Eight years ago, when American policymakers were debating a possible troop surge in Iraq, Bernard Lewis, perhaps the world’s most esteemed Islamic affairs historian, commented that the United States risks being seen as harmless as an enemy and as treacherous as a friend. Regrettably and horribly, the Iraqis and Afghans who got too close to the Americans are already paying with their slit necks and bullet-riddled bodies. Many more are about to meet the same grim fate.

Several times, our country has committed enormous “blood and treasure” resources to conflicts that we deemed important to our national well-being and the world order. Notable successes were postwar Japan, Germany and South Korea. In each case, we stayed until the job was truly done, leaving those countries to pursue decades of liberty, growth and prosperity. No more. In Iraq and Afghanistan, we left before the institutions were in place to assure continued order. Result: awful violence and a loss of our precious blood and treasure sacrifices.

As for our allies, many of whom we asked for their participation in war-torn countries, how do we suppose they view continued reliance on U.S. leadership? Germany, Poland, the Baltics, Ukraine, Israel and Jordan have to see themselves alone and unaided in the brutal, dog-eat-dog world that we Americans are leaving behind in our horribly misguided absence.

Mark H. Reed, Plymouth


Looking through oil-covered glasses

The front-page article about North Dakota’s oil production topping 1 million barrels a day (June 18) amounted to uncritical praise needing not a little but a lot of balance. Look no further than a Bloomberg.com story the same day: “Along with oil prosperity has come a spasm of crime unlike any before on the prairie. Where farmers once sealed deals with a handshake, authorities now contend with drug gangs, meth labs, violent crimes, prostitution and investor fraud, all with the same aim in mind: making a quick score.” Not to mention the concerns about water pollution from fracking and the possibility of an oil train blowing up where the tracks run through, for example, Como Park.

Brian McNeill, Minneapolis

• • •

Does this milestone warrant a celebration? Rather than hailing this mark as an admirable achievement, maybe we would do better to examine the boom a little more closely. Has it set up the economy of North Dakota to be sustainable in the future? Or are we just settling for short-term job creation that produces long-term environmental and social consequences?

Ellen Squires, St. Paul



4 key questions at the heart of health scandal

Congratulations to Mark Brunswick for his beautiful June 17 article on the VA outpatient care situation in northern Minnesota (“Veterans complain about clinic care”). This work exemplifies fair, balanced, and eye-opening reporting.

I suspect that a Pulitzer Prize awaits any investigator who will dig deeper to answer four worrisome questions at the core of the current scandal in VA health care. It will not be an easy, quick or pleasant task.

• Why did the VA more than five years ago intentionally concoct a bizarre routine for disingenuously defining “clinic wait times”?

• Which high-level bureaucrat in Washington signed off on the nationwide use of this complex scheme?

• Why did national VA leaders turn a blind eye to the drastic implications of an explosive internal memorandum written by their colleague William Schoenhard in 2010?

• Exactly why does the VA persist in applying its “three-card monte” approach to a definition of clinic wait time when honestly measuring the actual wait time for every outpatient clinic appointment would be nondeceptive, more easily tracked automatically and clearly more useful for authentically informing decisionmakers faced with budgetary decisions, steadily large outpatient loads and finite clinic capacities?

James T. Lee, St. Paul



Eden Prairie consensus sure doesn’t include us

Who exactly has Eden Prairie City Council Member Ron Case been speaking to when he comes to the sweeping conclusion that “There’s strong consensus for the LRT in Eden Prairie” (“Hopkins says OK to LRT design,” June 18)? The adults in my house are appalled at this massive boondoggle, as are all of the neighbors and friends I have spoken to. I have written to my elected state representatives expressing my dismay over the amount of money being wasted on this disaster, and will shortly follow up with my City Council members and mayor. I encourage others to do the same. This error in belief needs desperately to be corrected! No need to belabor the issue — just read Jonathan F. Mack’s excellent commentary in the June 18 Star Tribune (“The 18-minute transit gap”).

Eden Prairie’s elected officials are holding out on approval over handrail materials and “station amenities.” What about the incredible aesthetic eyesore, the ridiculous costs, poor winter performance, the longer commute and the glaring duplication of services? Eden Prairie residents can already get anywhere they need to go using the excellent SouthWest Transit depot we already sank millions into.

I work 50 yards from the Green Line as it clangs by my office window innumerable times a day. It’s surprisingly loud, ugly and intrusive. These are not characteristics Eden Prairie residents have seemed to appreciate in the past. Why now?

Claire Hilgeman, Eden Prairie

• • •

I just retired from Metro Transit as a bus driver, where I often drove the 50 and the 16 (on University Avenue). In reply to Jonathan F. Mack’s commentary, a snapshot of the time difference does not a picture paint.

Wait until it’s winter when rush hour is in the dark, the roads are covered with ice and snow, when auto traffic is crawling along at 5 miles per hour and it takes 60 to 75 minutes for a car to go between the downtowns.

The comparison would be much different if you looked at the time every day for a whole year.

Marc Anderson, St. Paul



Grateful for assistance for disabled travelers

I didn’t realize how little these employees are paid for their services by the airlines (“13 arrested at airport protest,” June 17). My wife, who is disabled, and I fly out of Duluth on Allegiant Air to Mesa, Ariz., and Las Vegas every year. They handle my wife’s walker for every flight, and her walker is always ready for her when we reach our destination.

From now on, at least a $10 tip will come out of my pocket for this service. To the employees: Thank you for all you do.

James Lakso, Aurora, Minn.