Use the State Department to Protect Rights
The Opinion page article "Spreading Democracy Around the Globe," July 8, urges US diplomats to devote greater attention to efforts to promote human rights and democracy. While the assessment of these problems is correct, one of the proposed changes badly misses the mark.
The author is right to urge US diplomats abroad to identify publicly with individuals and nongovernmental organizations that stand for democracy. But he is wrong to suggest that the State Department's human rights program be dismantled or substantially reduced to provide funds for democracy programs abroad. Why not redirect funds to these programs from money saved by reductions in defense or cold-war-oriented foreign-aid programs?
Rather than reducing the State Department's human rights capacity, the Clinton administration should strengthen it. The development of nongovernmental organizations committed to human rights depends on more than the provision of money. The cause of many of these advocates' problems is that their own governments either won't let them operate at all or that they subject them to constant persecution.
There is no substitute for an aggressive US diplomatic strategy pressing for the protection of human rights. Such a policy should be aimed specifically at strengthening international protection for these embattled rights advocates. Michael H. Posner, New York Executive Director Lawyers Committee for Human Rights US also demands much
Regarding the editorial "Provoking Moscow," June 25: The writer infers that all immigrants must either apply for Estonian citizenship or leave the country. That is not the case. The law allows aliens who settled in Estonia prior to July 1, 1990, to apply for a permanent residency without applying for Estonian citizenship.
The wait in Estonia is only two years before an application for citizenship may be submitted, while the United States requires an immigrant to wait five years. Both countries require sufficient knowledge of the language to conduct basic daily business. Mati Koiva, Severna Park, Md.