Letters to the Editor


I am writing to correct Tina Rosenberg’s curious and creative history in her article “The Authorized Version" (February Atlantic). Reportedly, Voltaire described history as “a trick the living play on the dead.” Ms. Rosenberg has gone beyond this observation to include tricks played on the living. Citing two anonymous sources, Ms. Rosenberg states that the interagency Strategic Defense Initiative policy study I led in 1983 (her so-called “Miller report”) was suppressed because it was highly critical of the SDI. This is simply wrong on all counts.
The conclusion of the interagency report, which was a wide-ranging effort and exercise, can be summarized as follows: Effective defenses against ballistic missiles would reduce significantly the utility of strategic and theater nuclear forces and raise the threshold of nuclear conflict. This would enhance both deterrence and strategic stability.
Far from being repudiated, the study’s results were approved by a senior interagency group and were incorporated into—and formed the policy basis of— the SDI assessment forwarded to the President in response to NSSD 6-83. Those conclusions were adopted as the U.S. position on SDI policy. Subsequent to that I led an interagency team that, among other things, briefed our NATO allies on the results of the policy study. I also briefed NATO defense ministers on those results in March, 1984. I continued to have policy responsibility for the SDI within the Department of Defense until March, 1985, when the sheer volume of work associated with the SDI required that a new and separate office be created to deal exclusively with that subject. It is hardly likely that I would have done all of the above were the results of the study team I led rejected, as Ms. Rosenberg’s article suggests.
Nor was the interagency study’s report hidden from the public. Apart from forming the basis for major speeches and testimony by senior Administration officials, the results were summarized briefly in a pamphlet (“Defense Against Ballistic Missiles: An Assessment of Technological and Policy Implications”) published by the Department of Defense in April, 1984. Additionally, my March 22, 1984, testimony on the study and its conclusions before Senator Warner’s Subcommittee on Strategic and Theater Nuclear Forces was published by the Senate Armed Services Committee later in 1984. Even a quick comparison of that testimony and current policy will reveal a strong parallelism between the two.
Finally, if further evidence is needed, I would be happy to furnish copies of two related documents from Secretary Weinberger which make the point that the work of the interagency study became the policy and strategy foundation of the SDI program.
Director, Strategic Forces Policy
Department of Defense
Washington, D.C.

Tina Rosenberg replies:
The documents Mr. Miller cites do not alter my contention that his report was suppressed. In contrast to the Fletcher and Hoffman studies, the Miller report was not published in an unclassified version. The Senate hearing Mr. Miller cites was classified; the published version omits much of Mr. Miller’s important testimony. The Pentagon pamphlet, while mentioning once the existence of the Miller panel, did not describe the panel’s findings. Although all the scientists and strategists that I interviewed, in the government and out, were familiar with the Fletcher and Hoffman reports, few were aware of the existence of the Miller panel.
Mr. Miller is correct when he says that his report’s conclusion supported the Strategic Defense Initiative. So did the conclusions of the Fletcher and Hoffman reports. The point of my article was that these conclusions were forged for political reasons and did not reflect serious problems raised in the reports.


Having spent several months in southern Africa, and having warily enjoyed the hospitality that white South Africans accord international visitors, especially opinion-makers, I was fascinated by Conor Cruise O’Brien’s “What Can Become of South Africa?” (March Atlantic). I hope that in a sequel Mr. O’Brien will analyze the role of Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress (ANC), and other organized forces of resistance. Without consideration of these key players, our view of the South African prospect is truncated.
Mr. O’Brien lingers too one-sidedly on the harshness of township reprisal. His parting shot—children burning people alive in the street—is meant to conjure up the killing fields of Pol Pot. Mr. O’Brien‘s stress on “children” is overheated. Most of the killers may be no younger than were our “boys" and their officers in Vietnam; indeed, they may be older than those who, high in their Casspirs, shoot the stone-throwers of Soweto for sport.
One wishes that Mr. O’Brien had acknowledged the decades in which blacks peacefully, yet futilely, resisted apartheid. Having exhausted every nonviolent approach, and lacking arms, how else but by drastic action can a people withstand a military occupation of its towns? Remember: occupation, and the indirect rule that preceded it, have depended on a horde of black policemen and politicians.
For perspective, consider insurgent Kenya. During the fifties, news documentaries featured bloody corpses presumably hacked apart by Mau Mau “terrorists.” The message: See white Christian civilization threatened by black barbarism, In fact during the revolt fewer than fifty whites were killed. (Far more blacks were killed by each side.) With independence Jomo Kenyatta—who, Mandela-like, was detained through much of the struggle— came to power. Under Kcnyatta and his successor, political violence and incarceration have been minimal and whites have thrived.
Mr. O’Brien fears the rise of a Stalin in South Africa. But the task there is not to forestall Stalinism but to dismantle it. Brutal, paranoid Pretoria, presiding over a rapidly industrialized nation built by forced labor, is our closest analogue to Stalinism. South Africa’s homelands, jails, mines, and townships are its gulag.
Syracuse, N. Y.

Thanks for Conor Cruise O’Brien’s article on South Africa, which is the first plausible yet optimistic (in the sense that any solution exists at all) writing I have seen on that subject. I hope it does not diminish the general impact of that article if 1 wonder aloud where “the children” learned about the political uses of gasoline. Are they aware of the high-tech methods in use since 1945, whereby the same commodity is unloaded from aircraft under circumstances prohibiting the singling out of a particular individual from the general population? As a start on the road to modern refinements, and strictly from the materials-handling viewpoint, they should first mix it with sodium palmitate (whence the name napalm).
San Francisco, Calif.

Conor Cruise O’Brien may be in error when he writes that the first official use of the term “concentration camp” occurred during the last phase of the Boer War. On February 16, 1896, Governor General Wevlcr issued the first “reconcentrado” orders in Cuba. The end products of these orders were known as concentration camps throughout the English-speaking world.
Crystal Lake, Ill.


James Lieber’s interviews with me for “Coping With Cocaine" (January Atlantic) reflected an impressive amount of research for a magazine article. Yet his narrow conceptual framework cannot accommodate his data in any meaningful way, and he commits the same fundamental errors as the government. Indeed, his basic premise is identical to that supporting the war on drugs: Cocaine is toxic. Cocaine is addictive. Therefore we must vigorously suppress it.
The conceptual error lies in focusing on matters of biology (neurotransmitters, dopamine deficiency) to the exclusion of the critical qualities that distinguish human beings from caged laboratory animals with catheters stuck in their veins to deliver unlimited quantities of cocaine. This Cartesian reductionist model of the human being ignores intelligence, restraint, responsibility, and moral choice. Rather, man is a mere object, a machine or mass of tissue, waiting to be acted upon; and cocaine is addictive. Great alarm is justified under this distorted model of reality.
But the facts lend themselves more sensibly to a competing interpretation in which human volition plays the dominant role. Neither cocaine nor any other drug is addicting under this model, simply because the overwhelming majority of people do not permit themselves to become addicted. The facts of addiction fit this model much better. The standard claim is that about 15 to 20 percent of those using cocaine sooner or later become addicted. (That figure is almost certainly inflated, as a result of the large number of unknown users who remain “in the closet” precisely because they experience no problems, but I accept the 20 percent claim for the purpose of this discussion.) Obviously, that means that the remaining 80 percent do not become addicted. What sense does it make to call a drug “addictive” when 80 percent (or more) of those who use it do not become addicted?
When you start with a false premise, you end up with false conclusions and poor results. The war on drugs is a failure, a destructive failure, of historic proportions, with record levels of cocaine imports, and black-market pathologies from corruption of public officials to international narcoticism. Lieber himself acknowledges that prohibition produces many harmful side effects through the black market it creates. Yet he concludes his piece by illogically calling for even more of that destructive enforcement process. That illogic flows inevitably from the conceptual error underlying the war on drugs—what the article falsely identifies as “the problem of cocaine.” If nothing else, the underlying conception—the human being as mere object in the presence of drugs—so denigrates the human spirit that political conservatives and liberals alike ought to find it offensive.
Professor of Law
Nova University
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

In his otherwise informed and sensible analysis of the cocaine problem James Lieber unfortunately proposes a system of involuntary commitment for people who are drug-dependent. His is assertions, that involuntary treatment will be effective and that laws can be crafted to protect against the abuse of commitment, are both unsupported and unsupportable. Ironically, the best evidence of the failure of civil commitment is provided by the very example Lieber cites—civil commitment of the mentally ill.
Despite extravagant claims to the contrary, no controlled studies demonstrate the effectiveness of any involuntary treatment for mental illness. The use and misuse of such treatment has led to a growing movement to restrict psychiatric power. For alcoholism, Alcoholics Anonymous provides the only treatment generally considered to be effective, and AA won’t accept involuntary patients. Even for drug dependency, civil commitment has been tried, and it has been an unmitigated disaster. A large-scale system of involuntary commitment was instituted in New York more than fifteen years ago, and it failed. It violated civil liberties, and it didn’t accomplish what its proponents had hoped. If Lieber’s idea seems new, it is only because we have short memories.
The reasons why involuntary commitment won’t work are not hard to discern. Whom would we commit? No matter how many procedural protections are provided, no civil-commitment law can be written that clearly distinguishes those who can be deprived of their freedom from those who cannot. Civil-commitment laws have been widely recognized—even by the current Supreme Court, one not often concerned with checking government power—as confining millions needlessly and unfairly. Will we confine anyone who uses cocaine? Anyone who uses it .vx times a week? Those who “prove" they are addicts by not wanting to quit? Marijuana addicts? Valium addicts? Caffeine addicts?
More fundamentally, it doesn’t matter to the person imprisoned whether the jailer is a prison guard who thinks he’s saving society or an addiction counselor who thinks he’s saving those he imprisons. Changing the labels, or trying to argue that a person tied to a bed behind bars is free, cannot hide the fact that a civil-commitment system results in a tremendous loss of freedom and, like all systems of power, is subject to abuse. Moreover, it will not accomplish what Mr. Lieber hopes it will. No system of involuntary commitment can possibly incarcerate more than a fraction of the drug dependent, and there is no evidence that a coerced cure is possible.
We ought to be abolishing civil-commitment systems, not expanding them.
American Civil Liberties Union
New York, N. Y.

James Lieber replies:
Steven Wisotsky says that I began with a “false premise.” Actually I started with his premise: let people take all the cocaine they want; if 15 to 20 percent become addicted, it’s their problem.
During the course of my research I rejected this premise. Cocaine abuse is not simply an individual hardship but also a community problem. I saw the dislocation and suffering endured by those with cocaine habits. Professor Wisotsky says that I regard people as “mere objects.” I fear that he regards addicts as objects to be discarded. Eventually I concluded that the cocaine market should be reduced—not expanded through legalization—and that those addicted, where possible, should be helped.
Professor Wisotsky seems to regard my views as akin to the government’s. My article makes plain that I regard the interdiction-based war on drugs as a failure, because it induces smugglers to switch to cocaine from marijuana, a far less dangerous drug. Washington now seems enamored of widespread, non-selective drug-testing on the job. Though testing some employees — such as school-bus drivers, or pilots when they behave erratically—may be sensible, a blanket seizure of bodily products from all flies in the face of conventional “probable cause” standards and is likely to breed derision for the recent significant social thrust toward sobriety. And the fact that marijuana is readily detectable for longer periods than is cocaine will not be lost on users. Like interdiction, widespread testing could shift the market to the harder drug. Moreover, it will be expensive. A set of procedures that fairly reliably screens out false positives costs roughly $200 a person—money better spent on preventive education and treatment.
I respect Chris Hansen’s fears about civil commitment but find them overstated. The beneficial efforts of such groups as the ACLU have greatly reduced abuses in this area. Committing people involuntarily is difficult, because adversarial due process is required. After commitment, regular review hearings must be conducted. Once it was common for patients to be “lost” for decades in psychiatric wards. Now that rarely occurs, and, thanks to the rising level of protections, mental-hospital populations have plummeted.
I have advocated additional safeguards for drug commitments, including giving the patient the option of a jury trial and making the state base its position on the opinions of two psychiatrists rather than one. The new Texas statute that includes these measures should be monitored closely.
Mr. Hansen asks who would be committed. Certainty, the vast majority of people who take drugs would not be eligible. The usual mental-health model requires that the person behave psvchotically and have committed or attempted to commit a life-endangering act within the past thirty days. Involuntary drug commitment would add the factor of addiction or dependency. On each element the burden of proof would rest with the state.
I cannot foresee marijuana commitments within this context. Chronic cocaine or amphetamine abuse clearly produces psychotic behavior in some people. In addition to overt violence, some lifethreatening acts that could be material evidence would include binging to the point of convulsion, driving while highly intoxicated, and self-starvation.
Mr. Hansen also believes that a person doesn’t care whether he is imprisoned or committed. But the average initial mental-health commitment is twenty to thirty days, which is far shorter than the criminal sentences legislatures are concocting for cocaine possession.
Also, drug and alcohol treatment has evolved into a respected medical specialty in this country. In most cities one can receive competent, humane, nonmoralistic care that emphasizes rehabilitating rather than punishing the patient. I have visited enough of these places to know that the atmosphere is palpably different from that of a prison.
Finally, the unfettered possession and use of toxins for recreation is not a civil liberty. Ironically, those who believe that it is often favor strict control or elimination of hazardous or even allegedly hazardous substances in everv other area, from the workplace to the diet. Neither reasoned nor constitutionally indicated, the elitist bias supporting recreational toxins is an unfortunate legacy of the 1960s.


I rarely write letters to the editor about articles I’ve read, let alone illustrations. But that’s exactly what I’m writing you about. Your March issue had the most interesting and inspiring drawings I’ve ever seen in The Atlantic. The cover by Folon and the rest of his illustrations for the article on South Africa were poignant and thought-provoking. And Maris Bishofs’s drawings for “The Weather Watchers” combine everything—intelligence, design, wit, and aesthetics. Your art director is to be congratulated for a visually exciting issue.
New York, N. Y.

I won’t play critic—but I will say that reading Ernst Havemann’s short story “The Bloodsong" (February Atlantic) was a wonderful experience.
Seattle, Wash.

Someday, in an age less self-conscious and selfish than this one—when, among other things, people need not lament, as General Jimmy Doolittle once did, “the passing of a day when a man was not too proud to be called a patriot”—someday someone will publish a collection of the greatest love stories of all time. Surely Mark Helprin’s magnificent story “The Pacific” (March Atlantic) will stand tall in the pages of the select in that anthology of the finest, with the words on the pages acting like wideopen eyes looking straight at the reader, unblinking—“like a sentinel.”
New York, N. Y.

The short story “The Pacific,” by Mark Helprin, was the first piece of literature I have read for a long time that moved me. Thank you for sharing not only an admirable piece of work but also a human experience.
Midwest City, Okla.


A few comments on Alistair Horne’s review of J. D. Bredin’s book about the Dreyfus case (February Atlantic). Mr. Horne says, “Zola, too, went to prison for his pains.” Zola was condemned to prison but he fled to England and so was not imprisoned. By mentioning President Loubet before President Félix Faure, Horne implies that Loubet was in office before Faure, which is contrary to fact. As for the latter conducting a “highly private interview—unsuitable to his years—with a lustyredhead,” Faure was only fifty-eight years old, and many men have had sex at that age with females of various hair colors.
For the second trial in Rennes, when Dreyfus was condemned again (by a 5to-2 vote), Mr. Horne seems to put the full blame on the “blundering of his lawyers.”But other factors were important, notably the reluctance of officer judges to go against what they knew to be the desires of their superiors. Mr. Horne may think that the hopes of restoring the monarchy in France had “already been sealed by 1870—1871,” but that seems to me to be ex post facto history. Had it not been for the white-flag issue, the Count of Chambord might well have become King. Besides, Mr. Horne himself says that Bredin claims the Dreyfus affair was only the final collapse of monarchist hopes. Nothing wrong with that statement!
Department of History
University of Maryland
Boulogne, France

Alistair Horne replies:
Far be it from me to suggest that sex with a redhead might topple a man of fifty-eight. What I thought was clear from my review was that it was primarily the circumstances of the encounter—that is, in the presidential office, during hours, and under the extreme stress of the Dreyfus affair—that were Faure’s undoing.
And, of course, I am just as aware as Professor Sinsheimer of the proper chronological order of the Presidents of France.


In his excellent article from The Hague, “Hostage Aftermath” (January Atlantic), Alan Tonelson writes: “The legal and financial world has never seen anything like the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal.”
However, I must observe that at various times, and especially following the First and Second World Wars, various Mixed Arbitral Tribunals, Mixed Claims Commissions, and so forth, have been set up. For example: the RomanianHungarian Mixed Arbitral Tribunal, the Mixed Claims Commission United States-Germany, the General Claims Commission Mexico—United States, and so on.
Some of the awards rendered by international arbitral tribunals, like the United States—Canada Mixed Committee of Arbitration, became famous. This committee was set up in 1929 following the sinking by the U.S. Coast Guard of the smuggler ship I’m Alone, which was registered in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
Canadian Institute for
International Order
Ottawa, Ontario

Alan Tonelson replies:
Mr. Poulantzas is correct in pointing out that the United States and other countries have had considerable experience with such arbitration exercises in the past. I referred briefly to America’s experience with these arrangements in my article. The sentence in question refers chiefly to the political hostility, stopping short of war, between the United States and Iran. I did not intend to imply that the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal was history’s first mixed-claims tribunal.


Photocopying is about the most dreadful chore a clerical worker faces. Many clerical workers would gladly relinquish their photocopying duties to their supervisors. Thus we were dismayed to find, tucked away in an otherwise interesting article on xerography (“Copies in Seconds,” February Atlantic), this statement by David Owen: “As has already begun to be apparent, working in the office of the future will be a lot more fun for secretaries than for executives, who will spend more and more of their time figuring out ways to lay their hands on some of that neat stuff.” Using such a glib tone to describe clerical work contributes to the undervaluing of secretaries and other clerical workers, who often find that “improved” technology creates more work for them.
A case in point is the effect of computer typesetting on the publishing industry. Whereas the editorial assistant previously prepared manuscripts to be typeset, she now often types (“inputs”) them on the word-processor herself. Thus a greater portion of her time is spent on secretarial duties, and her position is downgraded.
Mr. Owen is right in saying that “much of the photocopying done today is entirely unnecessary.” Such abuse of technology is also an abuse of personnel. Clerical workers become little more than automatons, which is hardly a “fun” way to work.
Somerville and Cambridge, Mass.