Thomas Hazlett's "George of the Bungle" (Nov.) was beautiful, including the remark that Bush "did blow the Gorbachev-Yeltsin transition by a few months." But what on earth does Hazlett mean by "I'll give him credit on most else" in foreign-policy initiatives? Such as the bungled war against Saddam Hussein? Siding with the Soviets against the Baltics? With the Soviets against the Ukraine? With Angolan communists against UNITA? With Mozambican communists against RENAMO? With the communist ANC against Buthelezi and De Klerk? With the Tiananmen Square murderers? With communist Serbs against Croatia and Slovenia? Even, semi-retroactively, with communist Sandinistas against the Contras by refusing to stop the protracted persecution by Special Prosecutor Walsh of Reagan officials who tried to help the Contras?
The foreign policy of George Bush has been every bit as disastrous as his domestic one.
K. A. Skala
There's a time to be funny and a time to be serious, and in times like these (as in most times, I suppose), it seems appropriate to question the timeliness and wisdom of Thomas W. Hazlett's choosing to vote Democratic. Would he really prefer four years of people trying to impose the Democratic platform and, perhaps more important, liberal judges like Laurence Tribe on us?
His criticism of George Bush is quite accurate, but would you take refuge with the lions to escape the trainer? Better to hold our noses for Bush, Darman, et al., than to bed down in the garbage.
W. Edward Chynoweth
Charles Oliver rightly opposes military intervention in the conflict between the ethnic groups of what was once Yugoslavia ("Balking at Intervention," Oct.). But I take issue with his suggestion that we should provide weapons to one side or the other. An alternative would be to put pressure on the states that are currently supplying weapons in the area.
The Serbs seem to be fairly well supplied by someone, and it doesn't seem that they would have the resources to continue purchasing weapons for very long.
If Serbia has no regular supplier, then soon they will start running out of weapons and ammunition, and the area will demilitarize naturally. On the other hand, if some power is providing weapons to Serbs, they should be strongly encouraged to discontinue that practice. In any case, if we provided weapons for the Croats and Bosnians, someone else would be likely to provide weapons for the Serbs, and there would be no humanitarian benefit.
John A. Bennett
There may be good reasons not intervening in Bosnia militarily, but Charles Oliver has trotted out the same weak set used by the administration, the ones that Margaret Thatcher called "excuses."
Oliver states that in the case of Germany we were dealing with a "superpower bent on continental domination." But that wasn't realized until after Germany had occupied the Rhineland, occupied the Sudetenland, occupied Czechoslovakia, and then made demands on Poland. How do we know where Milosevic intends to take us?
Oliver states that "no vital American interest is at stake." The same was said during the German occupations mentioned above. How does he know?
He says that we would probably demand that ground troops be sent in if any of our planes were shot down, should we be so rash as to use them. (I don't see the connection. How are ground troops going to prevent planes from being shot down? A U.N. plane has already been shot down, and no one is calling for ground forces.) He then has us embroiled in a ground war without aid.
How would Oliver apply his arguments to the "no-fly" zone in Iraq, where one has the same circumstances holding between the Iraqi army and the Shiites? The administration professes to see a difference. Does Oliver?
D. P. Squier, D.O.
Mr. Oliver replies: Whatever the intentions of the Serbian government, they have neither the size nor the relative power that Nazi Germany had. The threat of Serbia conquering Europe is quite small. Dr. Squier asks how I know that no vital American interests are at stake in the former Yugoslavia. I don't, but then I'm not advocating military intervention. The burden of proof is on those who are.
A recent "Brickbats" item (Oct.) quoted me and reported that "animal lovers want to make it illegal for people to let kitties out of the house." To my knowledge, the only law either on the books or proposed anywhere that obliges cat keepers to keep cats indoors was passed recently by Natick, Massachusetts—not at the behest of "animal lovers" or "animal rights" activists, who mostly opposed it, but rather as a panic reaction to the Atlantic seaboard raccoon rabies pandemic.
I do not advocate keeping all cats indoors; in fact, I have 22 cats who go outdoors. I do advocate keeping house-cats indoors in most urban situations, mainly because exposure to automobile traffic cuts feline life expectancy by two-thirds. But when one lives well away from heavily traveled roads and neighbors who might object, I see nothing wrong with letting healthy cats out in the daytime, if they want to go. The risk that they might come into contact with rabid raccoons, fall victim to predators, or kill ecologically risky numbers of smaller animals is relatively slight during daylight hours, exponentially higher at night.
The description of housecat behavior attributed to me was part of a comparison between the hunting habits of feral cats and those of pet cats, both of which I have observed at close range on a daily basis for over 15 years. The full context would have made it clear that, as a longtime environmental journalist and wildlife ecologist, I am in no way just discovering that cats kill "cute creatures."
Thank you for Stephen Moore's review of Robert Bartley's The Seven Fat Years ("The Best Years of Our Lives," Nov.). As Mr. Moore observes, many tired myths about the 1980s persist. Even Mr. Moore becomes encumbered in one. He writes that a "general fault of almost all supply-siders" is to be "soft on spending" and that it was "the utter failure of the Reaganites to restrain government with the same zeal they had for cutting taxes."
This is nonsense that speaks to the success of the political left in framing the debate, even for libertarians. The debate as framed by the supply-siders was over the question whether fiscal policy works by changing aggregate demand or by changing the supply of labor and capital in the market. The political left did not want the debate to be framed in this way, because they would lose. Keynesians maintained that high tax rates did not matter because they curtailed (only) private demand but not aggregate demand, as long as the government spent the money. Supply-siders showed that the policy of pumping up aggregate demand while high taxes reduced the incentives to supply resulted in stagflation. With demand up and supply restrained, prices rose relative to real output.
The political left reframed the argument into one of fairness: Whose spending programs and entitlements did the supply-siders propose to cut in order to give tax cuts to the rich? Conservatives and the Republican establishment fell into this trap, while the supply-siders refused to enter it.
The "Reagan deficits" are not the result of a lack of zeal to cut spending. They resulted from unanticipated disinflation. The inflation rate over the multiple-year budget period simply collapsed relative to everyone's forecast. Altogether, nominal GNP came in $2.5 trillion below the budget forecast, and this is why the revenue projections were off. Similarly, the unexpected disinflation meant that budget expenditures were larger in real terms than intended.
These elementary facts are easy to ascertain and to understand. The fact that they are widely ignored attests to the pitiful state of the public-policy debate in the United States.
Paul Craig Roberts
Center for Strategic & International Studies
Thank you for the sanest piece on junk bonds I have seen since Michael Milken got a phone ("Din of Lies," Nov.). Milken is no saint, but he is a magnificently gifted investor. It's nice to see someone look logically at his creation.