How does an African-American woman from Birmingham, Ala., with a family background in church and the arts become an expert on the Soviet Union?
Karsten Kurze, BAD HONNEF, GERMANY
In order to know who I am and how I became who I am, you have to know John and Angelena Rice, my parents. When I went home and said, Mom and Dad, I want to be a Soviet specialist, they said, You go after it. It's a story of not believing that there were limits of race and gender.
Is there a realistic, long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Tyler Park, DAVIS, CALIF.
There has to be a solution, and there's only one: a two-state solution--a Palestinian state in which Palestinians can govern themselves, living side by side in democracy and peace with Israel.
Between North Korea and Iran, which is more dangerous?
Nick Cagape, SAN JOSE, CALIF.
North Korea is dangerous because any state that is that isolated, that has nuclear capability and will sell anything to anybody is dangerous. But Iran is the most dangerous state in the international system. It is the poster child for state sponsorship of terrorism, and it's seeking a nuclear weapon in the world's most volatile region.
China is expanding its influence in Asia, including recently claiming the South China Sea as its own. How can the U.S. deal with this?
Bao Nguyen, CHERRY HILL, N.J.
Most of the evidence so far is that China has acted fairly responsibly. But in the South China Sea, the tendency to threaten smaller states over territorial claims that are centuries old is not a good sign. The U.S. is doing the right thing saying that this ought to be a negotiated solution, because we don't need 19th century tactics in the 21st.
To what extent can the point be made that Iran was a victor in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq?
Lindon Richards, MILPITAS, CALIF.
I think the Iranians don't see themselves as a victor. Iraq is still a bulwark against Iranian influence, because the Iraqis are Arabs and they have a healthy distrust of the Iranians. And Iran is also feeling the heat of a population pushing for change.
Do you have any regrets about your time in government?
Roby Dhanju, PLANO, TEXAS
When you are in a very complicated time, as we were, there are many things that you might've done better. In Iraq, I would again take out Saddam Hussein. He was a cancer in the region. But we probably should have tried to build Iraq from the outside in.
What are your thoughts about the Tea Party?
Marcia Fastman, MEDIA, PA.
I may not agree with everything that is said in the name of the Tea Party, but I believe that Americans ought to be able to organize in that way. [They are sending] a message to Washington that those who are in politics representing us had better be a part of the same conversation that ordinary Americans are having. I think it's very healthy.
How do you evaluate the state of democracy in Africa?
Chimezie Onyebilanma, DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA