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April 11 1997 3:30 AM

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The McMarshall Plan

In his book review "How the West Won," Martin Walker makes an awkward attempt to criticize the West for its air of superiority after victory in the Cold War. Although he doesn't want to blame U.S. policy-makers for fomenting and maintaining the Cold War or for failing to seize supposed golden opportunities to make a deal with Stalin, he doesn't want to let them off the hook either.

Martin buttresses his case with one of the poorest spokesmen imaginable: Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin's foreign minister. Martin cites his rants against American cultural influence and its "economic enslavement" of Europe, all of which are just an echo of the Moscow line against the Marshall Plan. Stalin didn't want any Americans around to influence anybody or to see anything, and as his puppet, Molotov chirped along. Now Martin repeats his words as if they were prophetic.

As far as I can judge, Martin has no liking for these revolting characters, nor for the regime they represented, which was the most disastrous social experiment in history. Rather, he wants to complain about the current Americanization of Europe: the fast foods, the consumerism, the fake entertainment, the destruction of native cultures, the profiteering, and the corporations.


Agreed: It is horrible. But I do not agree that the Cold War was about that. To blame the Marshall Plan for the transmission of mindless high-tech adventure films into every city of Europe is akin to blaming Thomas Jefferson's belief in free speech for Hustler magazine and porn shops in every city in America. Neither Jefferson nor Marshall quite had those things in mind.

--Gary Kern

Back in Baby's Arms

As a fellow failed "Ferberizer," I enjoyed Robert Wright's most recent column, "Go Ahead--Sleep With Your Kids." But I found it curious that he ignored a relevant phenomenon that he described so clearly in The Moral Animal: the mother-offspring conflict over weaning. This conflict is inevitable in mammalian life because offspring seek to monopolize maternal resources as long as possible, but their mothers seek to divide resources between all present and future offspring.


Sounds a little like Wright's "Ferberizing" experiences to me. To be fair, Wright is talking about sleeping with a newborn infant, before the age when weaning would naturally become an issue. However, from my own experience, a newborn becomes a 12-month-old and then an 18-month-old rather quickly. Unfortunately, mine were no less vocal in their objections to being kicked out of our bed at those ages than when they were infants.

Also, the resulting obstacle to the parents' sex life is not the incidental side effect that Wright suggests. Rather it may serve to delay the conception of a rival for maternal resources--both directly (by literally coming between Mom and Dad) and indirectly (by tending to prolong breast-feeding and, therefore, to suppress ovulation for a longer period).

In the end, I agree that principles of evolutionary psychology tend to support the argument for sleeping with your infant. But those same principles also suggest that if you choose to do so, you won't avoid the noisy battle of wills with your child--you'll merely postpone it.

--Mark Weaver


The Family That Lies Together, Thrives Together

I was gratified to read Robert Wright's article "Go Ahead--Sleep With Your Kids," but I think it missed the larger point. With modern America's emphasis on independence and individualism, you might say that the early separation from parents is sending a forceful message to their children that they are going to have to learn that American virtue of self-reliance. Societies in which children sleep with parents bring up the kids to be cooperative members of their social group. Though I appreciate the personal freedoms I enjoy as an adult, I think our culture is overly fearful of the dependent nature of children, and so we try to force them (prematurely) to be the atomized individuals that industrial society demands.

Another influence on this debate is the Freudian trend of seeing all family relationships as sexually charged. As Wright implies in passing, there is a feeling that sleeping with children is vaguely incestuous. However, incest tends to occur among families that are distant, not ones that are intimate. Everyday contact, in fact, seems to take away the glamour.

--Amy Reeves

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