Letters to the editor

Letters: A Jan. 28 letter about "smart power" was published with a misspelled signature, Martin Laudal. The letter was written by Martin Maudal. —

Guantanamo POWs

Re “ Obama sets new rules in war on terror,” Jan. 23

With President Obama's executive order directing the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, many folks are wringing

their hands over what to do with those prisoners refused return by their native countries.

I don't know why we are forced to reinvent

the wheel every time we enter a war, including the "global war on terrorism." Live up to the Geneva Convention, declare these and all future

captives POWs, and build POW camps just like what was done in the United States during World War II.

David A. Kaufman


War isn't about fair play

Re “Obama sets new rules in war on terror,” Jan. 23

President Obama's move to claim what he calls "the moral high ground" in the war on terrorism raises the question: How does this make America safer?

After the events of 9/11, there isn't much high ground of any kind, moral or otherwise.

Obama's righteous sense of fair play might get him a warm round of applause at the next ACLU luncheon. However, this is not a boxing match. We cannot expect to win a contest in which we unilaterally agree to fight fairly against an opponent who claws, scratches, gouges and hits below the belt. This is war, and all is not fair.

I don't want to see America lose a city someday and hear a president tell us we can hold our heads high because we adhered to the highest moral principles and, to our peril, played by the rules in a world in which there are none.

David Stoughton

Santa Monica


While people everywhere are celebrating Obama's promises to close Guantanamo and end torture, The Times is right to highlight the questions his executive orders leave unanswered.

As to where to send detainees who are judged safe for release, part of the answer lies across the Atlantic. Five human rights groups, including Amnesty International, are asking European governments to offer detainees protection from torture and resettlement in their countries. Seven countries so far have agreed to help.

But if the United States wants a favor in cleaning up its own mess, it must ask nicely. That means resettling some detainees on U.S. soil. As Congress examines the resettlement here of cleared detainees, it must factor in how its decision will affect the support of allies in shuttering Guantanamo.

The United States will need the help of European governments to keep its promise while ensuring no freed detainee is at risk of torture. Otherwise, the demise of Guantanamo will be as dirty as its creation.

Geneve Mantri


The writer is advocacy director for terrorism, counter-terrorism and human rights for Amnesty International USA.

Factors of 'smart power'

Re “A return to ‘smart power,’ ” Opinion, Jan. 21

In seeking to advance "smart power," an Obama-led United States should look toward Europe for assistance and cooperation. European leaders such as Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy wish to work with the U.S. to advance common aims on the economy and the environment.

While European leaders are well-disposed toward the U.S., Obama has huge credibility and popularity in Europe. The Transatlantic Trends survey published last autumn showed that 69% of Europeans viewed him favorably.

The conditions are right for the European Union and the U.S. to work together exercising smart power to stimulate the economy and address climate change.

Roland Rudd


The writer is chairman of Business for New Europe.


In his explanation of smart power, Joseph Nye Jr. lists culture as a vital diplomatic resource but suggests that changing it is difficult. But we don't have to change our culture to show the world who we really are.

If one knows where to look, there are artists creating beautiful portraits of our society with depth, feeling and vision. Unfortunately, most of the entertainment business, and particularly the music industry, cannot seem to see past the easy hit. I would suggest that there's room in the world for more than one U2, and that there are many American artists who have what they have. You just don't have much chance of hearing them.

If soft power is a matter of national security, then our arts are as well. I watched that crowd on the National Mall on Jan. 20. I know that we are in a place that I've never seen in my lifetime. If the people of our country are willing to sacrifice, I say our corporate culture needs to do the same. Our entertainment industry has to get past what it thinks sells and begin to support what tells.

Martin Laudal



The Peace Corps was conceived as an exercise of America's smart power.

I was a volunteer in Chile in the late 1960s. Anything I might have achieved for the advancement of U.S. prestige was ultimately demolished by the 1973 military coup, which was promoted by President Nixon and Henry Kissinger.

Dumb power is very swift, effective -- and enduring.

Otis Calef

Santa Barbara

Elephant needs more space

Re “Build it for Billy,” editorial, Jan. 24

The editorial urging the finishing of the Pachyderm Forest seems to be mainly based on the notion that "having made the decision and invested considerable money, and with new private funding coming forward, the City Council should stick to its plans."

This is hardly a good enough reason to deny Billy his freedom and to build a type of exhibit that many other major cities have closed based on moral grounds.

It would not be the first $12 million this city has wasted, nor would it be the last, but closing this exhibit would put us on the right track.

Elephants do not belong in a zoo or a circus -- and when human beings stop putting first their selfish need to see elephants out of their natural settings, this will be a kinder, more compassionate world.

Marjorie Hirsch Loeb

Los Angeles


The Times' editorial is filled with contradictions and glosses over the opinions of leading elephant experts who believe that the exhibit does not provide adequate space for elephants.

Despite the fact that more than a dozen elephants have died at the L.A. Zoo since 1968, the editorial asks us to wait for another premature death to occur before closing the exhibit. I don't think so.

Bill Dyer



Alice Walker once wrote: "The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans."

The debate about what kind of enclosure Billy should live in evades the disquieting question of why he should be forced to live in an enclosure at all.

I'm sure Billy's caregivers have great affection for him and only want what's best. That does not change the reality that Billy is their captive.

The new cage may come gilded with words like "Pachyderm Forest," but it's still a cage.

Mikko Alanne

Los Angeles

Volunteering for noise control

Re “Sentence: an evening with Manilow,” Jan. 21

Talk about an activist judge. Kudos to Fort Lupton, Colo., Judge Paul Sacco for forcing offenders to listen to his music for a change.

As noise pollution grows exponentially, those ramping up car stereos to levels appropriate for the last row of the Hollywood Bowl only make matters worse.

And don't get me started on the probability of seeing an entire generation of hearing-impaired young adults.

If the good judge needs any assistance, this pianist would consider providing live keyboard stylings of operetta classics like "Naughty Marietta" for his captive audiences.

Don Linde

La Verne

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