Readers Write: US can't be mideast broker, Can't blame economy on overpaid labor
Letters to the Editor for the weekly issue of November 14, 2011: One reader takes issue with an OpEd that argues US jobless benefits shouldn't be extended. Another explains why the US has shown it can never be an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A need for jobless benefits
In his Oct. 3 commentary, "Why Congress should not extend jobless benefits," David C. Rose apparently subscribes to the theory that the US economy will only become more efficient when workers' incomes are reduced.
He suggests that if only the unemployed mechanical engineer were denied jobless benefits, he would find work as a low-paid production-line worker. Mr. Rose, where are all these production-line jobs waiting to be filled? Perhaps our engineer needs to move to China to fill that job? Even if our hapless engineer were fortunate enough to locate a job opening, he would likely be told that he is overqualified for the position (or deemed too old).
The American economy has real structural problems caused not by overpaid labor but by flawed economic and political policies that off-shored our industries, deregulated our banks, and encouraged phony and unsustainable "investment" devices. The answer isn't to impoverish labor. Instead we need to roll back wrongheaded economic policies and invest in our real industries and workers.
US can't be Mideast broker
The article "America's Mideast tightrope" (Oct. 3) says that President Obama is no longer "the Arab world's hero." Ariel Roth of Johns Hopkins University notes that "[s]ometimes [US] interests are in direct conflict with the articulated interests of the Arab world."
When I lived and worked in that world in the 1950s, Arabs admired the United States. They might spontaneously quote the Constitution or Declaration of Independence. My students knew more American history than those I'd left behind in the US.
In Arab eyes, America had never been a colonial power like the European countries they had known too well. We had been a colony ourselves, had thrown off the master and gone on to prosper like no one else in history. They wanted to be like us. We had their friendship: had it, ignored it, abused it, and eventually all but lost it. Though we had the best intentions in our eagerness to rescue Jews from suffering in Europe, we didn't consider that Palestine was already inhabited by people who believed they had a right to be there.
More than 60 years later, can the US be an "honest broker" after siding so overwhelmingly with Israel? I do not think so. Mr. Obama might be that broker, but Congress will cripple him. Mr. Roth advocates negotiating for a "deal that says yes with conditions" for a Palestinian state. But asking Palestinians to negotiate with Israel is like asking a child on a tricycle to negotiate with a Mack truck. It has been tried.
I want peace with justice for Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans. Sadly, I've learned that America can't or won't be an honest broker. Someone else, perhaps the United Nations, must play that role.