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Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Letters

Cambridge 02138

Piquancy, salaries great and small, hockey, grade inflation

March-April 2002

TERRORISM

An acquaintance's discovery of a child's crisply done arm on his roof near Ground Zero just after September 11, and your fanciful discussion ("Understanding Terrorism," January-February, page 36) prompt me to write. Your discussants waffled on the salient points of the war on terrorism. They are: protection of citizens remains a first principle of sovereignty; all terrorism is ultimately state terrorism; if you exist we can find you and kill you; if you commit atrocities against America and/or its citizens (see above) we will find you; governments and other entities that gestate terrorism or shelter its perpetrators will be handled similarly; the war on terrorism is novel and only we have mastered its endgame --no one else is close.

Why does terrorism exist? Because of evil that is not banal but flourishes beyond the mind of man. A possible remedy: Let governments, especially the 40 or so Muslim nations that lack them, install just economic and political institutions that give their citizens a chance at safety, health, and prosperity. For many states that is a dose of castor oil--fewer Swiss bank accounts for tyrants--but it will save American lives and many of theirs.

David Kenney '55, M.B.A. '61
Upperside, Va.

 

I don't think we should be puzzled, nor feel any responsibility about, the hate and violence that erupted against us last September, because the fact is these people are psychopathic: they don't have human feelings for other people and are sure they are immediately threatened by an enemy that they must destroy. They are convinced their mission is justified by their religion, even though they are shunned for perverting it to their convenience. They are led by intelligent, wealthy, and charismatic fanatics using modern technology to run circles around our CIA.

As for motivation, they are addicted only to their cabalistic secrecy, to surprise, and to demoralizing the "enemy" with mere threats. They are mindless of the ultimate consequence of "victory," which would be chaos. As an evil force they would destroy every sense of the American Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the rule of civilized law. To me there is no hope of breaking this up except in the way we have responded.

Thomas H. Coleman '44, M.D.
Denver

 

The panel could find no consensus regarding the definition of terrorism--it's the means that defines terrorism; no, it's the motive; no, it's only when perpetrated against a democratic state; it's not when the motive is just. Only when the discussion ground to a close was David Little able to point out that it is of vital importance that a clear understanding of terrorism must be attained and utilized both to guide and to confine our policies regarding terrorism.

The threat that security-based legislation might infringe upon American civil rights was belittled by Philip Heymann, without explanation, and a timid challenge was essentially ignored. One might reasonably conclude, therefore, that the nation's security--if left in the hands of Harvard's academics--is not likely to be endangered by unrestrained civil rights.

The panel was clearly disadvantaged when it came to a discussion of conditions in Islamic states that favor terrorism. Only Eva Bellin appeared well versed in the practical aspects of Islamic culture. Her colleagues, unintimidated by their lack of cultural credentials, often spoke with condescension, if not disdain, with reference to Islamic leaders. Many of the panelists seem to share a view that Islamic distrust and hatred of America can be abolished if we simply make it clear to the Muslim world that America is, after all, quintessentially good and that al Qaeda is, clearly, evil.

More than a few of your panelists are repelled by President Bush's rhetoric and have apprehensions regarding what his aggressive attitude may portend for the continuing Enduring Freedom crusade. Their common concerns relate to Bush's simplistic "Manichaean" posture, framing the conflict in diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive forces of good (read: U.S.A.) and evil (read: al Qaeda), and thus generating the contentious challenge "You're either with us or against us." Little concludes that "the strident unilateralism of Bush is deeply misguided and in need of reform." Yet there are those among the faculty who appear enamored of the president's categorical distinction between the good and the bad, particularly in light of the duplicity of Islamic leaders. Such a two-faced posture, to their mind, justifies Bush's proposed aggressive, coercive diplomacy.

To be noted also is that Harvard's recently appointed president, Lawrence Summers, may embrace a similar view. Concluding the November forum on "A World in Conflict" that you report on in a sidebar, Summers remarked that "when we are as close to having a conflict...between wrong and right...a greater commitment to patriotism...[and a] mutual high regard between universities and the armed forces of the United States...will be something good that has come out of the challenges we face." Neither unfettered nationalism nor an abject capitulation to the military seems quite Harvardian, but after all, Summers hasn't been around here very long.

Robert E. Edmunds '53, M.D.
Indianapolis

 

Terrorism, warfare waged against civilians for political objectives, is a tactic as old as war itself. Waging war against terrorism makes about as much sense as waging war against, say, artillery preparation or amphibious landings. Besides, if one is really fighting terrorism, one should be landing Marines at Haifa and carpet bombing Moscow. Both Israel and Russia currently, and deliberately, make tactical use of terrorism.

Muslim terrorists are not angry adolescents acting out their rage. They are soldiers in a serious war they mean to win. The contrary view (apparently the consensus of your panel) represents dangerously delusional arrogance. One is put in mind of "the best and the brightest" and their fateful hubris toward the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army.

Your panel seemed to accept uncritically the official rationale for the war in Afghanistan: a fight against terrorism and its sponsors. In fact, this was a war for oil and gas pipelines. September 11 gave Washington the pretext it needed to try to achieve by armed force what it hadn't been able to achieve any other way: political and security conditions favorable to the Unocal pipeline from the Central Asian oil fields through Afghanistan to Turkey, trumping the competing versions bypassing Afghanistan and terminating either in Iran or Ukraine's Black Sea ports.

To achieve its objective--the defeat or destruction of the target government-- anti-state terrorism must be applied continuously and with progressively increasing severity, requirements difficult to impossible for nongovernment terrorist entities to meet. Thus, while the 9/11 attack has exacerbated domestic economic distress, government at every level in the U.S. has been able to increase its power vis-à-vis the civilian population with little or no opposition. The attacks of 9/11, at least in the short run, strengthened rather than weakened the target government. This may be good news for your panelists as they contemplate future consulting gigs or assistant secretaryships in Washington. But for the rest of us...?

Rolf P. Colt, L '61, G '61
El Cajon, Calif.

There was a great deal of wisdom in the discussion, but something was missing. It seemed as though the only actors in the terrorism drama are individuals and governments. Economic issues were mentioned only in passing (cutting the flow of funds to terrorist organizations). Multinational enterprises, whether corporations or NGOs, were missing altogether. Yet these organizational actors are pivotal in many ways.

The discussion often referred to American interests and images. Neither can be understood without reference to corporations. Businesses shape daily images of America abroad; Coca-Cola and Disney diplomacy reach more people than do American foreign policy pronouncements. Businesses push hard to define national interests; in recent years, foreign relations were dominated by the free- trade agenda, as federal and even state governments pushed for trade agreements. Industry economics affect airport security--or its absence, as manifested in airline resistance to checked baggage screening or more careful security checks. The "globalization concerns" to which one participant referred are concerns about the impact of the spread of American products, media, and manufacturing in other countries--i.e., the consequences of business decisions. It's been argued that al Qaeda functioned like a multinational corporation, taking advantage of institutions established for other purposes --the Internet, electronic fund transfers, global charities, and more--but that's precisely why it's important to understand organizations and their behavior.

Similarly, actors other than governments play a role in solutions to the terrorism crisis, especially those solutions involving humanitarian aid and institution building. NGOs are important intermediaries in the distribution of foreign aid and key factors in educational and social development, and they often rely on their corporate partners for funding and expertise. Public-private partnerships can extend the capabilities of weak governments and create coalitions supporting reform. Democracy itself--whether terrorist breeding grounds can move beyond despotic regimes--might depend on economic opportunity. It has been said that people in poor countries would rather be entrepreneurs than revolutionaries--but first they need the resources and skills. Multinational corporations can help create an enterprise culture that lifts people out of poverty, e.g., through micro-lending programs or job-skills training for information age industries. (Cisco Systems operates Networking Academies in partnership with public-school systems in 133 countries, including Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.) The private sector should be enlisted in the campaign to eradicate not only terrorism, but also poverty and ignorance.

Surely, then, it is important to consider the role of multinational corporations and social enterprises in terrorism's causes and cures. Multinationals may be vilified by some as greedy capitalists responsible for growing income inequalities, or they may be hailed by others as job and wealth creators that raise standards and create opportunity. Either way they cannot be ignored.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, L '78
Arbuckle professor of business administration
Boston

 

As an alumnus who works daily to combat terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction, I turned to the text hoping to find a perspective that would allow me to perform my own job better. I was only partially satisfied.

Perhaps I should not have been surprised by the amount of time the panelists spent discussing what terrorism is, but this discussion did have a ring, to me, of angels dancing on the heads of rather small pins. Someone should have given the panel for discussion the FBI's current working definition, since that is the one that most of us in the government use daily. The FBI defines terrorism as "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."

One crucial issue the panelists completely fail to discuss is the audience for terrorism. At one time, it was felt by many that weapons-of-mass-destruction terrorism was unlikely in a society like the United States because the true audience for any such act would be public opinion, and such indiscriminate killing--to be contrasted, for example, with a focused political assassination--would alienate public opinion. The FBI and others have identified apocalyptic thinking as the newer threat, which eliminates this objection. They define apocalyptic thinking as underlying actions taken with the actual audience being not public opinion but God, however she is conceived. To many people, Aum Shinrikyo and Osama bin Laden among them, she seems to crave big body counts. This point is central to the discussion about the true motivations of al Qaeda and similar groups.

A few errors of fact mar the discussion. Heymann's statement that no real effort to use biological weapons has occurred prior to Aum Shinrikyo in Tokyo errs on two counts. He does not distinguish between chemical and biological agents, which are enormously different in their clinical and societal effects. Defending against each requires radically different measures. Yes, Aum Shinrikyo was very interested in biological agents. Aum had high-quality anthrax cultures and good microbiology talent invested in its biological-weapons program, but made many crucial errors in its attempts to disseminate anthrax in metropolitan Tokyo. Aum finally chose the chemical option and carried out two terrorist attacks using a 30-percent solution of the nerve agent sarin. Aum's biological-weapons program produced no casualties.

More crucially, Heymann omits mention of the first major bioterrorist attack in the United States, the poisoning of at least 751 Oregonians with salmonella spread on salad bars in 1984 by followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. No one died, it is true, and what is perhaps more revealing, law enforcement did not even suspect that this had indeed been a case of bioterrorism until a suspect confessed to the FBI two years later. I would point out, however, that the number of people affected greatly dwarfs the number actually sickened by the recent anthrax attack via the U.S. mail.

No part of this letter may be printed without the following disclaimer. The opinions herein expressed are those solely of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, the Medical Research and Materiel Command, the US Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Department of Justice, or the Department of State. The affiliations listed below are for identification purposes only.

Jonathan Newmark '74, M.D.
Colonel, Medical Corps, U.S. Army
Chief, Operations, Chemical Casualty Care
Research Coordinator, Neuroprotection
United States Army Medical Research Institute
of Chemical Defense
Bel Air, Md.

Your panelists did not explicitly discuss the one cause that is almost universally understood to constitute a legitimate grievance--the Israeli settlements. They are a grievance the U.S. has done far less than it could to resolve, despite the fact that both the left and right wings of the Israeli government have expanded the settlements.

The U.S. must not cease our support of Israel's right to exist within her pre-1967 borders. We must cease our implicit support of the settlements; they are provocative, illegal under the Geneva Convention, motivated by religion, supported by violence or the threat of violence against civilians, and "an obstacle to peace" in the conventional U.S. government formulation. The settlements are not an aid to Israel's security but in fact the reverse. It is the settlements, not defense against terrorism, that are the closest moral equivalent on Israel's side to the Palestinian terror. The Israeli Army can legally remain under the Geneva Convention, and should remain in a garrison mode in the occupied territories until treaties implementing suitable security arrangements are finalized. The illegal settlers must be removed.

Robert Blandford, Gp '62|
Alexandria, Va.

PRINCIPAL OVER PRINCIPLE?

The irony in John Harvard's Journal must be intentional. Without advocating a woolly concept like a "living wage" ("Airing Out the Living Wage," January-February, page 66), I figure that you could pay all 424 employees now below that "minimum" and their aggregate yearly compensation would barely exceed that paid to the fourth-highest-paid employee of the Harvard Management Company, the folks who manage 60 percent of Harvard's $18-billion endowment ("Up in a Down Year," page 69).

Awash in capital, including the $700 million received in the past year, has Harvard lost all sense of proportion? Why should any "money manager" employed by a tax-exempt institution and investing funds other than his own be paid $14.8 million? Because he performed "better than his peers?" Because Harvard's investments declined only 2.7 percent during the year? Because some of his predecessors left HMC to join a private company "where they can keep their compensation private?"

In a world of fungible dollars, Harvard just took a $50-million grant from the Ford Foundation and paid $55 million to its "top five" HMC money managers. Outrage might be more appropriate than irony. Time to reexamine criteria for tax-exempt status.

Richard S. Gray, M.B.A. '55
Shaker Heights, Oh.

 

You describe a shameful contrast: Harvard's flagrant overpayment to its financial managers and its dehumanizing underpayment to its workers--principal above principle.

Robert M. Goldwyn '52, M.D. '56
Tatyana Goldwyn
Brookline, Mass.

 

BROTHERS ON ICE

Craig Lambert rightly champions Mark, Steve, and Dominic Moore of Thornhill, Ontario, as "A Force on the Ice" (January-February, page 80). They are not, however, the first fraternal trio to skate for the Crimson. They are the first to skate on the same team, but Sid, Dick, and Walt Greeley were brothers from Framingham High School in Massachusetts who contributed significantly to the fortunes of Harvard hockey. Sid and Dick played together in 1946-'47. Walt came along in 1949 to 1953, becoming captain in '52-'53 and MVP that year (joint with linemate Amory Hubbard), as well as MVP of the first Beanpot Tournament in 1952. Sid scored a hat trick during one shift on the ice in 2:08 minutes against Princeton--a feat not duplicated even by C. J. Young, who scored three goals shorthanded in 49 seconds, but whose third goal came after a period break. Dick was MVP in '47-'48 and held the record for most goals scored by a defenseman in one season for 46 years until eclipsed by Sean McCann in '93-'94.

Harvard hockey has benefited from many brother combinations over the years, including Fred and Tom Moseley, Austie and Goodie Harding, Dave and Al Key, and too many others to mention. Yet truly the Moores are in a class by themselves. It has been a great pleasure to watch the three of them individually and when they were on the same team. Let's hope that Dominic can spark the Crimson to a winning if not championship year in 2002.

Richard S. Greeley '49
|
St. Davids, Pa.

 

TOTEM, AS A YOUTH

The photograph of Harvard's totem pole in progress ("Kaats and Bear Arrive," January-February, page 67) set me to poking through my "archives" for the enclosed photograph of a friend of my early years, Bob McCloskey, who carved a similar item for the extraordinary Y.M.C.A. Camp Campbell Gard, near his and my home town of Hamilton, Ohio. He was the camp dining-hall steward, and my father, an avid student of Native American lore, was director during the 1930s.

old photograph: young man, wearing only briefs, carving a totem pole
Make way for storyteller with hatchet and chisel.

Dad had recognized--no great prescience--McCloskey's exuberant talents and asked him if he could carve a totem pole. "Clutch" replied, "I d'know, I've never tried." But, at 18, he tackled a 500-pound cedar balk. Dad and a Sioux friend, Isaac Greyearth, consulted on the symbolism, which melded into a sort of generic Amerind design.

None of this has anything to do with Harvard, but it does with Boston, since a few years later, before he won the Prix de Rome, Bob designed (but didn't execute personally)‚ the most famous sculptures in the area--better known even than John Harvard--the Ducklings.

The Camp Gard totem pole, now 60-odd years old and quite deteriorated, is conserved in the Robert McCloskey Children's Reading Room of the Lane Public Library of Hamilton and is being restored.

Charles H. Klippel '42
Paxton, Mass.

 

PRIVILEGE AND ACHIEVEMENT

Pedro Antonio Noguera, portrayed in "The Community Scholar," by Jessica Siegel (January-February, page 50), is reported to regret "a pervasive and passive acceptance of the 'fact' that students from low-income backgrounds cannot achieve at the levels of students from privileged backgrounds." What is so wrong with that acceptance? It would be strange if parents' economic status, and the causes of that status, had no effect at all on student achievement. Such a bizarre outcome seems desirable only to those who assume that all differences in parental privilege are unjust.

But that very assumption has dramatically undermined education, because it implies that people are never responsible for what happens to them. It is desirable, and just, to make learning available to students whose parents may have lacked opportunity, motivation, ability, or luck. Your article notes that few students have taken advantage of the afterschool tutoring program at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. So some researcher is being paid to find out why! This is absurd. Casting pearls before (some) swine just doesn't work.

Marguerite Gerstell '66, A.M. '91
Pasadena, Calif.

 

GRADE INFLATION

There is a simple reason for the persistent problem of grade inflation ("The Gamut of Grades from A to B," January-February, page 63): the scale of grades does not meaningfully reflect the scale of actual student achievement. In grading papers as a teaching assistant at Harvard, I found that student work tends to fall into about four categories of passing grades, a view that is consistent with those of some of my own professors. This is especially true at a school where all the students are exceptionally bright, and the quality of their work falls into a narrow range.

A scale of "High Pass," "Pass," "Low Pass," with a top grade of "Distinction" for the few outstanding papers, would enable faculty to give clear and honest responses to student work, and could be applied fairly consistently by all professors in all classes. In a letter-grade system, which, with pluses and minuses, offers 12 possible passing grades (with six possible grades in the A-B range alone), how is anyone to know what a given grade really means?

Ron Meyers, J.D. '98
New York City

 

McLEAN ASCENDANT

"Ray Charles Plays the 'Harvard Club'" ("Open Book," January-February, page 21) excerpts a book about McLean Hospital, written by Alex Beam and titled Gracefully Insane. The book's subtitle, The Rise and Fall of America's Premier Mental Hospital, may leave a false impression with readers. McLean is very much on the rise and doing well both programmatically and financially. Our glory is not in the past, it is now.

Bruce M. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D.
President, psychiatrist in chief, McLean Hospital
Belmont, Mass.

 

CLASSICAL PATRIMONY

My family has been saving the "Five-Foot Shelf" for me for many years ("The Five-Foot Shelf Reconsidered," November-December 2001, page 51, and "Letters," January-February, page 4). Since my father was a minister and never owned a house ("the manse" came on loan with the job), and since I was a liberal arts major who never imagined having a "career," this bequest constitutes my entire inheritance. My mother assures me that every volume is present and accounted for.

Even given my Harvard support-staff salary, I wouldn't think of ever selling it, or pieces of it. It represents my family's emphasis on education, literature, and poetry.

How much is it worth again??

Marcia Deihl
Tozzer Library, Peabody Museum of
Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge

 

EDUCATION'S GREATEST PROBLEM

The obituaries for President Nathan M. Pusey saluted him as a classical scholar, talented teacher, and administrator who believed in the civilizing mission of a liberal-arts education.

A footnote worth recording: Asked what he considered education's greatest problem, Pusey replied: "Hardness of heart in the well-educated."

Nardi Reeder Campion
Lebanon, N.H.

 

ADDING PIQUANCY TO THE EXPERIENCE

The two faculty members working at the Forsyth Institute in Boston cited in "Vaccine for Tooth Decay" (January-February, page 11), Martin Taubman and Daniel Smith, hold academic appointments in the School of Dental Medicine of the Faculty of Medicine, not in the Medical School as reported.

John F. McCarthy '51, of Wellfleet, Massachusetts, points out that the obituary for Charles C. Murrah, Ph.D. '55, who died last May at the age of 79 (January-February, page 88x), asserts that he is survived by his parents. Not so. He survived both of his parents by more than 45 years. McCarthy also notes that the notice of the award to Professor Stephen J. Greenblatt ("Brevia," January-February, page 69) describes him as "a leading practitioner of the 'new criticism.'" In fact, "he is associated with the New Historicism, the absolute antithesis of the New Criticism," writes McCarthy, who is kind enough to add, "I thoroughly enjoy reading Harvard Magazine; these little surprises only add piquancy to the experience."

The review of Patricia Thomas's Big Shot: Passion, Politics, and the Struggle for an AIDS Vaccine ("The Browser," January-February, page 16) mentioned a review of the book in the Washington Post in a way that could be construed to mean that the Post reviewer considered her explanations of vaccine science to be "mind numbing." The opposite is true. Big Shot appeared on the Post's nonfiction "Book World Raves" list for 2001, one of only five health and medicine books so honored.

"Buttonhook and Aloha" (September-October 2001, page 77) described Harvard quarterback Neil Rose '02 as "Hawaiian." In a letter to the editor (January-February, page 8), Michael A. Maciszewski '96 wrote, "your use of the term 'Hawaiian' is incorrect....The term is reserved for those who are of native Hawaiian descent." "Not according to our dictionary," an editor's note declared. Two readers wrote to tell us Maciszewski was right and we were glib, dismissive, snotty, and smug. Thomas Farber '65, of Berkeley, California, was gentler: "Dictionaries are of course written by humans, have their own politics, and also often lag behind changes in usage. For many people who live in the Hawaiian Islands, the term 'Hawaiian' now means 'Native Hawaiian,' that is, the indigenous people, pre-contact, and their descendents. 'From Hawai'i'--you could throw in the glottal stop as well--might be the best way these days to speak of the quarterbacks in your article."