Arafat's JihadDid I miss the story in The Sun covering the...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 28, 1994

Arafat's Jihad

Did I miss the story in The Sun covering the creation of an autonomous state of Palestine between Jordan and Israel?

After reading The Sun's editorial of July 26, I can only conclude that this entity is being carved out at this very moment.

Contrary to your editorial leanings, which come through in most stories regarding Israel, a Palestinian state between Jordan and Israel would be a formula for disaster.

While you idealize the fact that Yasser Arafat congratulated King Hussein and Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin on their achievement, just remember that peace between Jordan and Israel might have come long ago if Arafat had not concentrated on overthrowing both regimes.

Given Arafat's recent surreptitious call for a jihad (holy war) against Israel to "free" Jerusalem, I find it hard to believe that this man has changed anything, save for his tactics, while working to destroy the Jewish state.

Michael Langbaum

Baltimore

Havel's Complaints

Vaclav Havel's 4th of July address (excerpted in Opinion * Commentary, July 18) is the expression of modern European thought. It is also the expression of very old European thought.

The two have never been very far apart. Neither one has been able to stomach reason and its offspring: the Enlightenment, capitalism, democracy.

Havel offers us a grab bag of hoary complaints:

He dredges up the threadbare complaint of feeling "alienated" in the modern world.

He asserts that we are missing "something deeper" -- what it is we are not to know, but to which we are "mysteriously linked."

He lays this at our doorstep: "The end of the era of rationalism has been catastrophic: Armed with the same supermodern weapons [such as machetes in Rwanda?] . . . the members of various tribal cults are at war with one another."

Instead of urging those tribal cults to accept rationalism and lay down their weapons, Havel urges the rest of us to abandon rationalism, after which we would have no choice but to join the tribal cults.

He is similarly deferential to the world's savages when he calls "human rights and freedom" a "slogan mocked by half the world" and urges us to drop "language of a departing era."

His prescription? Let's do away with ("go beyond") rationalism, the Industrial Revolution, capitalism, democracy, but (somehow)

preserve all the blessings bestowed by those ideas, by basing them instead on mysticism and self-sacrifice.

This is the pitiful voice of European intellectuals, bereft of any philosophical base but knee-jerk skepticism and mysticism, concluding in effect that "socialism has failed -- but we can't possibly accept capitalism; that we should keep the alleged goals of socialism -- the betterment of mankind's lot here on earth -- but achieve it with socialism's alter ego, religious self-abnegation. That way we can preserve capitalism's benefits a world governed by capitalism's two arch-enemies, he seems to be saying.

President Havel, they don't mix.

The crux of the message is, perhaps, contained in the following. As rationalism grew, "The existence of a higher authority than man himself simply began to get in the way of human aspirations."

The order of causality is somewhat distorted -- say, rather, as the "higher authority" receded, man's aspirations were unleashed.

But Havel's grasp of the essential issue is rock-solid; restore the higherauthority and put an end to man's aspirations.

John L. Pattillo

Towson

The Apollo Journey

L

Michael Olesker missed the point in his column of July 24.

I understand what he's trying to say about the lack of the ''humanist'' perspective in the lunar landing but, like all of man's great adventures, it's not the arrival at the destination that is meaningful, it's the journey itself.

President Kennedy started the NASA moon journey not with the intention that the moon be a great stepping stone but rather as a way of uplifting the national spirit as well as a political way for the government to show the ''enemy'' our strength and to sustain our domestic economy.

I have just returned from a reunion of the NASA Crew Systems Division in Houston. This division was a small (about 200 people) group responsible for all of the astronaut equipment, most notably the space suit and life support equipment needed for the moon walk. As can be seen now, we were an elite group, able to do things previously unthinkable. Twenty-five years later, our reminiscences were not tearful over the lack of the continuation of man's lunar exploration but more of revelation at how we accomplished the goal and the way we dit it.

You are making the same mistake that the press in 1969 did, focusing on the astronauts. I do not mean to belittle these brave and courageous men but they were just elite ''Jet Jockeys.'' They were and are symbols. The fact that they actively participated in getting themselves there was almost a matter of expediency; they were participating passengers.

The Apollo program is a tribute to man's ability to do almost anything he sets his mind to do individually or collectively.

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