Regarding the March 22 article, "Guard's balancing act: Should it change?": Our current National Guard was born of a compromise in the early 1900s, which developed two reserve systems. The Guard was modified in the post-Vietnam era: Critical wartime functions were moved to its purview to force our leaders not to repeat the mistakes of going to war without a national consensus.
This military stepchild certainly needs respect. But the National Guard also needs the nation to have a thoughtful discussion about its future. State governors should take an active role in this discussion. The Guard makes up each state's militia, and governors need to be sure that the Guard is available and ready to serve the people of their state when needed. Backing up the national defense is an important role for the Guard; wearing out troops in wars of choice is a luxury we cannot afford.
I think the March 21 article, "Iraqi turmoil puts Mideast on edge," is a valuable reminder that the Iraq war occurred in large measure because of the exaggerated hopes of a narrow clique of policymakers with little understanding of the Middle East region.
In my State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research Assessment of Feb. 26, 2003, "Iraq, the Middle East, and Change: No Dominoes," I warned that even if the US met with success in Iraq, ethnosectarian friction, the rise of Islamic militancy, and the creative countermeasures of the region's veteran autocrats would make democracy a tough slog in the region.
I also pointed out that any new democratic regimes would likely be more anti- American, anti-Israeli, and militantly Islamic than regimes currently in power - hardly the vision of those in the administration who launched this war. My warning to the government, however, like so many others, was shoved aside in the march to war.
Adjunct scholar, Middle East Institute
Regarding John Hughes's March 22 Opinion column, "Fostering global friendship is part of new US security strategy": I must protest the assertion that Indonesia is one Muslim nation pursuing a nonviolent path. While I mostly agree with what the column says about the revised US Security Strategy, I hardly think the behavior of the Indonesian government and its military can be termed nonviolent. And I believe the people of Aceh, West Papua, and East Timor would agree with me.
The Indonesian military has pursued repression in these regions varying from oppression in Aceh to genocide in East Timor.
Regardless of the religion of the country (whether it constitutes the oppressor or the oppressed), in the area of human rights, I think governments have a tendency to ignore their allies' failures, and a compulsion to ignore their own.
The March 21 article, "Homeowners stretched perilously," doesn't focus on the point. As some troubled homeowners clearly stated in the article, it is the soaring property taxes factored into the monthly note that are crushing homeowners.
Outrageous taxes truly make homeownership an illusion. We all, in effect, must "rent" from the government, which consists of agencies driven largely by politics and runaway spending.
The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted will appear in print and on our website, www.csmonitor.com.
Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to (617) 450-2317, or e-mail to Letters.