Good intentions, but always consequences
Ellen Kennedy's impassioned endorsement of the "responsibility to protect" ("From some things, we must not look away," Jan. 19) was full of good intentions. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, a fate I fear for this new doctrine of international relations.
Just for starters, the current mess in Mali, and the related seizure and deaths at the natural gas facility in Algeria, stem directly from the first official U.N.-sanctioned armed effort to implement the doctrine. When the U.N. authorized a no-fly zone over Libya, it began a series of decisions with unintended consequences.
Protection became regime change, then mercenary forces formerly loyal to Moammar Gadhafi headed off on their own into Mali following his demise. While Gadhafi's ways were hardly benign, he was not a supporter of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which his former fighters now work to support.
The "responsibility to protect" doctrine claims it can avert genocide, but in actual practice, the law of unintended consequences also and always operates. We should be cautious in assuming that even the best-intended doctrines will not be used for less than well-thought-out purposes.
WILLIAM DAVNIE, MINNEAPOLIS
The writer is a retired foreign service officer.
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Rural DFLers can afford to support it
The article about rural DFLers being in a bind about gun control ("Gun debate tests outstate congressmen," Jan. 21) assumed a vulnerability that doesn't exist. Down here in the First District, my congressman, Tim Walz, just beat an established Republican, Allen Quist, by 15 percentage points. The Quist camp took solace in the fact that it did better than the Republican who ran against Walz in 2008. That guy lost by almost 30 points. Not only that, Walz raised three times as much money as Quist, and didn't really need it, since he ended the campaign with a big war chest.
Walz was an unknown high school social science teacher when he surprised everyone by upsetting Gil Gutknecht in 2006. Today, he is an ensconced incumbent who needn't lose sleep over whether the NRA gives him an "A" or not. I'd rather he worried about whether folks in Mankato, Rochester and Winona will continue voting for someone who won't take a clear stand against military-style assault weapons and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
GREG GAUT, WINONA
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Response to incident hurts a worthy school
Our local news media, school administrators and "interested" community members did their typical sensationalistic political two-step as they reacted to an unfortunate incident at in Minneapolis last week ("Washburn High curtails activities after racial incident," Jan. 18). This "teachable moment" was quickly reduced to more of the same "leads if it bleeds" media coverage and an administration seemingly more interested in reaction than reason.
Rather than an honest look at what Washburn really is, school leaders allowed the story to move in a direction that was neither honest nor helpful. Washburn Principal Carol Markham-Cousins and other school administrators failed to stand with the truth or the students of Washburn. Washburn has become an inspired model of what a diverse urban school can be, and these leaders let that message get lost.
And what of the loyalty to Washburn students and families? Cousins' failure to defend and define what Washburn really is simply left the kids to endure the whispers of community members, who may now see a Washburn letter jacket as meaning something other than what it meant only a few days ago.
Perhaps it is unfair to put all of this on Cousins. I'm sure her superiors were scrambling to figure out the "best" way to handle this. If she fought to defend her school, it is unfortunate that she lost this battle. I'm hoping the next time she faces a microphone, she steps forward and she steps up.
TERRANCE OLSON-REISCH, MINNEAPOLIS
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Sensitivity is in order when staffing shrinks
The word choice in the "North Memorial Medical Center sheds employees" headline (Jan. 22) bothers me. Bad enough to lose your job in this economy. Worse somehow to be "shed" like dog hair, skin cells or unhealthy pounds. Wish more thought had gone into Strib's word choice.
KATHARINE HOLDEN, ST. PAUL
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'Zero Dark Thirty'
Torture undercuts claims about ethics
John Rash's column on the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" discusses how the use of torture has eroded the moral high ground for which our country strives ("Life in a dangerous world ...," Jan. 12). We must remember that perpetrators of beastly cruelty -- Hitler, Stalin, Bin Laden -- always believed their conduct was necessary for a greater good. We can't embrace the view that righteous ends justify inhumane means. The torturer will always have compelling justifications. Even Hitler and Stalin had theirs. The only hope is zero tolerance for torture. Period.
ELISSA PETERSON, MINNEAPOLIS
Editor's note: The preceding letter is a corrected version of one originally published Jan. 19. (The writer's intent had been inadvertently misrepresented by changes made in the editing process.)