Thais: Armed with Self-Respect

Maurice Tanner's timely and accurate feature on Thailand ("Welcome to the Domino That Didn't Fall," July) struck a responsive chord. For the last five years I have worked with American companies setting up joint ventures in Thailand and the Philippines. The contrast between the two is striking. Filipinos are conditioned to look for government solutions to problems and to blame the government when their expectations are not met. Thais, by contrast, have a lot less to work with but have come much farther by believing they can prosper by their own ambitions.

All over the world the examples are in place. European interventionists will have trouble ignoring countries like Thailand.

Larry Grupp
Moscow, ID

Buckley on Drugs

In his review (July) of William F. Buckley's book Right Reason, Bill Kauffman writes that, insofar as drug use is concerned, Buckley's commitment to personal liberty extends no further than his belief that heroin should be made available to terminally ill cancer patients.

But this book is apparently not a reliable guide to Buckley's views on the subject. In the summer of 1985, perhaps too late for inclusion in Right Reason, he wrote in his syndicated column that eliminating street drugs is impossible in a democratic society and that "therefore we are probably better off licensing the drugs and mounting huge campaigns against their use." More recently, in National Review he described the decriminalization of drugs as "the only sensible course for America."

There are, of course, plenty of areas in which Buckley's views are still hostile to personal liberty, and he sees the decriminalization of drugs as a necessary evil rather than a positive good. But his commitment to freedom is nevertheless a bit stronger than Kauffman's review suggests.

Charles D. Poe
Houston, TX

What Does Means Really Mean?

I enjoyed the interview (Aug.-Sept.) with Russell Means. But I wish that your interviewer had pinned Means down and either made him answer or say that he would not answer certain questions. For example: "Would you be satisfied with governments at all levels deregulating Indian affairs, abandoning existing distinctions, and treating Indians like any other US citizens?" Means parried the question by saying Indians are forced to be US citizens. Most Indians today received US citizenship the same way most non-Indians received it—by being born in the United States.

I would like to know if Means wants no special treatment or better special treatment for Indians.

John G. Tietz
Hamilton, MT

The State Against Indians

Much can be learned from the words of Russell Means, even though some of his tactics may seem distasteful or ill-advised. His courage in speaking out against the Sandinista genocide of his Indian brothers in Nicaragua merits our respect, since it has made him a pariah to the American left.

At the beginning of the Reagan administration I had the responsibility for attempting to coordinate Indian policy in the White House. Despite Reagan's very sincere concern about Indians, his administration was no more able than its predecessors to address the Indian question meaningfully. The sense of utter futility and tragedy that this experience gave me was a significant part of my decision to depart the staff in 1982.

Of particular interest to me was Means's observation, quoting Vine DeLoria, Jr., that "until the U.S. learns to treat its Indian people with justice and fairness, its foreign policy will always be a failure." I once tried to make this same point to a high State Department official concerned about the Marxist regime in Nicaragua. My remark, alas, was met with complete bewilderment.

Worse, my suggestion that we appoint America's most respected Indian elder as the US representative on the UN Human Rights Commission, with no instructions but to speak plainly about justice for the oppressed nations throughout the world, was greeted in Foggy Bottom as evidence of advanced insanity on my part.

I remain convinced that America's policy toward what Lenin called the "national self-determination question" is the key to a strategy for undermining the communist empire and advancing the cause of peace and justice in the world. In addressing this question our own Indians are an invaluable source of wisdom. It is time for them to speak, and us to listen.

John McClaughry
Concord, VT

Repression: All in the Mind?

As a three-year resident of New Hampshire, I was especially interested in Tibor Machan's article on Swiss local government. ("Hey Greta, Why So Morose?" July).

For whatever reasons, the fact that the Swiss are morose is not mirrored here. Yankees do have considerable reserve, but their good will is not far below the surface. What is common between New England and Switzerland is local politicization. Town meetings are often as repressive as anything Machan describes.

Yet this isn't necessarily an indictment of local participatory government. I lived in rural Appalachian communities for years and found little of the repression of pure democracy. I think this is due to the political beliefs of the local people. For 300 years, New Englanders have been taught that it is their right and duty to govern. In Appalachia, the people are indifferent and even hostile to controlling others.

Decentralists and secessionists preach the virtues of smaller units of government. They might be right. But Switzerland and New England demonstrate that it is the attitude of people toward government, not the size of their government, that really makes the difference.

Paul Bilzi
Contoocook, NH

Exploitation by Any Other Name…

Though Christie Hefner denies that Playboy exploits women (Interview, June), she herself comes very close to explaining what is morally objectionable about the magazine. Hefner says that "women are sensitive to Playboy…in part because as a culture we're surrounded by images of women that are sexual and there's almost a complete absence of images of men that are sexual." In our culture there is a strong link between sex and harm to women: women (not men) are frequently raped, abused, harassed, and generally treated with less than full respect because of their gender and sexuality. When you combine the sexual image of women with the strong link between sex and harm to women, it's hard to avoid concluding that anything that substantially contributes to viewing women as purely sexual beings harms women. Whether it is appropriate to call this exploitation is not so important as the fact that Playboy (and most pornography) helps to promote the role of women as sex objects. That is a role which is harmful to women.

Danny Shapiro
Rice University
Houston, TX

Sexism, Thy Name is Bill

Bill Kauffman's writing ("Up Front," July) would be a helluva sight prettier if he left out the sexist comments. First he refers to the woman on the cover, Pom, as "a helluva sight prettier than Mack Tanner." Then he tosses in another sexist comment when he says about her, "Nirvana, thy name is Pom…" This male version of Nirvana has nothing to do with the story on Thailand and is an insulting comment for people trying to get beyond stereotypes.

Now, Bill, please don't get overly emotional about this criticism. I would hate to see you worry your pretty little head about it too much or, heaven forbid, burst into tears.

Paula Brookmire
Milwaukee, WI