Letters to the editor

Iran Goes Nuclear

James Fallows’s piece (“The Nuclear Power Beside Iraq,” May Atlantic) argues that “the worst option would be a military strike” in dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But the word worst connotes comparison. Fallows details the many difficulties a military operation might face. But I searched in vain for the alternative approaches that he deems to be better than “the worst.” That omission seems representative of the dilemma facing the international community.

Mark Sherrill
McLean, Va.

James Fallows replies:

There are two implied alternatives. One is finding a diplomatic way to dissuade Iran from building nuclear weapons, which is most often discussed in the context of a “grand bargain” involving all aspects of political, economic, and military relations between Iran and other powers, mainly the United States. The other choice is to rely on robust and no-kidding deterrence to make sure that an Iranian bomb is never used, which is the same policy the United States relies on to be sure that Russia, China, Pakistan, and India do not use their nuclear bombs.

Shaken, Not Stirred

Christopher Hitchens belittles Ian Fleming’s “role selection” (“Bottoms Up,” April Atlantic), specifically his invitation to Noël Coward to play Dr. No. But Coward was successful in many roles, comic and serious, and he would likely have done a fine job (playing it either coldly evil or over-the-top camp).

Then there is Hitchens’s potshot at John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Life magazine reading list, which included From Russia With Love. But the other nine books were very different: Montrose, by John Buchan; Melbourne, by David Cecil; Marlborough, by Winston Churchill; John Quincy Adams, by Samuel Flagg Bemis; The Emergence of Lincoln, by Allan Nevins; The Price of Union, by Herbert Agar; John C. Calhoun, American Portrait, by Margaret L. Coit; Byron in Italy, by Peter Quennell; and Stendhal’s The Red and the Black.

Alecia Flores
Penryn, Calif.

Christopher Hitchens replies:

I too would have adored to see Noël Coward playing Dr. No, but I can’t then visualize the same motion picture (or novel). As for Kennedy’s reading list, Ms. Flores is entitled to believe if she chooses that the boy president had really read those books. (She may also believe if she chooses that the young Kennedy, and not Ted Sorenson, was the author of Profiles in Courage.) I feel quite confident, however, that the Fleming selection on that list was made by the Galahad of Camelot himself and not by an anxious staffer striving to give a more weighty impression.

Life and Death in the IRA

One of the men Matthew Teague interviewed for his story about the IRA (“Double Blind,” April Atlantic) was Denis Donaldson, “the legendary IRA hunger-striker” who had gone into hiding. Shockingly, it was recently reported that the same Denis Donaldson had been shot to death after having “been tortured before being killed—apparently with one or two shotgun blasts to his head—inside his isolated home near Glenties, County Donegal, in northwest Ireland.”

Can we please have a comment by Mr. Teague?

LaVerne Barnes
Vancouver, British Columbia

Matthew Teague replies:

I was, of course, shocked by the news of Donaldson’s death—and my heart goes out to Mrs. Donaldson, whom I met while reporting the story. That’s the ultimate tragedy within the story: beneath the intrigue, the spying, and the politics, real men and women die, and real families suffer.

Advice and Consent

In “Primary Sources” (May Atlantic), the “In Search of Lost Time” item says that the worst traffic bottleneck costs 27,144 lost hours per year. Those are thousands of hours, not hours, so the correct number is 27,144,000.

George Terhune
Quincy, Calif.

The Editors reply:

Mr. Terhune is correct. We regret the error.

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