Letters to the Editor

May/June 2016

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Letters to the Editor

‘A Different World’

Thank you for the outstanding feature on Secretary George Shultz (“Steadfast,” March/April). Most secretaries of state see themselves first and foremost as a foreign policy adviser to the president and only secondarily, if at all, as the leader of a large and proud organization. 

Secretary Shultz was an exception to the rule. He recognized and appreciated the work of the Foreign Service and civil service employees of the State Department. And he will always be revered by those of us who worked for him for refusing to bow to demands that all Foreign Service officers and staff be required to undergo polygraphs as a condition of receiving top-secret clearances. He believed his employees were loyal and honest and didn’t need the additional test, then and now required of CIA, NSA, FBI and other intelligence organization employees. It is worth noting that fewer Foreign Service employees have been found guilty of abusing that privilege than is true of their counterparts in those other agencies.
Ambassador (retired) Michael W. Cotter, MA ’76
Pittsboro, North Carolina

George Shultz has much to be proud of, especially his work in helping to end the Cold War. But his judgment and actions were sometimes tragically wrong. Robert Strauss’s profile both ignores and obscures these errors.

Strauss nowhere mentions that Shultz, like Henry Kissinger, fully supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which was the handiwork of his friend and protégée Condi Rice. Shultz continued to do this even after the supposed weapons of mass destruction were not found. In a February 2004 address (Library of Congress Information Bulletin, Vol. 63, No. 2/3) Shultz treated the missing WMD as a mere detail, offering no apologies and urging further preemptive wars against “thugs” like Saddam Hussein to “shore up the state system.” His proposed agenda even went beyond that of President Bush. He has refused to express regret for his zealous advocacy. This attitude deserves scrutiny, but “Steadfast” is steadfast in altogether avoiding this subject.

Strauss also ignores Shultz’s failings regarding the Iran-Contra operation, which are ably related in Malcolm Byrne’s 2014 book, Iran-Contra: Reagan’s Scandal and the Unchecked Abuse of Presidential Power. Shultz was secretary of state during Iran-Contra. He admits that he believed the provision of weapons to Iran to be “completely illegal” and “unconstitutional.” But he did not resign or make any public statement on this until November of 1986. Instead he deliberately stayed away and let “Polecat,” his name for Oliver North, conduct sensitive and stupid diplomacy on behalf of our country. 

He did, of course, successfully stop Reagan and others from additional deceptions after they initially denied the very existence of this operation early in November 1986. That was for the good of everyone, including Shultz. It was both courageous and self-serving. Much more self-serving was his deceptive testimony before Congress, followed in turn by his deceptive initial testimony provided to the Lawrence Walsh prosecutors. Walsh later secured Charles Hill’s detailed notes of Shultz’s Iran-Contra behavior, and this prompted another session during which, with Lloyd Cutler’s help, Shultz significantly changed his earlier and quite inaccurate account of what he knew and when he knew it. 

Strauss implies that Shultz was exonerated from this behavior after a “public furor” over a New York Times article in 1994 about Walsh’s Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters. But it is clear that Walsh had decided well before that not to prosecute Shultz. This was because Shultz had initially opposed the operation and because it was not clear enough that Shultz had deliberately perjured himself. But it was a near thing. Walsh’s Final Report contains strong evidence of dissembling by both Shultz and Charles Hill.

America needs to have a serious debate on the Shultz-Rice view of national security requirements and the quite different views of President Obama as shown in his interviews with Jeffrey Goldberg in the current issue of the Atlantic. I wish that Shultz, who perhaps wisely claims not to be “introspective,” would join the debate honestly and without defending himself so aggressively. 
Peter C. Haley
Portola Valley, California 

So often when Stanford arrives it gets tossed aside for later reading. Not so with this issue. I spotted George Shultz on the cover and retreated immediately to the den. Robert Strauss did a superb job explaining what’s so special about this man. I also enjoyed your comments in First Impressions (“What Civic Virtue Looks Like”). Like you, I’ll take George Shultz over those we must endure in today’s political climate.

I met George Shultz only once, and then just to shake hands. My wife and I were guests several years ago of our Marine officer son and his wife at the annual Marine Corps Birthday Ball in Washington, D.C. My son introduced me to the commandant of the Marine Corps, but meeting Shultz was the highlight of our evening. He was the honored guest and featured speaker, and his remarks brought the house down. As Gen. Mattis would say, the Marines are a tight group, and they welcomed him as one of their own.

I’ll be sending Strauss’s article and your column to my son in the Middle East, where he’s currently serving his eighth deployment.

Where are the George Shultzes of today? God knows we need them.

Keep up the great work with the magazine. There’s something in every issue to catch my attention.
Terry McCollough, ’66
Brainerd, Minnesota

This is a wonderful profile of an enigmatic oldie but goodie. A lot was revealed in a circumspect way, mirroring Shultz himself.

A pleasure to read and good to reflect on a very recent but very different world order.
Hannah Silverman
Toronto, Ontario

George Shultz certainly stands high in a crowded American pantheon of patriots. That we have been blessed by so many fine, high-minded and well-intentioned leaders in our international dealings has to raise the question: Why do things go so badly for virtually every foreign adventure when we mean so well?

How did the nation of Washington’s Farewell Address, the nation of strict adherence to the Monroe Doctrine, the virtually mute nation of 1848 (when 50 revolutions were over in a year) become the bellicose and intrusive one of the 20th and 21st centuries? The painful answer may just be a single sentence from Woodrow Wilson: “America is proud to spill blood in the spread of Democracy”—counter to his words a few years earlier when, running for his second term, he said, “America is too proud to fight.” This permanently established the United States as a moral nation, positioning us not only as the world’s policeman but also its priest, to paraphrase Bret Stephens. Morality has a disastrous track record since becoming the bedrock of U.S. foreign policy. Stanford’s fine article touches on what is at best a dilemma and at worst mushiness and confusion in our leadership because of tergiversation on our admirable 19th century.

Shultz is unable to see that being “morally bound to protect the women and children in [refugee] camps” is doing just what he says we should not do—“turn every nation into Denmark.” Turning a camp into Denmark is not different in kind from [interventions in] Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, Grenada, what with the unpredictable and always unmanageable consequences of every one. All these misadventures are unified by the delusion that we can know the best vested interest of friend and foe without knowing what ours is. 

Morality countenances neither criticism nor introspection. Under its unassailable banner the United States has the “sadim touch,” the reverse of Midas’s.  
Myron Gananian, ’51, MD ’59
Menlo Park, California

Night Moves

Thank you for “Stanford After Dark” (March/April). I routinely love looking at Stanford from a third-person, slightly outsider perspective. And all the details were so wonderful, as well as your own personal musing on Stanford’s legacy, how it stands far longer than many of those who pass through here. As a former Stanford undergrad and current Stanford grad student, I have definitely felt the passing of time, even in the past years. Beautifully written. 
Hye Jeong Yoon, ’14
Menlo Park, California


While I have no doubt that Stanford’s new president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, will be a marvelous leader, I can’t help but feel that the selection committee missed a huge opportunity (“Meet the Next President,” Farm Report, March/April). From the very first, Stanford University has been a coeducational institution, with a diverse student body. I find it hard to believe that there were no exceedingly well-qualified women or other minority candidates who were equally competitive, and it is disappointing that yet another white male has been named president. Imagine the message the trustees of Stanford University could have sent to young women and minorities in academia with a more enlightened choice. 
Laura Kosakowsky, ’76
Tucson, Arizona

Mix and Match

The same issue of Stanford that quoted the incoming president of the university’s commitment to “diversity” ran a story about a student production of Rent from which the Jewish identity of one character had been ethnically cleansed (“Ram’s Head Stages Rent,” Farm Report, March/April).

What’s next? A Rasta Shylock? A white Othello?
David Altschul, MA ’76
Nashville, Tennessee

Lines Crossed

In the March/April issue, I found an error in Marguerite Rigoglioso’s article (“Hands-On from Day One,” Farm Report). “Using mannequins, they learn more invasive procedures, such as how to put a central line into an artery through a patient’s neck using ultrasound and needles.” While there are several clinical indications for placing a central line in a patient’s neck, the line shouldn’t be placed in an artery (that would be a complication of the procedure), but rather a vein.
Dr. Stephen J. Korn, ’83
Sharon, Massachusetts

My Lai Postscript

One minor correction to Kerry Klein’s article: Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson was indeed able to use his helicopter to save a few residents of My Lai from the massacre led by Lt. William Calley (“Music on the Brain,” Farm Report, March/April). Thompson courageously set his chopper down between the pile of massacred civilian corpses and Calley’s troops. He gave orders to his door gunners to open fire upon any of Calley’s troops who fired another shot at the few surviving unarmed civilians in the village.

Calley was my replacement when I was promoted to captain and transferred out of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry. I am happy to say that Charlie Company was detached from and not a part of our battalion on that infamous day.
Tom Macdonald, MA ’65
Sarasota, Florida

Antibiotics’ Ill Effects

Health risks associated with overzealous and inappropriate use of antibiotics in humans extend beyond increasing childhood allergy (“Bacteria We Like,” Farm Report, March/April). Overuse depletes the individual’s health-maintaining microbiome, leads to serious multiresistant infections and incurs adverse drug reactions in the susceptible. Furthermore, the richness, health and biodiversity of the human gut microbiome contributes to the balanced immunomodulation required to suppress harmful inflammatory and allergic processes. Its ecological disruption is implicated in the rising community rates of asthma, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease and other autoimmune disorders. A vastly reduced microbial population in patients who have undergone gut resection predisposes them to chronic disease when compared with the full microbiome complement available to people with intact colons. This reinforces the importance of our microscopic companions for human well-being. On another note, one could do well to also protest the widespread use of antibiotics in animal feed to accelerate cattle and poultry growth to meet our burgeoning demand for dietary protein. Antibiotic use in animal husbandry poses a far greater risk in the global permeation of bug killers into human and natural ecosystems.
Joseph Ting
Brisbane, Australia

Of Broccoli and Things

I read the article “How ‘Broccoli Forest’ Happened” (Farm Report, March/April) with interest, since I was present at the time of renaming. Without pretending to be the final arbiter of this matter, I write with a few recollections at odds with what I read.

I lived in Phi Psi co-op during my sophomore year. Phi Psi regularly received threatening letters from the national offices of Phi Psi fraternity demanding that we change our name. Late one night in the wake of receiving one of these, some of us batted around possible new names. I recall Gretchen Schuster, ’89, MS ’89, grabbing our copy of Molly Katzen’s cookbook and suggesting “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.” In later informal polling, residents agreed that Gretchen had captured the whimsical free spirit of a co-op known best for hosting an annual spring “Drugs on the Grass” party. I think that toward the end of the 1988-89 school year we submitted the name for university approval.

Phi Psi was severely damaged and condemned in the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Residents were scattered across campus for the remainder of that school year. After Stanford evicted the Alpha Delt fraternity at the end of 1989-90, their house was designated the new Enchanted Broccoli Forest. When many former Alpha Delts drew into the house and fewer former co-oppers joined them, the new EBF adopted much more of the Alpha Delt culture (e.g., wonderful murals and Wednesday parties) than what I recall of the old Phi Psi culture.

As to an alternate meaning of “EBF,” which Nate Boswell, ’99, MA ’09, speculates may have been a way to “stick it to the Man a little bit,” I recall no mention of this or even common usage of EBF with such meaning back in 1989. Perhaps I was in the dark then and still am.

Thanks for letting me weigh in on this unique part of Stanford’s history. Gretchen, wherever you are, I wanted you to receive the credit you’re due!
Hilary Hug, ’91
Palo Alto, California

In High Gear

Thank you for your article about Derek Bouchard-Hall becoming the president and CEO of USA Cycling, the governing body of bicycle racing in the United States (“A Savior for Cycling?” The Dish, January/February).

While at Stanford, he was an integral part of the Stanford Cycling Team. At the 1994 collegiate road national championships he finished third in the criterium (a circuit race with many laps around a short course) and, while not winning a medal, was well-placed in the road race. He was a member of the four-man team-time trial team that finished second. He placed second in the omnium, which is a combination of the criterium and road race placings. He won one of only five All-American awards, and he played an important part in Stanford’s second-place finish as a team.

Congratulations, Derek. Good luck with USA Cycling.
Ken Green, ’56
Calistoga, California

Before Gutenberg

Please be advised that if the reference to Gutenberg in the recent issue was to movable type (“Gutenberg’s Galaxy,” Farm Report, November/December), the first instance of that was done by King Sejong in Korea due to the demands imposed by the Chinese in the year 1234.
Laura Bryan, ’71
Camp Nelson, California

The following did not appear in the print version of Stanford.

On Patriotism

Your article “Steadfast” (March/April) has a distasteful glorification of George Shultz’s staunch hawkishness, an attitude that has the world in shambles today, creating desperate people who commit terrorist acts and atrocities as a way to get even with the world’s powers. If by patriotism the author of “What Civic Virtue Looks Like” (First Impressions, March/April) means service, then most people can grant that honor to Shultz for his service in government. But patriotism is not defending a nation with preemptive attacks, invasions and a bellicose ideology. Quite the contrary, patriotism is (or should be) caring enough about one’s country so as to show equanimity and understanding to avoid problems with other nations. I don’t know what world Shultz intends to leave to his grandchildren, but clearly after his many years of hawkish service the world is much worse than when he started serving in government. We can start using his example as something that we tried and didn’t work. To overthrow a bad government in another country, we don’t have to assemble or support a coup, nor bomb civilians or invade it; we can simply spend that money and efforts helping the citizenry, and they themselves will straighten the course of their country at their own pace when they see it necessary. That country could then be grateful for the support given by the United States, instead of hating the United States and gaining it more enemies around the world. Your article “The See Change,” about virtual reality, would serve us all well to gain more empathy with the world.
Ever Rodriguez
Redwood City, California

Thank you for such a wonderful and insightful article on George Shultz. A well-written glimpse of a career and life still going. In reading your article and with the passing of Nancy Reagan, memories of an era of time came streaming back to me in a personal way.

My sister Annie and I headlined on USO tours and performed with Bob Hope as well as for the U.S. ambassador under Reagan at events at the embassy in Vienna before the wall came down. We had graduated from Stanford and were living in Nashville as recording artists and songwriters for MCA Music when we got the call to perform as special guests at the Beverly Hilton for a benefit gala honoring President Reagan in his final year.

Boy, were we nervous! Our dinner table when I think about it was an historical moment in itself. Annie and I were seated on either side of one the greatest film stars, Jimmy Stewart. His wife, Gloria, was on my left and on Annie’s right was the ambassador to the Vatican, who personally worked with George Shultz. . . . Then we were introduced by Hollywood and Broadway star Nannette Fabray and accompanied by a Grammy award-winning conductor and orchestra. I tripped onstage in my mermaid long dress but caught myself—the show must go on!

After we sang, I will always remember Jimmy Stewart leaning over to give us each a kiss on the forehead, saying “You girls are wonderful!” It was an honor to sing for the Reagans, which led to performing at other presidential private dinners and benefit events as well as later being invited to attend special events at the Reagan Library. Nancy Reagan truly was quite a force.

Your article quotes Shultz regarding the financial crisis and how the regulatory process didn’t work. My father, age 91 and still an entrepreneur, was an Army/Air Corps-trained fighter pilot in WWII and served during the Korean War. He also served a term in the legislature as a Democrat [and was] appointed to the FHA, where he helped people trying to keep their homes instead of going into foreclosure, [which] he believes was because of the banking system as well.
Amy M. Smith, ’85
Cheyenne, Wyoming
Annie Smith Jackson, ’85
Nashville, Tennessee

I have just finished the “George Shultz” issue and I had to write to convey how brilliant Stanford is. I receive alumni magazines from Berkeley, Oregon, SF State and UCLA, but Stanford is the best. The articles, the layout of the magazine, and the Letters section are well-written and so informative. The magazine is the only one I read from cover to cover.

In 1990, I came to the Hoover Institution’s Russian Archives for graduate research, and eventually because of Hoover [I went] to the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television to write my script, and then my film Dasvidanya, now seen on YouTube, Vimeo and Twitter.

My UCLA film Never Forget That I Love You is now part of the Stanford Film Society on I owe much to Stanford and the Stanford Alumni Association. 
Michael P. Richards
West Hollywood, California

I am writing to protest the hagiography of George Shultz in the last issue. The image of the supposedly heroic Shultz shoving a protester who was demonstrating against Kissinger, the architect of the Pinochet dictatorship as well as the prolongation of the Vietnam War, was especially disturbing. What has happened to the magazine I once loved and even wrote an End Note for? To make matters worse, there was even an insert for the Wall Street Journal in that issue. I love Stanford and hate to see this abomination under its name.
David Alford, ’59, MA ’65
Avery, California

The Human Threat

Exhortation for the Earth” (The Dish, January/February) needs to extend its remit to the threat posed by human population growth beyond [the level] capable of being supported by Earth’s diminishing food and natural resources. The longstanding but recently dormant debate on the sustainability of population growth is an integral topic that complements recent media focus on global warming and catastrophic weather events. There needs to be balanced discussion on the societal and health impact of water degradation, overcrowding and food depletion, as well as heightened risk of conflict fueled by competition for limited resources. Beyond river and environment degradation, critical destruction of animal habitat and accelerated loss of biodiversity needs to be foregrounded. When all living beings are interdependent and inextricably linked, this omission is remiss.

Exponential human population growth is not just constrained by the depletion of food stocks and rapid environmental degradation. Although food production has kept pace with recent population growth through better crop yields, improved farming practices and more efficient food distribution, shortage of safe drinking water in many parts of the inhabited world remains a threat to all life. The successful cultivation of crops and animals for human consumption is contingent upon adequate supplies of water. Water is the font of life on earth; no life (including sources of human food) can take root without it. Indeed, we search for it in outer space as a harbinger of life. 
Joseph Ting
Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, Australia

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