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Letters: Pre-Emptive War, Banjo, Happiness 101

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Letters: Pre-Emptive War, Banjo, Happiness 101

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Letters: Pre-Emptive War, Banjo, Happiness 101

Letters: Pre-Emptive War, Banjo, Happiness 101

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Robert Siegel and Melissa Block read from listeners' letters and e-mails, including comments on last week's segment about the Bush administration's doctrine of pre-emptive war, reflections on the recordings of the clawhammer banjo, and a report about the "positive psychology" class at Harvard.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Thursday is the day we read from your email. Iraq has been a major subject of our coverage in the last week.

SIEGEL: And first, a note on our segment yesterday about the debate over whether Iraq is in a civil war.

BLOCK: Micah Campbell or Norman, Oklahoma, writes: it struck me when listening to your interview with Colonel Thomas Hammes that, by his definition, our own civil war would not be classified as such. He stated that as long as there was a central government who we could work with, then what we are seeing is just an insurgency. By that logic, what our country experienced during the 1860s was nothing but an insurgency.

SIEGEL: Our interviews about the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war and the war in Iraq attracted a lot of mail. We spoke with Ivo Daalder of the Bookings Institution and Father Richard John Newhouse of the Institute on Religion and Public Life. Daalder has raised questions about the doctrine. Newhouse voiced support for it.

BLOCK: Charles Siegel of San Diego wrote: I listened with interest to your excellent questioning of Dr. Newhouse. I don't disagree with the concept in general, but I believe he made a major error about the specific case of Iraq when he said that Saddam Hussein clearly had it in for other people, including Americans. If the real goal had been because he was a threat to his own people or others, we should have been as agitated, or more, about even worse societies, such as North Korea.

SIEGEL: But Andy Wood of Bedford, Massachusetts, wrote in support of Newhouse. It is astounding to me, he says, that there seems to be a contingent that believes that we should allow our country and its citizens to be massacred, even if we know that it's going to happen.

If we were attacked and our government knew anything about it and did nothing, no pre-emptive action, the entire U.S. population could stand between the members of Congress and the TV cameras, and we would get trampled to death.

BLOCK: On a lighter note:

(Soundbite of clawhammer banjo music)

NPR's Paul Brown reflected, this week, on Charles Faurot and the re-release of his recordings, Clawhammer Banjo, Volumes 1, 2 and 3. Alex Slater of Ashland, Oregon, heard the music and began to reminisce.

SIEGEL: He tells us Volume 1 of this series was the LP I played in my rainy Oregon cabin all winter long in the early 1970s, before deciding to pick up the banjo and actually do it. Clawhammer banjo is like my first love, sweet memories that form the core of who I am musically. Thank you for that reminder and for the satisfaction of knowing that this style is being played today by younger players and has not died out.

(Soundbite of clawhammer banjo music)

BLOCK: Well one more story left listeners upbeat, our report on the most popular class at Harvard, Positive Psychology. The most popular class used to be Intro to Economics, but Positive Psychology professor, Tal Ben-Shahar, made clear his view that money won't bring you happiness.

SIEGEL: I am delighted to hear that Harvard instructor Tal Ben-Shahar does not believe that more money brings happiness.

BLOCK: This note from Warren Keith Wright of Arbor, Missouri, who goes on: How soon can he arrange to have his substantial paycheck direct deposited in my bank account.

SIEGEL: Well, you can deposit your comments with us. Go to out web site, NPR.org, and click on contact us at the top of the page.

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