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Fairness to all NATO Members

Regarding the opinion essay "The Real Problem With NATO Expansion" (July 11): I have the distinct privilege to serve with author Ira Straus on the Committee on Eastern Europe and Russia in NATO. This committee is not a part of either government or NATO, but is rather an international group of concerned individuals.

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I am very sorry to see our United States government wield such a heavy hand. We seek to foster democratic institutions, ensure peace on the European continent, and get European nations to bear their share of the economic and human costs of defense. Does it not ill befit a non-European member to try to ride roughshod over the remaining members? Should we be surprised that France now expresses unwillingness to pay its share of a program forced on NATO by the US? Was not the notion of resisting "taxation without representation" born on these shores?

Given that democratic values are central to NATO's priorities, no NATO member deserves a veto, perhaps least of all a superpower. NATO is made up of mature democracies. A mature group of nations or individuals does well to seek to operate by consensus. Mr. Straus and Henry Kissinger call "consensus" a polite euphemism for the fabled every-member veto, which is nowhere to be found in the NATO charter. By what perversion of democratic values does consensus come to mean unanimity? Anyone who has striven for consensus knows that it is achieved by negotiation, not by fiat!

I take exception to suggestions that new members should be denied the veto. To grant lesser rights or responsibilities to new members creates the "second-class" [status] that prospective members have feared all along!

The NATO version of consensus has been a charade of diplomatic polity aimed at coddling the sensitivities of some evidently not- so-mature democracies. Like many others, I believe the solution to the majority of NATO's problems would be to replace the illusion of consensus with a system of weighted voting, based on each member-nation's population. Even Russia could attain full NATO membership without being in a position to exert undue influence. If Russia were a full member under such a system - in this NATO without an "exit door" - it would have no prospect of blocking the admission of a deserving prospective member, even if that nation happened to have a name like Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, or Ukraine!

C. Barton Etter Jr.

Memphis, Tenn.

Accountability for global problems

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Asoka Bandarage's opinion essay "Economic Inequality, Not Population Is the Issue" (July 14) is demagogic mish-mash!

Did she mention water supply or deforestation? No. Only "a more equitable distribution of resources." Resources aren't "distributed," and if they were, they would become unequal in no time.

Thoughtlessness - be it in exploitation or procreation - is as rampant among the poor as among the rich. If any preaching is to be done, let it address personal accountability - everywhere.

Treska Lindsey

Flat Rock, N.C.

Forget 'superroad', ride piggyback

Regarding the movement of NAFTA commerce to the Midwest in the article "Does US Need a 'Superroad'?" (July 16): There is no mention of possibly piggybacking the majority of trailers on rail cars.

This is a much more fuel-efficient method of transportation. Also, the proliferation of large rigs on our highways is proving very dangerous. We don't need more. Honing of computerized railroad-routing systems should make this a viable alternative to new highways - and at a small fraction of the expenditure needed for road building.

On the other hand, perhaps the highway would be better for transporting all those barrels of pork?

William A. Hansen

Glendale, Wis.

* Letters for publication must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. 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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