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Star Wars: An Offensive Weapon in an Economic War

George W. Bush's recent decision to go ahead with the antiballistic missile system makes it clear that he would dearly love to recreate the Reagan Presidency. ("Shield--or red flag?" American News, May 14). At that time, the U.S. was at war with the Soviet Union. Yes, it was a cold war, but the strategy was to defeat the Russians by making them use up so much of their resources (whether in the form of soldiers, property, money or mat?riel) that they could no longer continue the conflict. The ballistic missile defense system does not have to work. But your enemy cannot be sure of this and has to assume that it does work.

The very term ballistic missile defense system is a misnomer, as it is in fact an offensive weapon in an economic war. Is the goal to economically bankrupt the Chinese or the Russians all over again?

J. Brian A. Mitchell

Rennes, France

The U.S. pursuit of ballistic missile defense has less to do with legitimate defense needs than the fact that once upon a time we started a major defense program (the strategic defense initiative), and 18 years later we still can't figure out how to stop spending money on it. Rather than fearing our pursuit of ballistic missile defense, China should applaud it, since it drains resources from investments that might solve real problems and make us more competitive economically.

Colonel Harvey R. Greenberg (Ret.)

U.S. Air Force

Westford, Mass. Ryanair is expert at extracting money from customers but not at creating customer loyalty ("Renegade Ryanair," The Corporation, May 14). Its fares are "all the market will bear," and its policies are decidedly unfriendly. I believe Ryanair is vulnerable to another discounter with customer-friendly policies such as Virgin Express. Ryan drove Virgin Express out of my town, and we passengers are the big losers.

Ray Masson

Shannon, Ireland I am particularly worried that the headline "`You've got to be crazy not to buy a diesel'" (European Business, May 14) is a quote from a medical doctor. He should be aware that diesel exhaust is seen by the World Health Organization as the most probable cause for the threefold increase in lung cancer among people who have never smoked and a fourfold increase in the number of asthma cases in the past 10 to 15 years.

Studies have shown immediate allergic reactions in people exposed to diesel exhaust. Separate scientific work has shown that diesel soot particles carry highly carcinogenic PAH and N-PAH. Modern diesel engines produce much smaller soot particles, which will spread much farther from the source and penetrate far deeper into the lungs.

Diesel's success in Western Europe is caused first by the distorted fuel price ratios (diesel costs 15% more to produce but is sold 25% cheaper to encourage road transportation) and second by the sustained ignorance of the public health threats. Admitted, PSA Pugeot Citro?n has developed a diesel that can be considered clean. But that does not mean the poisons spewed by millions of diesel cars will disappear overnight.

Marc Courteaux

Aalst, Belgium

The lack of modern diesel engines is only a symptom of the disease that has caused the disproportionate loss of market share by General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. in Europe. Trouble began with the popularization of "globalization," which all too often was an excuse for overcentralizing and empire-building back in the central offices.

While the U.S. market was in a love affair with pickups and sport utility vehicles, management and technical resources were pulled out of the more competitive European market to cut costs. Snappy marketing phrases replaced real technological innovation. Likewise, the reduction of the supplier base frequently meant an overreliance on a large U.S.-based supply chain that had a myopic view of the world.

With the Focus and new Mondeo, Ford looks like it's finally getting its act together, and General Motors' new Astra also looks promising. Nevertheless, they will need to increase their market shares 50% just to get back to where they were at the start of "globalization."

Edward Robertson

R?srath, Germany

I am flabbergasted that your reporters didn't even mention Mercedes diesels. For more than 35 years I have driven a Mercedes 200 D diesel car, the lowest-price model. I get 100 kilometers for every 6 liters and have driven my current 1990 model for 205,000 km without any breakdowns.

Robert Marx

Schorndorf, Germany "Did the lights just flicker?" (Latin America, May 7) highlights several points, such as the threat of blackouts, the danger of short-circuiting Brazil's 4% growth this year, the lack of investment, and Brazil's dependency on hydroelectricity. However, there is a lack of vision on the part of governments in some countries, states, or provinces. Rarely do government officials take the long view. Even California failed to look into its future. We are all so dependent on electricity. I urge the media to join forces and emphasize more and more the necessity of each world citizen to save energy for the good of the planet.

Jo?o Batista da Siva

Curitiba, Brazil

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