The big burn | June 15, commentary
Threat from extremists spreads
David Brooks' piece on the widening war in Iraq is at once instructive and superficial. He well describes the "what happened" but remains willfully shallow on the "why" things go from bad to worse.
In his 15-to-1 Iraqi army to extremist example, Brooks fails to put the power of a committed minority into historical context. From Minutemen to Bolsheviks to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an ideology is the glue that empowered and motivated the few to wreak havoc on the established order.
President Barack Obama's statement that "the Iraqis must first help themselves" obliquely acknowledges but stubbornly, like George W. Bush, does not spell out or criticize the seventh century theocratic political glue that tolerant pluralists must confront and marginalize.
Andrew McCarthy put it clearly this month in National Review: "That kind of insanity (our foreign policy) does not happen overnight. It happens after more than 20 years of willful blindness to the ideology of our enemies, and more than 20 years without a strategic vision of the global jihadist challenge." That's what burns me.
Gary Harrington, St. Petersburg
ISIS takes last major city in northern Iraq June 17
The mistakes of history
The Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds have been fighting for over a century. Their current union comes forcibly from Britain and France's act of ignorance after winning World War I. These former superpowers, in their desire to maintain their colonial status and access to Middle East oil, foolishly placed these warring entities together, either expecting their ethnic and religious differences to evaporate — which they obviously have not — or else they simply did not care. The Sunni and Kurd minorities will simply not acquiesce to a Shiite majority.
In a new book titled The Long Shadow, David Reynolds discusses the long shadow cast over the area during World War I and how it is the root of many of today's problems. This long shadow gave rise to World War II as well as other, more recent conflicts throughout the Middle East and other areas of the world.
Iraq is likely to break up much like India did in 1947, Yugoslavia did in 1990 and probably as Ukraine will do. We are fortunate that Czechoslovakia split peaceably in 1990.
President George W. Bush called it "regime change," which simply ignored the underlying problem. The United States cannot expect to halt the correction in national boundaries that were established long ago by ignorant parties. We should encourage the United Nations to try to make these transitions peaceful and ban the arming of all fractions.
George W. Ellsworth, Dade City
Teacher drunk at work keeps job | June 15
Stronger steps called for
I was astounded to read about the Hernando County middle school teacher who escaped any significant punishment for her behavior despite having apparently shown up for work so drunk that she was stumbling around, exhibited slurred speech and, to add insult to injury, held an inappropriate conversation with a student.
I'm fine with giving a person a second chance. However, at the very least the teacher should be suspended while she attends a substance abuse program. She should then be allowed back in the classroom and in front of children only upon demonstrating that her alcohol and substance abuse issues are under control.
If the system, due to legal costs or other impediments, prevents the superintendent and School Board from dealing with this situation effectively, then the system needs to be restructured so they can do their job.
Randy James, Tampa
In the real world, rape victims not 'privileged' | June 15, commentary
Silence is best politics
I'm not a member of the Republican Party, but I am going to offer some free advice. When you get the urge to comment on issues concerning women and sex, just say "no." George Will's recent column is only the latest example of the collective wrath one risks when old, supposedly erudite men decide they are qualified to speak about issues such as rape, abortion, contraception and other topics best left to women.
As women make up an increasing share of the electorate, why risk alienating such a large voting bloc with ignorant, misogynistic and even mean-spirited comments? For the sake of keeping our elections somewhat competitive, just say "no."
Thomas Schaefer, Palm Harbor
Far right isn't right enough for GOP June 15, Daniel Ruth column
Testing time for strategy
I don't know too much about Virginia's 7th Congressional District, but it sounds like the voters were more put off by Eric Cantor's inattentiveness than by his ideology. If, however, it was the latter that lost him his job, it doesn't bode well for those who were hoping the tea party wave had crested.
A lot of Republicans are content to continue to play the "long game" — keeping incumbent members of their party looking over their shoulders, holding on to their secure districts and moving them farther to the right, and prevent anything by the Democrats from becoming policy. Come November, we'll see how the strategies of continuing to be "the party of no," and alienating just about every demographic besides their own, are working.
Jesse Glover, Tampa
Family man | June 15
Father's Day flop
I was appalled by the lead article on the front page Sunday. Couldn't you, on Father's Day, have found a more appropriate subject than the glorification of gangsters? It is a real slap in the face to all the millions of caring fathers.
Barbara Marafiote, Sun City Center
Great by comparison
At first I was put off by the Times front-page glorification of a mobster and his spoiled daughter. Then I realized that you must have been ensuring that I fully appreciate my dad, a career Air Force officer who raised five successful kids, and that I feel great about the role model I am for my three children. In that case, well done!
Dean Strickland, Clearwater