Albany, California, U.S.
Concerned and enlightened people like Sachs are the gems of humanity, and their endeavors to alleviate poverty and misery in underdeveloped countries are laudable. It is sad, however, that only a fraction of the funds raised for the poor actually reach them while the lion's share is devoured by rich politicians and bureaucrats running those poor nations. The generous people who donate money to break the vicious circle of poverty would be more successful if they spent time in the poor nations to supervise firsthand the use of their funds. Eradication of poverty is primarily a humanitarian task, but it also has long-term political benefits for the developed world. The deprived are easy prey to rogue elements trying to incite hatred against the rich, and the result is general disorder and a disturbance of global peace.
Extreme poverty is so tragic. Sudden natural disasters like a tsunami mobilize a large number of people and money for a short period of time, while the slow but massive wave of poverty and death in Africa doesn't attract the world's attention in the same way. When we try to help those affected by disasters and extreme poverty, however, we shouldn't focus on the overwhelming number of the dead but simply try to do something good for others.
Fukuoka City, Japan
What about the relationship between population, consumption and resources? After all, poverty, most simply defined, is not having enough resources. The steady growth of the global population, unabated overconsumption of resources by developed nations such as the U.S., and increasing levels of consumption among the growing middle class in many developing nations ensure that there is ever less of the planet's already dwindling resources to go around.
Janet Jimenez Tejada
I have always been deeply grieved by the situation in Africa, but I resent the bleeding-heart bias of Sachs' book. No one forces people in poor countries into the irresponsible sexual behavior that leads to AIDS and neglected, even orphaned children. So what if the U.S. gives so little aid? Other nations also contribute. At any rate, money is not the answer.
Decatur, Georgia, U.S.
The article made me ashamed. I've always thought of myself as not the typical self-absorbed teenager, but I guess I was wrong. While I sit in my large, warm and cozy house, wishing for the shoes and clothes I see in teen magazines, there are people in the world wishing for something as simple as clean water. Thank you for reminding me about people who would be more than happy with what I have.
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
The most direct way to sustainable development is social mobilization and empowerment. The poor should be trained to organize, set priorities and develop skills and resources to put their own community plans into action. What Sachs proposes is perpetuating the conventional top-down way of doing things: outsiders determine the priorities and solutions, then throw money at them. To actually help, we must first develop our own skills and understanding. We need to find out what the poor want and what the root causes of their problems are. We have to listen to poor people, not only to their national leaders.
What makes a difference in people's lives is the small stuffa mature female goat, a loan of $50, money for school fees, a small community-built dam to trap water for the dry season. The world needs to stop initiating and supporting wars and instead open borders to free trade. We should withdraw support from dictators so that democracy can work. Let's spend our time, energy and resources on making friends and addressing the alienation that encourages terrorism to thrive. Let's stop taking away from others so that they don't have enough while we have too much.
Your excerpt from Sachs' book did not so much as mention a major cause of povertyoverpopulation. In recent decades there has been a conspiracy of silence by religious leaders opposed to contraceptives and by politicians and intellectuals who prefer to avoid the sensitive and politically hot issue of curbing explosive population growth in Africa. Had effective measures been taken to reduce overpopulation a generation ago, extreme poverty would not exist today. It is indeed unfortunate that we are led by the wishy-washy, who prefer to address poverty by providing developmental assistance while ignoring the options of birth control and family planning.
Sachs missed one important issue: the rights of women trying to survive in repressive patriarchal societies. As long as women in AIDS-infected areas are forced to have sex with philandering husbands and have no birth control, they will have babies they cannot feed and care for. Without the basic human right of self-determination, there is no way those women can achieve economic and political independence.
While I agree with Sachs and others on the necessity for the developed world to assist Africa with a Marshall-type plan, I am not sure that economic aid by itself will translate substantially into prosperity. The truth is, Africa is a dysfunctional continent, scarred by the most damaging legacy of colonization: the virtual destruction of its social, political and belief systems. Self-esteem, mutual regard and tolerance have given way to self-loathing, mutual disregard and ethnic and religious intolerance. Africa needs a cultural revolution that will heal old wounds, break down artificial boundaries and re-emphasize the traditional African view of the commonality of people.
Judging the Bush Doctrine
Columnist Charles Krauthammer's "Three Cheers for the Bush Doctrine" [March 14] was narrow-minded and premature. The elections in the Middle East do not prove that the goal of the U.S. invasion of Iraq was simply to liberate the Iraqi people and had nothing to do with oil, hegemony or other concerns. Nor can we judge at this early stage whether democracy will take hold in the region. What we do know is that both Afghanistan and Iraq are war zones. Thousands have been killed and their homes destroyed. Terrorism is on the rise. We have alienated our allies and encouraged our enemies to seek nuclear arms, and at home we are cutting funding for basic programs while increasing the military budget and the deficit. I for one am not cheering.
Mill Valley, California, U.S.
Three cheers for Krauthammer's commentary. Never have I felt such pride. President George W. Bush's policy for finding a long-term solution to Islamic terrorism and for promoting peace in the Middle East was a spark for democracy throughout the region. I'm proud of our President, his principles, his leadership and his courage.
Krauthammer's breathless paean to Bush's clairvoyance in orchestrating an unprecedented springtime of democracy in the Middle East would be far more convincing if in fact it had been premeditated. The rationale for the war in Iraq was never altruism or spreading the gospel of democracy. Rather, it was the clear and present danger of Saddam's arsenal of deadly weapons. Let's give credit where it's due, but please, spare us the notion that Bush had any idea what he was getting us into.
Edmund C. Tiryakian
In your interview with Mahmoud Abbas [March 14], the Palestinian President argued that Hamas should be seen as a political party, like Israel's "more than 33 political parties from right to left and in between." The very huge difference is that none of Israel's political parties have a militia to intimidate its foes and conduct terrorist attacks. Until the government of the Palestinian Authority has a monopoly on the use of force in the territory it is supposed to control, Israel has no real Palestinian partner for peace.