Gaddafi Digs In
Bobby Ghosh's lead story on Muammar Gaddafi makes interesting reading for all those who have stakes in a stable Middle East and Africa ["Gaddafi's Last Stand," March 7]. It is clear that Gaddafi will not step down peacefully without using his military might and coercive power. The questions that persist are what price Libyans are willing to pay in their desire for democracy and freedom, and who or what kind of regime will govern if Gaddafi is compelled to step down by mounting international pressure. No matter whether the present upsurge leads to transition toward democracy or a standoff between Gaddafi loyalists and protesters, no other country should try to install its own puppet regime in Libya.
Undeterred by Gaddafi's callous and cold-blooded actions, Libyans are taking to the streets with remarkable resolution to overthrow his regime and realize their wish for transition from dictatorship to democracy. Although Libya is no Egypt and Gaddafi is unlike Hosni Mubarak, Libyans are not unlike Egyptians in their dogged determination to depose a detestable despot. A beleaguered yet belligerent dictator who sends in the army to put down protests by his own people and is subsequently bloodstained cannot cling to power for long. While troops in uniform and civilian clothing fire on peaceful demonstrators, we as the international community cannot idly stand by. We should intervene effectively to avoid further bloodshed and help Libya through the transition, however difficult and precarious it may be.
G. David Milton,
What is really worrying about the uprisings in the Middle East is the amount of American weaponry on display. Now that the old guard is being removed, who will control these deadly arms?
Gaddafi is an egomaniac and you give him the honor of being on the cover of TIME. How proud he must feel. You should have respected the people of Libya who are fighting and dying for democracy. A photo of those brave people would have been appropriate.
No demonstration in North Africa or the Middle East has been met with such violence as Libya's. Washington has censured Tripoli, but will there be a more substantial follow-up? With all the turbulence spreading in the region, the New York Mercantile Exchange oil index is fast moving northward, pulling back whatever painful effort that has been made to expedite the global economic recovery. Nobody wants to witness another recession.
John B.T. Spencer,
China and the Jasmine Revolution
Re "The China Syndrome" [March 7]: I generally agree with Hannah Beech that the Jasmine Revolution is unlikely to spread as far as China. Beech also rightly refers to the somewhat economic social contract between the Beijing government and its people. As long as the party delivers, people tolerate a one-party state. What her article omits is that the Middle East, and especially Libya, is very different from China. Beijing is not an absolutist state governed by one man or one family. The Chinese Communist Party comprises a complex set of internal institutions, governed by a principle of interparty democracy and consultation, and all major offices have term restrictions.
Beech paints a reasonably fair picture of what China is today. The situations in the Middle Kingdom and Arabic nations are indeed different. Except for the leaders and their cronies, many Arabs have been poor despite the fact that their nations have rich natural resources. China has meanwhile managed to clinch the second largest economic spot in the world, and it far exceeds many developing countries in purchasing-power parity. Beijing keeps trying its best to upgrade the living standard of the have-nots and peasants. While China is not without its share of weaknesses, like a lack of freedom of speech and human rights, the Chinese are generally well behaved. The giant can only continue to prosper if the people are united and the nation is tranquil.
Mencius Ding, Beijing
State of the Unions
I was very disappointed to read Joe Klein's analysis of Governor Scott Walker's union bashing in Wisconsin and I always agree with Joe ["As Goes Wisconsin ... So Goes America," March 7]. I'm sorry, but if there are instances of public-employee unions' abusing their "power," they are inconsequential compared with the abuse of power that the tea baggers and their corporate masters (the Koch brothers' being exhibit No. 1) are prepared to inflict on the middle class. If the Koch brothers get their way in Wisconsin, the middle class will not exist, and Democrats will lose one of their strongest allies. I'm a union member in the private sector. At 29 years of service, I was fired by a new batch of bosses. I got my job back; the union paid for the attorney who helped me. The bosses, who were getting ready to fire several other people before I won my case, were shown the door. Unions are far from perfect. At times I feel my union leaders are incompetent. But unions are a crucial counterbalance to unbridled capitalism. If they are gutted, violence may be necessary in the future to refight the same battles we thought we'd won.
Chehalis, Wash., U.S.
Klein says, "Clearly, there needs to be a rebalancing of pension and health care benefits that puts public employees more in line with ... the private sector." Clearly? I think if you were to reverse the order, there would be more clarity. Private-sector pension and health care benefits have eroded, and that calls for improvement, not for the public sector to follow suit.
Willow Grove, Pa., U.S.
Klein did not go far enough. Unions shook up American industry to provide American labor what it was entitled to. But in the public sector, unions took advantage of government by obtaining benefits for their members beyond what is fair and reasonable, and they have also taken advantage of their members by using their dues largely for political gain.
Middletown, N.J., U.S.
The German Powerhouse
Re "How Germany Became the China of Europe" [March 7]: The current German economic success reflects clearly its own sociocultural heritage, based on creativity and accomplishment. The established philosophy places emphasis not just on competition but also on performing high standards of development, while keeping innovation first. For good or bad, Germans themselves overcame an unprecedented political reunification, which paved the way for domestic economic expansion on one hand while enforcing compliance with global trade players on the other. This strategy could prove to be a positive one for the rest of the European Union, considering the difficulties posed by globalization and the challenge from emerging economies.
Bad Dürrenberg, Germany
The short-term work program that helped the German economy through the Great Recession was supported by owners in cooperation with worker-council- and union-organized labor. German managers and workers are traditionally dedicated to jointly sustaining their companies. There is hardly any deriding of one another as enemies as can often be heard in the U.S.
Comparing Germany with China isn't fair. Germany is a democracy with one of the best welfare systems. No one is forced to work for low wages. We still are among the countries with the highest wages all over much higher than in most other European countries. As you mentioned in your article, we are not successful because of low prices (as China is) but because of the quality of our products.
Disaster in New Zealand
Your double-page photograph in Closeup made the Feb. 22 New Zealand earthquake seem like a nonevent [March 7]. While the people in the picture, luckily, escaped unhurt, more than 200 were killed and many more injured in other buildings and in the streets. A photograph of the torn-down remains of the ChristChurch Cathedral, a beacon and a monument of steadfastness and survival, would have done justice to the horrific impact of the earthquake.
Canterbury, New Zealand
Weighing Up Nuclear Batteries
The supposed solution to global climate change covered in Eben Harrell's "Nuclear Batteries" has to be one of the most shortsighted and misleading proposals among the many surreal solutions, like geoengineering, currently in circulation [Feb. 28]. The major benefit of being able to build small local power stations seems to be far outweighed by a massive increase in the risk of terrorists and the like gaining access to nuclear material.
In Harrell's telling, one of these nuclear batteries produces about one-fortieth of the energy of a traditional nuclear plant and one-fortieth of the amount of toxic waste, and costs only $100 million vs. $4 billion. Multiply the price by 40 and you get the figure for the comparable amount of energy at a traditional plant. The much praised nuclear batteries are to the last penny the same price as full-size plants, only they require about three times the workforce. The main difference seems to be that instead of one big danger in a faraway place, we would have 40 disasters waiting to happen in our backyards.