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Expounding on Defense Spending

The opinion-page article, "The Pentagon's Pile of Corporate Pork," Feb. 24, misses two critical reasons for reducing the Pentagon's budget. First, the greatest threats to United States security today are not military. Environmental decay, weak markets, terrorism, drugs, and disease are greater causes for concern. These new threats cannot be stopped by traditional military force.

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Second, the natural human reaction to overwhelming force is covert action. The more invincible our traditional defense forces become in our current "might makes right" capacity, the more vulnerable we become to covert retribution. US dependence on technological infrastructure makes our transportation, financial institutions, and food and water supplies extremely vulnerable targets.

Spending another $16 billion on humanitarian foreign aid to make this a more livable world would do more to ensure our security than the "$400 billion" targeted for more "advanced combat aircraft." The best defense we can build is a world where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the norm and not the exception for the entire human race.

Chuck Woolery


National Council for International Health

The article portrays simplistic solutions. It fails to address foreign and domestic political realities, lead times for equipment procurement, training, sustainment of a dramatically reduced military, and costly maintenance.

The first challenge is for the US to clearly define a foreign policy, as we did with the Marshall Plan, followed by a commitment to see it through. The authors fail to consider the time needed to develop, field, and sustain equipment. For example, if a large number of M-1 tanks were lost, we do not have the capability to replace them in time to influence the outcome of a military operation. The situation is even worse with more complex equipment. If we followed the authors' isolationist intent, our ability to influence human rights, protect humanitarian efforts, contain tyrants, reduce international terrorism, and encourage fragile peace initiatives would be greatly reduced. We have learned twice in this century the horrific price of such an attitude.

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John W. Russell

Calais, Vt.

Capital gains tax cut: who benefits?

In "Capital Gains Tax Cut: A Gain for the Rich," Feb. 28, a source states that three-quarters of all capital-gains income goes to households with incomes in excess of $100,000. However, 70 percent of those who claimed a capital gain in 1995 made less than $60,000. Just because a tax cut benefits someone who has more money than I doesn't lessen its benefit to me.

A capital gains tax cut doesn't mean the government gives more money to the rich than to others; it means the government will be taking less of the upper, upper-middle, middle, and lower-middle classes' money.

Scott Woodworth

Sonoma, Calif.

The article seems directed at proving the tax cuts aren't justified because, allegedly, they would mostly benefit an undeserving pariah group, the "rich" - including small business owners and farmers. Perhaps the "rich" pay most of these taxes, and should be the biggest beneficiaries.

Your reporter is so set against letting people keep more of their own money that, even when an economic benefit can be cited, it is dismissed because it's too small. A flat-rate tax would not only be better for our economy, it would also be more moral. If the widow is willing to pay her 15 percent, two mites, and others from their abundance pay 15 percent, 1,000 mites, what right has anyone to say, "That's not enough"?

Robert L. Braun

Stonington, Maine

The experts in the article commenting on the Republican and Democrat positions both represent liberal think-tanks! Bias! I know the other side of the argument, and it was not fairly represented in this article!

Laurie Whitehead

Ft. Washington, Md.

Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed (200 words maximum) to

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