who know about such things feel that it is time for the United States to flex its muscles and give the errant Iraqis a sound thrashing. But has anyone given a thought to the consequences of attacking a Moslem nation ` throwing, as it were, the first punch on the vast sandy schoolyard of the Middle East?

This should be cause for concern to anyone who has ever taken a high school course in world history. Since the beginning of recorded history, Islamic jihads (holy wars) have been among the longest and bloodiest of conflicts. What is to be gained by inciting these inexhaustible warriors to battle?

My generation, we Americans who were born during the painful death throes of the Vietnam era, spent our younger years in elementary school learning how to solve problems with our minds, not our fists. The real coward, we were told, is he who must brutalize his adversary with physical violence because he lacks the capacity for reason. We listened to our parents and our teachers and we became, we assumed, good Americans. We prepared to become the world's watchdogs. Instead, we good Americans have become the world's schoolyard bullies, marching off to a conflict which runs counter to our collective conscience.

Do we really believe that the Arab world will be grateful to us for killing their brothers and sisters, maiming their babies and laying waste their homeland? How can we consistently avoid the historical reality that repercussions will surely take the form of an entire population rising as one against us?

Until those questions have adequate answers, I cannot find it in my heart to support this war of bravado.

Heidi Hoffman

Baltimore

Let them eat . . .

The lady from Gibson Island who criticized the expense of welfare could have put just a little more thought into the problem and perhaps reintroduced the idea that those who don't have bread should eat cake.

Doug Delve

Pasadena

Volunteers all

Regarding the letter by Collie D. Patterson (Forum, Jan. 17), all minority soldiers are in the military by choice and sent to the Persian Gulf by their commander in chief.

We have an all-volunteer service whether it is regular, reserves or National Guard. Anyone is free to enlist if he or she qualifies, so being a minority should not be made an issue.

All wars are hell, but if fight we must, let's support our armed forces and president.

Emma MacAllister

Bel Air

Crime crackdown

In his Jan. 1 column Wiley Hall states, "For better than a decade now, crazed conservatives have been telling us what to do about crime, and the result has been nothing but mayhem and murder." The advice of "crazed conservatives" must be falling on deaf ears, for the U.S. criminal justice system is one of the most liberal in the world.

Mr. Hall states that during the 1980s the courts imposed more and longer prison sentences. Fact: 1984 FBI statistics list the average time actually served in the U.S. for committing murder as 6.5 years. U.S. News & World Report says for every 100 felony arrests; 43 are dismissed or not prosecuted, 54 are disposed of by guilty plea and only three are actually tried.

Mr. Hall states that the "crazed conservatives' " approach to justice attacks individuals who have already committed a crime. Fact: A large percentage of violent crimes are committed by people with lengthy criminals records.

Mr. Hall says liberals offer needed sanity; gun control is the answer. Fact: Most states have laws to prevent persons convicted of a felony from purchasing a firearm. But in the liberal criminal justice system, felony arrest charges are plea-bargained down to misdemeanor convictions every day. As a result, persons with lengthy arrest records are able to legally purchase firearms.

Mr. Hall says that Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty and his Great Society would go a long way toward preventing crime. I concur that more must be done to narrow the gap between the classes. There should be increased educational opportunities and guaranteed jobs for the underprivileged. The current welfare system doesn't seem to be satisfying anyone.

But crime must be dealt with mercilessly ` the same as most criminals deal with their victims.

R. Sims

Hunt Valley

Insurance solution

I was pleased to read Ray Jenkins' column, "A modest proposal for insurance reform" (Jan. 13), although I believe his proposed "solution" is far too "modest" and convoluted to be considered a practical alternative.

Mr. Jenkins' only stated objection to the Community Wide Insurance Coalition proposal for a publicly owned, non-profit, community-controlled insurance company is his fear that it would somehow attract too many high-risk drivers.

But why should Jenkins suppose that such a publicly owned company would insure high-risk drivers any more than an exclusively for-profit insurance company? CWIC's primary purpose is to reduce rates for average, decent Maryland drivers by using profits (averaging 22 percent in Maryland in 1988) and runaway overhead (averaging 35 percent for the insurance industry nationwide) to lower premiums.

Our primary concern has always been to end the unfair rating of drivers based on where they live, their age, gender or marital status. We would set rates exclusively on one's driving record ` in the case of new drivers, on their amount of driving experience. We would have the same right as any other insurance company to deny or sell at higher premiums to demonstrably poor drivers.

A. Robert Kaufman

The writer is president of the Community Wide Insurance Coalition.

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