It was wholly a pleasure to hear from you, for I learn most from my critics. Your criticism, aimed at my comparing this administration's policy toward Iran with the appeasement of an earlier era, was on target -- point by point:
"In at least three crucial senses," you write, "we are presently witnessing a willful blindness and folly of a very different order compared to Munich in 1938.
"First, unlike at Munich, there was no ready lesson at hand about the dangers of appeasement. Now we have that very precedent of Munich in 1938 to warn us.
"Second, Britain and France had significantly disarmed by 1938, and were not prepared to go to war at that time. No, their lack of preparedness does not excuse their appeasement, but it helps explain their hesitancy. Unlike ours today, when the United States and its allies are fully capable of exerting the necessary military power to preserve the peace.
"Third, in the case of Nazi Germany the appeasers were dealing with a great power which, even if weakened for the moment, was still a credible threat. Iran, like North Korea, is the international equivalent of a little bully whom the big boys ought to be able to dispatch with ease -- and the very fact that they are not willing to do so signals a supine posture even worse than that of Munich in 1938, and therefore a much more craven act of appeasement."
Well said. Point by point. I'm indebted to you, sir, as I am to so many close readers and clear thinkers who do their best to educate me.
Dear Spoiling for a Fight,
It was wholly a pleasure to learn of your spirited disagreement with one of my columns. Do feel free to write a letter to the newspaper or website that carried it, too. So all can benefit by hearing your views.
As for your disappointment that I didn't send a personal response to your arguments, or explain them to you, I try not to engage in one-on-one debates with letter writers -- lest I get in the way of their unbridled opinions, which I hope they'll express publicly in a letter to the editor. Also, I'd like to think that I've already made the best case I could in my column, which I hope is self-explanatory, and doesn't require any further explication. Or, as Louis Armstrong said of jazz, if you need to have it explained, you'll never understand it.
Dear Journalism Student,
It was wholly a pleasure to get your piece about homelessness, and to be asked to comment on it. I'm complimented. As for those suggestions you requested about how your essay might be improved, here are some:
--Write less about yourself and your feelings about homelessness, admirable and heartfelt as they may be, and more about your subject.
--Be more informative, less hortatory
--Be concise, specific and informal.
--Remember that the best argument may be a fact.
--Provide anecdotes, information, depth and experience about the subject, not the writer.
--Read George Orwell's "Down and Out in London and Paris." Or anything else by Orwell. Spend some time not only among the homeless but as one of the homeless. Just as he did.
Glad to help,