Costa Rica, a nation at peace

Re “Costa Rica's peace dividend,” Opinion, Dec. 15

David P. Barash writes an interesting Op-Ed article on Costa Rica's decision decades ago to abolish its military. But a statement he makes at the end — that “war can become a national habit and militarism a way of life. But so can peace” — implies that militarism is optional.

Many nations have no choice; if surrounded by hostile neighbors, a strong military is essential to their very survival. Israel is the most obvious example, but there are many others that face regional skirmishes, including India and Pakistan, nations in Africa, countries near China and so on.

Costa Rica's circumstances, with friendly and militarily weak neighbors and the U.S. generally keeping an eye on things in that part of the world, allowed it to demilitarize without negative consequence.

Unfortunately, in today's world, that is the exception.

Bruce Bates
Coto de Caza

During a visit to Costa Rica in 2008, our guide took us through the country's former military headquarters, which was built like a fort and became the national art museum. When I commented on our guide's incredible command of his country's history, he replied: “Why wouldn't I share that? It's my heritage.”

As Barash noted, in 1948 the nation's former military budget was diverted to healthcare, education and environmental protection. This is reflected in the Costa Rican people, who love their country and are most gracious in sharing that love. The children we met spoke beautiful English, even in the very small communities.

Regardless of Costa Rica's size, this demilitarization should be doable anywhere. Might we ever recognize that war, conflict and violence only lead to more of each?

Beverly Franco
Monterey Park

I felt all warm and fuzzy after reading Barash's essay on the happiness level of nonmilitarized small countries like Costa Rica. He admits it's easy to be skeptical of surveys on happiness.

I can only assume Barash is critical of the level to which the U.S. maintains its standing armed forces. He says that “war can become a national habit and militarism a way of life.”

So I ask Barash this question: Who will stand up to the Hitlers and the Stalins or the jihadists of this world? Who will denounce the slaughter of innocents? Who will defend freedom and liberty?

Certainly not Costa Rica.

Mary Curtius

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