John Rash (Rash Report, Aug. 26) rightfully identifies the media’s de-escalation of attention toward the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Aside from BBC News, few mainstream media outlets mention the civil war in Syria anymore. But are these examples of the news media’s and the American public’s weariness with and/or lack of interest in these wars, or do they reflect our ongoing policy of containment in regional political matters?
Since World War II, the last major war resulting in a decisive outcome, the United States has picked up the mantle of stabilizer from its colonialist allies, Great Britain and France. With indecisive results, it waged several protracted wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Given these examples and the thousands of American troops stationed in Japan and Germany, it seems that garrisoning our troops in these and smaller outposts is the new normal in American foreign and military policy.
Rather than grumble about the lack of attention paid to essentially stabilized outposts such as Afghanistan, we should be focusing on preventing military flare-ups in places like eastern Congo, the Philippines, Venezuela or other localized trouble spots. The Trump administration, the State Department and the military should be working with regional governments and through the United Nations for peaceful solutions before these conflicts escalate into shooting wars that compromise the well-being of their citizens and the capacities of our military. Otherwise, garrisoning our troops in more far-flung outposts will accelerate. Identifying and publicizing potential sore spots are what the press could focus upon to everyone’s benefit.
William Fietzer, Minneapolis
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Wars are forgotten for a variety of reasons, and Rash highlights one of them: reduced press coverage and loss of interest in a war that has dragged on for years. I believe there is another more fundamental reason. The vast majority of Americans have no skin in the game because the military is all-volunteer. Contrast this with the Vietnam era. I was drafted out of grad school and served four years in the U.S. Navy as a linguist/analyst in the Naval Security Group. Many others were drafted as well, and you can bet that their families were very much aware of the war and its impacts. In addition, a significant cadre of the public, whether directly affected or otherwise, rose up in protest of that war, and it eventually sputtered to a conclusion with no “win” in sight.
The military went all-volunteer after Vietnam. Why? Career military members did not like draftees, who didn’t want to be there. (Draftees like me often made that clear. We did our jobs, but there was no love lost.) I believe that the draft ensured that the public was aware and tuned in. I also believe that a mandatory public service program, military or otherwise, teaches a sense of civic duty and public service, much lacking in our country today. It certainly had that effect on me. Skin in the game ensures an eye on the ball. In my view, that is critical for a functional democracy.
John F. Hetterick, Plymouth
Inquisitive adopted children should not be fully unhindered
I read with interest an Aug. 26 letter writer’s experience as a “search angel” for her three adopted children. She was lucky that all three mothers were receptive to meeting their children. She is a unique person, and I applaud her. However, not all birth mothers want to be revealed. By the same token, not all adoptive parents want their children to be “found.”
As a birth mother who has had a successful reunion with my birth daughter, I feel I can offer my perspective with some authority.
I do not believe all birth records should be turned over to inquisitive adopted children. I do believe that when a request is made through the adoption agency, every effort should be made to locate the birth mother and ask her if she wants to meet her birth child. If not, it would be respectful of the birth mother to at least offer any pertinent medical history that could affect the birth child’s future. At that point, the adoptee and their family should respect the birth mother’s wishes and stand down.
Karen Robideau, Chaska
CIVIL WAR MONUMENTS
It is proper that nation evolves, but let us do it with empathy
I see that in Charlottesville, Va., the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee has been shrouded from sight, subject to later removal. I also see that a new monument is being erected to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta. This is as it should be; moreover, this should have been a done deal 150 years ago. The states that joined in rebellion should never have been allowed to glorify that act any more than a common murderer should be allowed, upon his release, to brag and put up billboards glorifying his crime. It may not be illegal, but it is wrong.
On the other hand, let none of us villainize or take airs over the symbols and beliefs of the people on each side of this great tragedy of long ago. The same Gen. Lee whose statue is now shrouded was offered command of the entire Union war effort by President Abraham Lincoln, and he struggled in his heart for a long week before he decided that he couldn’t attack his lifelong home, his family and friends in Virginia, and so he refused Lincoln’s offer. Have any of us ever faced a choice like that? It truly sounds like a no-win proposition for him personally. A branch of my own family lived in Virginia back then, and I had ancestors who fought on both sides. After the war, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant said, “I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”
As our nation goes through this terrible time, let’s remember one another’s humanity. As Grant was implying: After this is over, we will still be neighbors.
Jonathan Pinkerton, Minneapolis
Glowing report of leadership left out a fairly significant exception
The Aug. 29 story showcasing how the Minneapolis Public Schools’ new Superintendent Ed Graff has stabilized schools by reducing school principal turnover does a woefully inadequate job of reporting on the school leadership situation at Southwest High School — a leadership turnover crisis and destabilization of Graff’s own making that is a significant counterexample to the overall theme of the story. The article fails to connect its theme of positive progress with the fact that Graff and the district suddenly and without explanation removed three of the four principals at Minneapolis’ top-performing high school, much to the dismay and concern of the staff, students and school community, only one month before school start. As the Aug. 29 article states, “[i]t can take about five years to revamp school culture,” and thus, Graff has placed this school into a long-term culture crisis, which has the community reeling.
What is also counter to the story’s statement is that the superintendent and the district have not been working with the community in a responsible or real way to hire replacements for these positions, further placing this school at long-term jeopardy. Concerns and suggested solutions from parents and staff have fallen on the deaf and unwilling ears of the superintendent.
It seems irresponsible for the Star Tribune to report such a point of view without adequately covering all the facts that would paint a more realistic picture for its readers.
Sarah Pitts, Minneapolis