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Tomorrow Wars

Too often, the news cycle neglects the long-term existential threats to human civilization beyond climate change and environmental destruction. So I was pleased that Rachel Riederer [“Ad Astra,” Report, November] took seriously the threat of an international military conflict in space.

As Riederer writes, our global dependence on satellites is greater than ever. Tensions are rising between the United States, China, and Russia, and trust is in short supply. In a crisis, the time for reflection will be measured in seconds. The risk of war is terrifyingly real.

As Trump’s establishment of the U.S. Space Force signaled, there appears to be little appetite in Washington to tackle these problems diplomatically. I was alarmed to read that a lawyer at Space Operations Command told Riederer that it’s “probably going to take some kind of a significant event” to bring about a new treaty to demilitarize space. Waiting for calamity is a risky strategy.

China and Russia have proposed drafts of treaties that would ostensibly ban weapons in space. Riederer quotes an American diplomat who has said both drafts are “fundamentally flawed.”

As a former British diplomat, I understand the administration’s skepticism. But these draft treaties, for all their weaknesses, could at least provide a starting point for further discussion. If it was possible to negotiate major arms-control treaties at the height of the Cold War, it ought to be possible to do so now. However difficult the process may be, failing to even try is dangerous and negligent.

David Barrie

Riederer makes it clear that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty needs drastic revision, and rightly emphasizes the prospect of a new treaty as a way to prevent space aggression among world powers. But I wish she had more thoroughly discussed the troubling implications of the U.S. Space Force. Yes, other countries have military space programs. But in creating its own national space force, the United States could prompt even more governments to do the same—leading to an increasingly dangerous situation in space. Why not let the Air Force perform space missions as needed, without the fanfare that will surely continue to increase tensions around the world?

Lee Gaillard
Eugene, Oregon



Oh, Brother

When I first heard from a fact-checker at Harper’s Magazine that my brother, David, had written an article about his penis [“Portrait of the Coyote as a Young Man,” Memoir, November], I cringed. Did David really think this subject necessitated an essay in Harper’s?

Like my father, who learned English by listening to the radio and ran our house with an uncommon enthusiasm, I’ve always put my own voice into the world. I talk too loudly on the phone. I sing the same songs to wake my kids in the morning that Dad did, and sometimes end conversations with “Thank you, and good night!” But, like my mom, I’ve always been a private person. Knowing this memoir would be about both David’s penis and our parents made me feel unusually vulnerable.

Our father—a Holocaust survivor, tree farmer, and labor union organizer—died in 2016. Our mother—Minnesota’s first female Native attorney—died in 2020. My mother called me and David “Ojibwe twins,” because we were born less than a year apart. As kids we did everything together: harvest wild rice, play Dungeons & Dragons, fight. Then our twin siblings were born, and our parents’ attention was divided. It was hard for both of us.

Later I’d realize we didn’t need to monopolize our parents’ attention. We had their love. Dad cried at our school performances. He read what we were reading and got to know our friends. Granted, he was sizing them up to do chores, cleverly manipulating us into having sleepovers when it was time to split firewood; but he also showed genuine interest in who they were. Mom loved to fish and play games with us. Thinking of them now, I feel the glow of unconditional love. It warms me on my brightest days, and my darkest.

David struggled to see our parents as I did. He felt ignored. Dad tried to orchestrate a bar mitzvah for David because he knew he needed extra attention. He wanted to give David a piece of cultural patrimony that he never had himself.

While reading David’s memoir, I had to pause. Some of it read like a chapter out of Portnoy’s Complaint. He called himself a “cringing, sex-obsessed demon.” He was honest if not funny. But he saw welcome to the leech lake reservation and read home to intergenerational trauma and despair. Was he talking about the rez or his perceptions of his childhood?

I was thrilled, though, when I read through to the end. David did see the beauty of our family after all. This was a gift to me. While reading, I felt the warmth of my parents’ love. Knowing I could bask in it with my brother amplified my happiness. I hope he opens the curtains and lets the warm light in. I hope it brings him the healing that it has brought me.

I have to correct the record on one thing. I didn’t kill his D&D character Gimli. David approached D&D like he did that giant can of Crisco and his porn stash—with reckless abandon. He got his own character killed. I was the dungeon master. He did stupid shit in the middle of a module. I just rolled the dice.

Thank you, and good night!

Anton Treuer
Bemidji, Minn.