The Bush administration needs a plan to head off chaos in Iraq, an opinion attributed to policymakers in your April 9 article, "Support Eroding for Bush on Iraq." This gap in focus is of a piece with the Bush administration's reluctance to calibrate responses until forced by looming disaster.
The administration takes blanket views on issues, rather than focusing on specific circumstances. For example, it has opposed most supranational undertakings such as the International Criminal Court, which is perceived as infringing on American jurisdiction. It has shown an antipathy toward the UN, but it's being forced to revoke this position to rescue our mission in Iraq.
The US invasion of Iraq was seen in the context of the Bush administration's general policies on weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, and fitted a logical projection that Saddam Hussein was not coming clean on his WMD programs and had given sanctuary to terrorists.
But it miscalibrated the timing and response to two specific and nuanced threats: In Iraq, the US unleashed Shiite cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr. It waited until only recently to respond to last year's murder of Sadr's rival cleric in a Najaf mosque, issuing an arrest warrant for Sadr, arresting a cleric close to him, and closing down Sadr's newspaper, Al Hawza. The US showed not only arbitrary timing, but poor judgment: The move at least tactically united bitter rivals, Shiites and Sunnis. Here at home, the administration miscalibrated warnings that might have alerted it to the specific 9/11 terrorism threat.
This administration is finally forced to recognize context, rather than preconception in the war on terror.
Falls Church, Va.
Regarding your April 14 article "Who can repair journalism's image?": Despite the scores of books written on the deterioration of the American media, and the recognition that during the past 100 years similar allegations of shoddy journalism have been made, journalists continue to plod along under the critical eye of the public.
They blame corporate owners on the demise of quality in a profit-driven corporate news business. They blame the public for supporting pop-culture journalism while ignoring quality. But as journalists, they also need to blame themselves for not producing quality. Until journalists stop being so thin-skinned about criticism and start listening to readers and viewers, disgruntled readers will continue to fade away and find alternative sources for the news.
Alan J. Kania
Regarding your April 8 article "A fish's role in the ecology debate": All the reasons mentioned were valid as contributing to the decline of wild salmon and steelhead. However, one of the most important reasons was not given enough attention: decreased water flow from man-made dams.
It has been assumed that creating fish ladders is the perfect solution to allow anadromous fish to navigate rivers. Yes, fish can find the ladders and go up and downstream through them. But dams, by their designed purpose of removing energy, reduce water-flow speed dramatically.
When smolts are ready to go to sea, their bodies begin adapting to salt water. Their biological clocks know how long this process takes in undammed water. But when water flows are reduced, the time increases for the journey. They become ready for salt water while far upstream in fresh water. Thus, fatality rates increase. Man's solutions for other animals are rarely better than nature's.
Arroyo Grande, Calif.
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