Letters to the editor



In response to the July/August cover story, “How to Fix the World,” Atlantic readers offered their own ideas. Here are the highlights:

1. Eliminate the penny.
2. Pass a new GI Bill.
3. Color-code hotel towels.
4. Give more professors tenure.
5. Eradicate all religion.
6. Increase national cash reserves.
7. Elect two vice presidents.
8. Tie the corporate income tax to job creation and retention.
9. Make drugs free.
10. Don’t have children.
The Case for Marriage

Having just read Sandra Tsing Loh’s rant against the kitchen bitch (“Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” July/August Atlantic) and being a rather delighted partner in a Companionate Marriage, I was hesitant to hand over The Atlantic to my husband. You see, last night’s dinner was veal in the style of Trieste, with red cabbage, which he prepared while I tucked in our two children for the night. Dear friends sipped a fine Napa Valley red while waiting for me to descend empty-handed from upstairs, and for my husband to bring the meal to the table.

Unfortunately, after reading Ms. Tsing Loh’s case against marriage, my husband has started to develop a bit of a complex. Sandra Tsing Loh had a place at our dinner table nearly every night for the past few weeks, but I have now shown her the door. I love my kitchen bitch. The marriage is a win-win.

Jennifer Raum
Fargo, N.D.

I write as a divorced woman who has remarried. Indeed, I am one of those delusional creatures who still believed in the institution of marriage, even while watching the demise of my own. Perhaps more blame for the end of Sandra Tsing Loh’s marriage lies in her generation’s interpretation of the Women’s Movement than in society as a whole or the institution of marriage in particular. The empowerment born of the movement was not the ability to do everything well, but the ability to choose one’s priorities without ostracism or marginalization.

Happy husband, happy children, fulfilling career, spotless home. Four brass rings to grab. Two hands with which to grab. Is it any surprise so many women of Tsing Loh’s generation end up divorced? They try to achieve what is typically beyond the limits of any one human’s energy and effort. I hope the women of my generation have learned to better prioritize and moderate their goals.

Tsing Loh mentions our increased longevity, without any attendant realization that we women have more time than ever to do everything well. The rub is that the days of our 77 years are still only 24 hours long—we can do everything well, just not simultaneously. Ultimately, my advice to Tsing Loh mirrors her own. She should avoid marriage. If not forever, at least until she is willing to make it a priority in her life.

Tricia Heath
Long Beach, Calif.

Sandra Tsing Loh replies:
From my position of exile in Jennifer Raum’s recycling bin, I can only humbly request that Raum’s marvelous husband place some veal in a doggy bag, next to the trash cans, as it sounds really good. That said, although Raum gives a lot of marriage menu description, I noticed no word on the sex. And yet, if all’s well by both, who am I to argue those Napa Valley red–warmed nights aren’t indeed win-win? As for Tricia Heath, yes. Were I to marry a second time, in midlife or beyond, with my childbearing years behind me and my own income before me, I would have the First World luxury of choosing for a husband not a provider, a father, or any other conventionally male-protective figure but an emotional partner. If that “emotional partner” ends up being a fun-loving gay, I hope we will gain readmittance to Jennifer Raum’s welcoming table. World travelers, we will embrace Fargo (and I’ll make sure Chaz brings his porcini risotto)!

Full Speed Ahead

Bruce Selcraig suggests using Detroit’s numerous dead factories to build high-speed trains (“Train Detroit,” July/August Atlantic)—and what an irony it would be for commuter trains to be built there, given Detroit’s role in undermining rail transit in America. But if you go back further in history, you’ll remember that it was the GM diesel-electric locomotive that forced the mighty steam engine off the main line and into the museum, and brought the railroads into the modern age. Thus, if Detroit were to build the new high-speed trains, it would be less an irony and more a return to natural evolution, with the inefficient automobile being an unproductive segment of the lineage.

Paul Tominac
San Francisco, Calif.

Keeping the Peace

James Gibney’s “Unleash the Dogs of Peace” (July/August Atlantic) misstates the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and promotes a number of misconceptions about the work of UN peacekeepers globally. Violence and conflict indeed continue in the DRC, but Mr. Gibney is wrong to imply that peacekeepers have done nothing to improve the situation in the DRC.

When the UN first deployed MONUC, a decade ago, the DRC was a politically fractured country where millions had died in the ongoing civil war. At the height of the conflict, approximately 3.4 million people were displaced. Today, 1.7 million people are displaced, largely because of localized hostilities in the east. Most Congolese armed groups have laid down their arms, the western regions are stable, and with MONUC’s assistance, the DRC has carried out its first national democratic multiparty elections in 40 years.

Like all other major global military deployments, MONUC has had incidents of misconduct. All such cases are investigated by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight and referred to the member states for action. MONUC pursues a strict policy of zero tolerance for misconduct and over the past five years has repatriated 143 uniformed personnel and taken disciplinary action against 20 civilians for offenses related to sexual exploitation and abuse.

As Mr. Gibney rightly points out, the use of private military contractors as an alternative to UN blue helmets raises serious issues of accountability, as they operate in a “murky legal environment.” It is also in no way certain that they would be more effective than the blue helmets. A recent study by the Rand Corporation stated that the UN “provides the most suitable institutional framework for most nation-building missions, one with a comparatively low cost structure, a comparatively high success rate and the greatest degree of international legitimacy.” A shift to the use of private military companies would guarantee none of these outcomes.

Alain L. Roy
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations
United Nations
New York, N.Y.

Go Green With Nuclear

I find it strange that Joshua Green holds up Jimmy Carter as a champion of clean energy (“The Elusive Green Revolution,” July/August Atlantic), since his policy of banning the commercial reprocessing and recycling of nuclear fuel was instrumental in thwarting the growth of the industry with the greatest potential for replacing carbon-emitting electrical power plants in the U.S.—nuclear energy.

France now generates more than 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy and is a net exporter of electricity because of its very low generation cost. According to the Energy Information Administration, nuclear plants account for 10 percent of the electrical-generation capacity and produce 20 percent of the electricity in the U.S. Wind and solar generation account for about 1.6 percent of electrical-generation capacity. Nuclear plants have achieved a utilization factor of 90 percent because they can operate 24 hours a day year-round regardless of weather, whereas dependability is a major consideration in the use of wind and solar energy for generation of electricity.

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