To the Editor:

Ben Rhodes’s Dec. 26 review of Elizabeth D. Samet’s “Looking for the Good War” made me think of how there really isn’t a “good war” or a “just war” or one fought by the “greatest generation.” Virtually all war is fought mostly by poor or at most middle-class folks enticed to join up by the economy and the mythical propaganda of the wealthy who will not fight. For their noble efforts, many die, many more are wounded. These efforts may be heralded by a parade and maybe a monument but mostly they are forgotten.

Historians don’t even agree on the necessity of most wars, whether they made a difference in the big scheme of things or not, whether they were truly in self-defense. All that can be said for certain is that these thousands of wars, fought since man became cognizant of territory and his own desire to control it, brought an unnatural end to the lives of millions.

John E. Colbert
Arroyo Seco, N.M.

To the Editor:

In his review of Elizabeth D. Samet’s “Looking for the Good War,” Ben Rhodes decries the often unnuanced “triumphalism” of America’s recent wars, including World War II. Citing the America First Committee formed in 1940 and its often shameful whitewashing of fascist and Nazi regimes in Europe, Rhodes evokes the triple recipients of the group’s blind eye: “fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism.” Truth be told, however, the committee had its share of Communist members until — of course — June of 1941, when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Moreover, the committee boasted the support of two future presidents of the United States — Gerald Ford and John F. Kennedy — as well as the future Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart.

To defeat blatant evil we must be impelled by a certain triumphalism. Had it not been so, we might be “nuancing” our way under the iron boot of Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin.

Hillel Stavis
Arlington, Mass.

To the Editor:

Wyatt Mason’s sensitive review of Lydia Davis’s “Essays Two” (Dec. 12) quotes a list of sounds that Davis thinks Proust would have heard as a child. It put me in mind of a similar — though shorter — list that another writer compiled. The 19-year-old Ira Gershwin wrote in his diary on Sept. 21, 1916: “Heard in a day: An elevator’s purr, telephone’s ring, telephone’s buzz, a baby’s moans, a shout of delight, a screech from a ‘flat wheel,’ hoarse honks, a hoarse voice, a tinkle, a match scratch on sandpaper, a deep resounding boom of dynamiting in the impending subway, iron hooks on the gutter.” The future lyricist already knew that close observation of sensory details would help make him a superior writer.

Susanna Reich
Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.

The writer is the author, most recently, of “Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music and the Path to Justice.”

To the Editor:

The Dec. 26 review of Peter Robison’s “Flying Blind,” about Boeing’s dereliction of duty, was sad as well as maddening. I was a young flier during Boeing’s heyday, when pilots were proud to say, “If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going.” Airbus’s appearance in the market with its strange control system, in which each side’s control column operated independently, was widely derided as “crazy.”

Events showed how dangerous it is to let people with no experience as pilots decide how the aircraft is going to be built.

Robert F. Ward
Highlands Ranch, Colo.

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