Sir-- Thank you for 'McPalin' ( Al-Ahram Weekly 18-24 September). I know I am not the only one who finds the current situation nearly unbelievable. I am a dual citizen (Canadian and American) living in Canada, and nearly every time I am in a social situation, a Canadian politely brings up the issue of Palin and the radical right's platform. If the election were held in Canada today, Obama would win by a landslide. "The world needs Obama," they say. Many people find the Republican approach and especially Palin almost unbelievable -- as they did when Bush won his second term. Being American but not living in America gives me a little bit of perspective -- but no comfort. I have many thoughts about how "we" spawned such an emotionally reactive, unaware electorate and it scares me. This is a reality show that we will have to live with.
Chinese in France
Sir-- I am fully in favour of the learning of national languages such as Chinese ('The Chinese arrived' Al-Ahram Weekly 18-24 September). However, it is not self-evident which language people should learn. A knowledge of Chinese is no help when dealing with French or German people, for example. Fluent French is of no use in China. I would like to argue the case for Esperanto as the international language. It is a planned language which belongs to no one country or group of states.
Sir-- A few comments on 'The ghost of Stalingrad' ( Al-Ahram Weekly 18-24 September). As far as can be seen, most Ukrainians want nothing to do with NATO, but everything to do with the EU. That is Tymoshenko's trump card, as are the facts of geography. Bad relations between Ukraine and Russia are just plain silly and would be inconvenient for everybody in Europe, not just those two countries. I would guess that Ukrainian membership of NATO will, officially, be put on hold but, in practice, will be allowed to die quietly. In return, Ukraine will get a fairly good association agreement with the EU, with membership at the end of the road.
Re Georgia, I think Saakashvili has given up on NATO membership. Certainly, his ongoing antics serve only to antagonise the rest of Europe against him and he must know that. He is essentially playing to the American gallery.
Re the Russian military, the Soviet military was a shambles, with incompetent commanders, shoddy equipment and unwilling soldiers and the Russian military is no different. Desertion in the largely conscript force is widespread, for example, and nobody in Europe wants to go to war. They can handle another ex-Soviet army like Georgia but would be totally outclassed on the world stage. They are also, of course, in the same quagmire in Chechnya and, increasingly, Ingushetia and Dagestan, as the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, nobody should take seriously the idea of Russian military bases far and wide across the planet, particularly on the American continent. Moreover, the Russian Federation is the last of the European multi-ethnic states and is therefore condemned to unravel, sooner or later. The economy of the Russian Far East is already largely in the hands of the Chinese, for example. Thus, the idea of a "confrontation" between Russia and the US is unrealistic.
Re Israel, US foreign policy is totally Israel-centred and Russia is no threat to Israel. Worse, all the current attention on Russia is diverting US resources away from Israel and antagonising Western Europe, which serves as a forward base for US forces in Israel's near neighbourhood. The Israelis can't be pleased with that situation and they, and the lobby, are probably trying quietly to re-centre American attention on the Middle East.