The looming specter of sequestration represents one of the most serious national security threats in recent U.S. history — and, tragically, it would be self-imposed (“Pentagon not yet prepared to detail effects of ‘doomsday mechanism’ of cuts,” Stripes Central post, Nov. 5). We simply can’t absorb another trillion-plus dollars in defense cuts as a nation without failing to modernize our military in such key areas as air superiority, modern refueling capability, drone aircraft and missile defense.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s “shooting ourselves in the head” metaphor is apt. At a time when our economy is stalling while China’s is growing 10 percent a year, when Iran’s nuclear program is proceeding full-tilt, when North Korea is successfully testing ballistic missiles, and when radical Islamic terrorists remain active around the world, we can’t afford to take a decade off from investing in the military resources we need to counter current and future threats.

Imagine if early criticism of our missile defense program had deterred the Pentagon from the investments that produced what is now the only tactical defense against North Korea launching a Taepodong-2 missile at Anchorage, Alaska. Even Democrats such as Hillary Rodham Clinton now support missile defense. Yet the supercommittee’s possible failure could eviscerate this program and others like it.

America’s enemies must be hoping for sequestration.

Maj. Gen. Bentley B. Rayburn (retired)

Former president, Air War College

Former commander, Air Force Doctrine Center

Colorado Springs, Colo.

Protesters need new masks

Regarding the Nov. 7 article “The symbol of a protest movement: Occupy demonstrators wear ‘Vendetta’ masks to show opposition to ‘The Man’ ”: Protests are nothing new but the least that these protesters could do is come up with their own symbol for their protest instead of co-opting a figure from British history. (Just because the mask was made famous in the movie “V for Vendetta” as a symbol of protest does not take away from its actual ties to history.)

Also, I can’t help but make note of the irony of the statement about buying counterfeit masks to circumvent “The Man,” when the photo with the article clearly shows the protester using what appears to be a newer variety of smartphone. (Wonder if he gets his cell service from China or somewhere like that?)

Vestal Taylor

Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates

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