"Bracing for war" (Special Report, Dec. 23) is puzzling. A country that is the biggest owner of weapons of mass destruction--and (supposedly) the biggest champion of democracy--threatens to attack another country exactly because the former thinks the latter possesses weapons of mass destruction and "decided" it doesn't have the right to do so. China and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons and are not democracies, yet the U.S. consents! What's different with Iraq? By showing a selective insistence on democracy, the U.S. not only weakens its stance toward the world but also paves the way for its unavoidable decline as a true world leader.
The special report "Bracing for war" is quite impressive. However, it does not tell the whole truth. For many years, the U.S. supported corrupt dictators. The U.S. also supported Islamic fundamentalists and used them to fight the Soviet Union and nonfriendly regimes in the Middle East. If the U.S. really has changed its policies and works to spread democracy throughout the Middle East, it will find support from all of the intellectuals in those regions. The U.S. needs friends, not CIA agents.
"Bracing for war" should make even the most militant Texas Ranger think twice about going into Iraq. Is the Bush Administration now ready to take on North Korea as well? Proof should be produced that Saddam has the facilities available to launch missiles of mass destruction and so quiet the feeling that exists in Europe and South America that oil is behind it all.
Richard W. Murphy, the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Syria and now a director of Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, is quoted as saying: "In the eyes of the Arab world, this is a bad war if it happens, while [the Persian Gulf War of] 1991 was a good war."
Unfortunately, this represents the mind-set of our purported Arab allies--namely, when we fight a war to preserve these nations' territorial integrity and independence, it's a good thing. But when we fight against Arab terrorism directed against us, it's bad. Friends are for mutual protection. Our Arab allies have failed the test.
Silver Spring, Md.
The people of the Middle East have been fighting each other since the time of Abraham. Certainly, we should help when needed. But considering the mood of the Muslim people and their attitude toward our form of democracy, what makes President Bush think we will beat Iraq? Did we win in Korea or Vietnam? Bring our troops back home.
Denver Your article "Putting up walls" (International Business, Dec. 30) made me optimistic: Finally, someone is going to do something about Europe's economic problems. The days when "Brussels" helped build the European economy and came up with big successes such as GSM (global system for mobile communications) are long gone. Nowadays, Brussels is the domain of free-market fundamentalists who use "harmonization" as a pretext to push their agenda down the throats of Europe's governments and population. And when things go wrong, such as with UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications systems), they always put the blame on the implementation. It's a good thing someone is finally taking care of economic policy. They will probably make some mistakes, too, but anything is better than a rudderless ship.
Leiden, The Netherlands With so much being published about alternative investment strategies, the absence of the subject in BusinessWeek's issue on where to invest in 2003 is remarkable, if not misplaced ("Quality investing," Cover Story, Dec. 30). It is my experience that even typical do-it-yourself investors are increasingly recognizing the added value of proactive don't-do-it-yourself alternatives, at least for part of their investment portfolios.
The past years have demonstrated (again) that the performance of portfolios solely based on buy-and-hold or wait-and-see strategies can be improved by combining such passive strategies with certain proactive hedge-fund styles--in particular, those with proactive exit and reallocation strategies. Lack of an exit strategy means lack of risk management.
Gerard van Vliet
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Editor's note: The writer is a hedge-fund manager. MBA programs in the U.S. cannot be limited to producing only the next crop of American managers ("Yanking the welcome mat," Management, Dec. 23). Foreign MBAs have a tremendous role in helping to integrate businesses and the social environment in their respective countries with the rest of the world.