Immigration is about laws, not compassion Mona Charen’s opinion piece “Immigration compassion” by was very troubling (Commentary, Wednesday). Illegal immigration should have nothing to do with compassion, but should be about honoring the rule of law. Mrs. Charen states that she feels well disposed toward those who wish to become Americans, especially Catholics from Latin America.
Our forefathers must be turning over in their graves from that remark. In reality, our founding fathers welcomed all legal immigrants equally. Most of the immigrants who came to our nation were people who desired to assimilate, and who had skills so as not to be a drain on our society.
Today, most Americans feel that open border advocates, a government with a low regard for its workers and individuals with compassion for criminals don’t make for a country with a promising future.
Rochester Hills, Mich.
Consequences of withdrawal
In her July 13 article, “Leaving won’t be easy” (Commentary, Friday) Georgie Anne Geyer ridicules analyses done by the CIA in the 1960’s suggesting that failure in Vietnam would have significant negative consequences for the region and for the United States. She writes, “After the Americans withdrew, in momentary humiliation, from the coasts of Vietnam by ship and helicopter, there were few regional consequences of the foolhardy war.”
This claim could hardly be further from the truth. Between 1975 and 1979, far more Southeast Asians met violent deaths than had been killed during the previous ten years, a period spanning from the arrival of U.S. ground troops to the fall of Saigon. The new communist regime executed tens of thousand of South Vietnamese and imprisoned hundreds of thousands more, some for decades. Hundreds of thousands of “boat people” drowned while trying to escape to freedom. The Hanoi-supported Khmer Rouge slaughtered at least 1.7 million Cambodians — nearly 20 percent of the country’s population.
Nor was the damage limited to Southeast Asia. Emboldened by America’s desertion of its South Vietnamese allies, the Soviet Union moved aggressively into the vacuum, supporting Marxist revolutionary governments in Central America and in the Third World, stationing combat troops in Vietnam, Cambodia, Angola, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mozambique, Yemen, Libya Somalia, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Grenada and Cuba. Soviet expansion continued until 1983, when Ronald Reagan opted to ignore the “lessons of Vietnam” and used military force to overturn the Cuban-backed takeover of Grenada.
The pessimistic assessments of the likely consequences of American failure in Vietnam were correct. Revisionist attempts to whitewash those consequences are wrong.
In Thursday’s Page 1 article, “Sectarian struggle hampers Iraq’s progress,” Joost Hiltermann, an analyst for the International Crisis Group, is quoted as saying that “U.S. leverage is sharply reduced because the United States has not been able to control the violence.”
The article also quotes Daniel Serwer of the United States Institute for Peace to the effect that any government would have trouble functioning under “that level of violence.”
According, as well, to other recent observations, we seem to be perceived as being at a fork in the Iraqi road when we must do a “cost-benefit” analysis to view the high level of death and violence in Iraq as the cost of “business as usual,” or move to a “Plan B” scenario in which we opt for some more measured mechanism such as that envisioned by the Baker-Hamilton plan.
To continue as we are, essentially “managing” the war with a high level of violence, we would be maintaining high troop levels and hence high casualty rates. Alternatively, we can deem that we have reached critical mass in the war and change to more of a support mission, gradually winnowing down to just enough troops to train and support Iraqi troops, to fight al Qaeda in Iraq and other foreign insurgents, and to cover our backs. If we decide to stay at full force, letting the surge play out, our nation must change our prism and view as a status quo option “living” with a high level of violence and its handmaiden, death.
Are we going to continue accepting high levels of violence resulting in coalition and Iraqi deaths as the wages of war? Or are we going to embrace a phased drawdown in which we would recognize the face of war not as a business but as a human endeavor in which we would save coalition lives from “sitting duck” status? How much longer can we tolerate hemorrhaging our soldiers and marines?
Could we leave it up to the Iraqis to decide for themselves whether they want to choose life in a functioning country and determine, with the guidance we have given them, how they get there from here?
On which option should we place the bet of our lives?
ONA M. BUNCE
Curb entitlement enthusiasm
I learned a few things from Jagadeesh Gokhale’s letter advocating reduced federal spending now to avoid future imbalances (“Curb entitlement spending,” Friday). He says a 12.1 percent payroll tax increase will do the trick for the next 75 years.
Nothing in the sordid history of payroll tax increases, however, suggests that the end result would bring a long-term balance to inflow and outflow in the entitlement scams. Lyndon Johnson increased Social Security 13 percent, and Richard Nixon, not to be out done by George McGovern, actually increased benefits 20 percent to pad his re-election chances. Ronald Reagan drastically increased payroll taxes as the long-term fix for the profligacy of Messrs. Johnson and Nixon.
Social Security has been running a surplus over paid claims for years; the surplus is spent. But even if it were not spent the only thing that could be done is to buy back outstanding government debt. It happened during Bill Clinton’s presidency, but if you think that is a long-term, reliable financial mechanism for achieving a balance in entitlement programs, then you are living in dreamland.
Does anyone actually think that complete Democratic control of government would result in buying back government debt to achieve an entitlement balance? The Republicans certainly did not do it, and neither will the Democrats. Neither party is honest enough to even resist pork barrel spending, and certainly will not trade it to buy back government debt to achieve a balance 75 years in the future.
Once again, it all comes down to the fact that social insurance has no long-term, viable financial and actuarial basis — and never has. The framers of the New Deal just shrugged this fact off. Until there is an admission by both political parties that entitlement programs do not substitute for real insurance, the financial basis of which was developed over the last four centuries, and marked a major step forward in dealing with risk, nothing will change except the amount of your entitlement check, and it will be revised downward.
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