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NATO expansion offers dangers without benefits

NATO expansion into the former Soviet satellites would be a zero-benefit, high-risk action: zero-benefit because these former satellites will naturally develop ties to the West even without NATO, and high risk because of the bad things that often flow from humiliated nationalism.

Russians are a justifiably proud people who have no democratic traditions to call on. The breakup of the Soviet empire and movement toward a freer economy has disrupted the lives of most Russians. They are suffering an economic depression fully as bad as our Depression of the 1930s. Many have no work or are paid little and late. Inflation is high. Crime, corruption, and rapacious capitalism are taking root. The residual Soviet Army is demoralized and poorly paid. The end is not yet in sight. Remember that the Bolshevik revolution began with bread riots.

The best recent example of humiliated nationalism was the European Allies' failure to understand Germany's humiliation through the Versailles Treaty at the end of World War I and their inflexibility in dealing with Germany's hyperinflation during the 1920s. Germany's fledgling democracy failed and was replaced, after an election in 1933, by Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party. Then in 1940, when France was forced to surrender to Hitler, the surrender was signed in the very same train car used for the German surrender in 1918.

George Kennan, our best-known expert on Russia, who in 1947 originated the concept of "containment" (of the political expansion of the Soviet Union), cautions, "One must remember that they are basically insecure people, and can be driven by fear or concern for their prestige to do things that are not in their best interests or in ours." He finds the NATO expansion discussions to be ". . . unreal, unnecessary, and in highest degree deplorable."

One is normally willing to accept risk if there is an offsetting potential benefit. A NATO expansion would further destabilize a country whose stability is very important to our own national interests, but has no potential benefit.

John G. Chase, Palm Harbor

Clinton's questionable motives

While Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., might qualify as the most xenophobic politician to trudge the halls of the modern-day Senate, his strange new bedfellow, Bill Clinton, could go down in history as the president who most believed the Earth revolves around him.

Both men are in favor of NATO expansion. Now you can understand the old cold warrior Jesse. He'd just love to stick it to the Russian bear again. But Bill Clinton, a beneficiary of a Rhodes scholarship which, if nothing else, aimed to broaden the outlook of its scholars and instill a creative, universal approach to world affairs? Why, Bill Clinton, why?

According to Thomas L. Friedman, William L. Hartung and other expert observers, the idea of expanding NATO was seen as a way to attract ethnic votes in the last election. Can you imagine that? If true _ and I have not read anywhere a White House refutation of this analysis _ this scoundrel was so hungry for votes, he thought his personal victory was so important, that he was willing to sell out the possibility _ yea, necessity _ of future cooperation with the Russians and to possibly set the stage for World War III. How's that for ego? And shortsightedness? I'd bet that most voters would rather go along with a plan that would further the possibilities of world peace and security.

Fueling the drive to expand NATO up to Russia's borders is, as you might guess, the powerful U.S. arms industry. According to Katharine Seelye of the New York Times, the nation's six largest military contractors have lavished much of the $51-million they spend lobbying in Washington the past two years to push for NATO expansion. The U.S. taxpayer, you see, is going to have to buy lots of weapons to supply the armies of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, the proposed new NATO members.

Me, I long ago accepted that Bill Clinton is a man lacking any firm core of principles. Now I believe he also is venal and a danger to future international harmony.

Bob Taylor, St. Petersburg

A reversal of good and bad

Re: Tangling over torts, editorial, April 19.

Please accept the observations of a "greedy trial lawyer" whose view of what is a "good" in our society is entirely different from yours.

You believe it is "good" for an injured victim of the combined misconduct of several wrongdoers to receive only a precise percentage of his or her economic damages from each wrongdoer. I believe it is "bad" to let any wrongdoer escape responsibility for the total economic losses by simply nominating a number of other persons or companies who also contributed to the harm. Why should the injured victim, who has already experienced economic losses, have to chase down multiple wrongdoers and incur increased costs to be fully compensated?

What is "bad" about letting the wrongdoers go about suing each other on their own dollar? The doctrine of joint and several liability is a "good" rule of law intended to aid the injured victim. Abolishment of the doctrine would be a "bad" decision.

You believe it would be "good" for rental car companies to avoid financial responsibility for the wrongful acts of their rental patrons. I believe it would be "bad" to grant the rental car companies an exception to financial responsibility when the rest of the citizens and companies in Florida are wisely responsible for the misconduct of anyone operating their vehicles.

What is "bad" about maintaining financial responsibility that is simply built into the rental price of a car? From the number of rental cars on the road in Florida it certainly does not appear that the present financial responsibility situation is hampering the rental or tourist industry.

You believe it would be "good" for businesses in high crime neighborhoods to be relieved of the responsibility of acting reasonably in regard to customer safety. I believe it would be "bad" to lessen the standard of care for any business and likely to result in injuries and deaths.

All businesses are simply required to exercise reasonable care given their particular circumstances under the long-standing law in the state of Florida. I see nothing but "good" that comes from such a fair rule. Apparently, you feel this standard is burdensome for businesses in high crime areas and, therefore, "bad." Why should we lessen the "reasonable" standard in favor of immunity in any particular locale or in regard to any particular aspect of customer safety?

Respectfully, I suggest that your definitions of "good" and "bad" are reversed.

Bob Carroll, Clearwater

Think again about restoring river

Re: Letting a river run free, April 12.

My wife and I edited the newsletter for the largest canoe club in Florida for 13 years and we fought tooth and nail to stop the Cross Florida Barge Canal. That was a long time ago and all that timber has been drowned and is rotting. Not very pretty unless you're a 16-pound largemouth bass looking for cover.

Blowing the dam and trying to restore the Ocklawaha River will add little to the Florida canoe trails, and it will cost at least $13-million over the next 10 years. Last year's study by state agencies reported to the Cabinet that $123,000 would repair the neglected, 30-year-old dam and lock, making a total of $419,000 over the next 25 or 30 years.

Who would want to paddle a short stretch of river the width of a two-lane highway twisting through a smelly bog the size of 10,000 football fields? A snake-filled bog that would also attract expensive real estate lawyers trying to clean up the original title to that land disputed after almost two generations of death and divorce.

We're sorry, but you can't get the toothpaste back in the tube after 30 years. Take that $13-million and spend it on funding the restoration of the Kissimmee River. Spend your dollars there before Lake Okeechobee and the entire Everglades ecosystem, the cradle of our Florida saltwater fishery, is dead forever.

The Rodman Reservoir is an orphan created by one of the worst environmental rapes in Florida history. But to bass fishermen nationwide, she's grown up to be a beautiful young lady _ a jewel in Florida's crown of lakes that attracts bass fishermen from all over America.

Dave and Carol Grantges, St. Petersburg

It's time for the dam to go

The Rodman Reservoir is called an "ecosystem" by the pro-dam folks. That word "ecosystem" does not mean natural or healthy. A fishbowl is an ecosystem. The Rodman Reservoir is an unhealthy man-made ecosystem that is destroying itself. Tons of decaying vegetation particles that are carried by the swift waters of the Ocklawaha continuously settle to the bottom upon reaching the still shallows of the Rodman Reservoir. It is only a matter of time until it will be "The Rodman Muck Bog."

Until about 30 years ago, the Ocklawaha River was a natural healthy ecosystem. It was the major tributary of the St. John's River. It provided great fishing, natural drainage, clean water, scenic beauty and enormous spawning areas for fish of the St. John's River system.

All of that ended when the Rodman Dam was built across the Ocklawaha near its juncture with the St. Johns. The dam killed the river and turned it into a long land-locked artificial lake. Spawning fish of the St. John's can no longer reach the Ocklawaha to reproduce. This is evidenced by the most famous tributary, Silver Springs. Before the dam, there were so many fish in Silver Springs you could barely see the bottom. There are virtually no fish there today.

The government never asked the public for permission to do this to the Ocklawaha. Half-truths, lies and damned lies have enabled pork-barrel politicians to take both our money and our river.

It is evident that our politicians are reluctant to give up their power over this issue. As long as the dam remains in place, they have their hand in our pockets. Removing the dam will return the river and all of its benefits to the public.

If we care about responsible government, good fishing and healthy ecology, we must take action. Look into the facts. Learn the truth. Tell the truth. Embarrass the politicians and demand an end to this tragedy.

Seeber Fowler, Salt Springs

Save our natural heritage

Re: Letting a river run free, April 12.,

I was born and raised in Ocala, and spent many years there until the mid-1960s when I left college to serve in the United States Army, and later pursue a career in federal law enforcement.

Some of my fondest memories are of the many excursions my boyhood friends and I made in various parts of the Ocala National Forest, and upon the Silver River, the Ocklawaha and Blue Run in western Marion County. I returned with my family about six years ago, and we settled in Clearwater. I must admit that I was, and am now, appalled at the overpopulation, massive overdevelopment fueled by greedy politicians and builders, not to mention the overwhelming herds of people descending upon this once beautiful state.

To David White and his associates, I say, keep up the good fight. You have all pitted yourselves against those who, at base, simply do not care about our most beautiful natural heritage. Given the power of your opponents, nothing will remain of the natural wonder of Florida. May God bless you all in your efforts.

David C. Cumming, Clearwater

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