Your financial issue special (June) was great! This is my first year as a subscriber, so I had not seen one of your financial specials before. It is truly refreshing to see unbiased economic forecasting from respected people who understand economics. I hope to see your 11th annual financial edition next year.
Is PBS Fish or Fowl?
I was glad to see your mention of PBS's ventures into the world of commercials (Trends, June). Beyond the point that PBS can, in fact, pay its own way, however, it is important to note the contradiction and inequity inherent in this "experimental" advertising. Why, for example, should the tax dollars of one wine manufacturer go toward subsidizing an enterprise (PBS) which then facilitates the appearance of advertisements by a competitor? Either PBS is public or it is private. It cannot, under any logical or credible premise, be both.
Eleanore B. Goodman
I hope that John Hospers's lukewarm review of the movie The Year of Living Dangerously (June) does not dissuade most of your readers from seeing the film. For one, the film does effectively capture the flavor of Asia. As another Filipino said when we left the theater after seeing the movie, "lasang patis!"—which means, it left in one's mouth the taste of the particularly Asian pungent fish sauce.
This is also one of the rare films that presents Asians not only as a backdrop to the antics of Americans or other white actors but actually gives two or three some flesh. There is a glimpse of the Asian as a real, thinking person, not the little sibling to be molded or rescued or foreign-aided to death.
The movie left me stimulated enough to try and look into the Indonesian situation on my OWN. I also feel that Weir tried to show Kwan's gradual disillusionment with the promise of government as savior and the supremacy of love and life over journalistic glory.
Menlo Park, CA
Bob Poole chose a contentious issue on which to comment: the Mutual Assured Destruction strategy and its alternatives ("Countering the MADmen," June). Regrettably, Poole added nothing helpful to the arguments.
It is true that there have been "nay-sayers" who have been wrong about the possibilities of technical innovation. However, the ballistic missile defense problem has had sufficient study by large, well-funded organizations that the public need not rely on the understanding of any small group of "experts." The consensus of more informed opinion concerning BMD lies along the following lines:
• Perhaps some future weapons which we have not yet identified even in principle will provide an effective ballistic missile defense. Some of the weapons we know about can provide parts of the desired answers. But there are presently no promising technologies "on the shelf" which can make large-scale BMD both highly effective and affordable. Nor are there any "laboratory curiosities" which are clearly scale-able to the kinds of performance needed. The limited efforts of the High Frontier group were unfortunately flawed, resulting in an underestimation of costs by a factor of at least 10.
• Weapons may not be the key to affordable missile defense. The real cost of a system is probably concentrated in the delivery systems needed to bring weapons to engage their targets, in sensor and information systems needed to find and identify the targets, and in longterm operations, maintenance, and replacement.…
We should, finally, examine Poole's claim that "…By choosing to spend so much defending others, we have been choosing not to defend ourselves." Such remarks might sell magazines, but they embody fatuous reasoning. The defense of Western interests is inextricably connected with the defense of American interests. We cannot defend our values and freedoms by ignoring those of societies naturally allied by philosophy and outlook to our own—whether or not we perceive that our burden is greater than theirs.…
R. Arnten Lawhern
Mr. Poole replies: Technical opinion is divided on the extent to which existing and developing technology can provide workable ABM systems. Lawhern inclines to the pessimists' side, while I incline, based on my reading of the literature, to the other. As for cost, some Defense Department analysts have claimed that the High Frontier group's estimates understate the system's cost by a factor of two, not ten; in reply, General Graham points out that his team's figures are based on bypassing the normal DOD procurement and project management process, as was done to produce the Polaris missile system (which was accomplished in only 47 months!).
As for the trade-off between defending Europe and defending ourselves, the plain fact is that defense dollars are limited. The political process is unlikely to produce $25 or $50 or $100 billion for ABMs and civil defense as long as we are maintaining a standing army in Europe. As long as our "allies" continue to frighten us into thinking that they won't defend themselves without our troops, we're likely to remain defenseless against nuclear attack. I think it's high time we called their bluff.