Correspondence

From the Executive Editor

The air has up and left conservatism's balloon. And not just substantively (as anyone who has listened to the Republican presidential candidates debate can attest), but politically as well. Public support for conservative policies -- laissez-faire health care, unilateral militarism, gay bashing -- has plummeted, and support for alternative progressive approaches has risen. In this issue, John Judis and Ruy Teixeira revisit their 2002 appraisal of an American electorate that was trending toward the Democrats before 9-11, take an exhaustive look at recent election data, and conclude that the public's shift toward the Democrats has returned stronger than ever -- and enduringly. To which pollster Stan Greenberg adds a huge caveat: Republicans have so discredited government that Democrats will have to square their own politics with the public's deep cynicism toward governmental programs.

Liberalism returns to center stage, however, with one critical part of its infrastructure profoundly subverted. Assessing Martin Peretz's third-of-a-century reign at The New Republic, Eric Alterman documents Peretz's transformation of that magazine from a liberal standard-bearer into neoconservatism's liberal helpmate.

Finally, we inaugurate a new back page column, alternating with Robert Reich's, from Chicago's own Tom Geoghegan (pronounced gay┬┤-gun), defender of the working class and God only knows what else. -- Harold Meyerson

LETTERS

Genetic Differences

Melvin Konner's review of Michael Sandel's "The Case Against Perfection" [May 2007] reads like something written by Ayn Rand on steroids. Konner glibly downplays concerns about sports doping, cosmetic surgery, lifestyle neuropharmaceu-ticals, sperm-sorting to guarantee the sex of your child, and genetic manipulation to enhance your child's "health, brains and beauty." He appears oblivious to the profound real world consequences that the development and widespread marketing and use of such technologies would have for equality, equity, human rights, and solidarity.

Konner repeats two arguments commonly made by libertarians: Genetic enhancement of your kids is the same as sending them to private schools and you can't stop it anyway.

Well, no. High-tech genetic manipulation, repeated over even a few generations, could generate inequalities greater and of a different sort than any heretofore. Most European countries, Canada, Japan, and South Africa, have already adopted policies that draw the proper lines: They support medical research but proscribe the use of genetic technologies for non-medical purposes that could have pernicious societal outcomes. We can do likewise.

Michael Sandel has a distinguished record as a political and moral philosopher of the common good. His analysis provides socially responsible progressives with a basis for thinking about the new human biotechnologies in ways consonant with the values held by the great majority of Americans.

Richard Hayes, Executive Director
Center for Genetics and Society

Mel Konner responds: Richard Hayes unsurprisingly resorts to an ad hominem attack in the absence of a cogent response to the main point of my review. It is not whether enhancement technologies are good or bad under the aspect of eternity -- a kind of certainty I freely admit I have no access to. It is whether my decision to enhance myself or my child shall be subject to some philosopher's or theologian's opinion. In any world I want to live in, neither Hayes nor Sandel will make that decision for me.

Strike Two

I took courses with Albert Wohlstetter in the late 1970s. Anthony David's description ["The Apprentice," June 2007] of him as some kind of wild-eyed ideologue is quite bemusing. Nowhere in Wohlstetter's classic, "The Delicate Balance," does he denounce a policy of leaving the world "half slave and half free" or offer a clarion call to eliminate evil regimes. Instead it is a stringent, largely quantitative, analysis of the requirements of maintaining an effective nuclear deterrent. He demonstrated that U.S. strategic forces, based almost entirely on bombers at that time, could conceivably be destroyed in a surprise missile attack. This article was the foundation of the doctrine of secured second strike, and, though he certainly depreciated the notion, of the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction. His alternative was not just missile defense, but increased emphasis on conventional weapons, including later precision-guided munitions. He was very concerned about nuclear proliferation. However, the emphasis was not on "regime change," but on the dangers of plutonium reprocessing. Indeed, I recall Wohlstetter's disdain for [a] proposal to threaten Warsaw Pact states with tactical nuclear weapons to dissuade them from participating in a conventional attack on NATO.

Ben Fiedler
Seminole, FL

Correction: "The Shia Fellas" by Robert Dreyfuss [June 2007] mistakenly referred to Mohammed Baqr Hakim as "Sadr I." Mohammed Baqr al-Sadr is Sadr I. Sadr but wiser, we regret the error.

Letters to the editor should be sent to letters@prospect.org or mailed to The Editors, The American Prospect, 2000 L St., NW, Suite 717, Washington, D.C. 20036.

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