What Makes a Superpower?

The opinion-page column "Bush's Opportunity to Foster Freedom Around the World," Aug. 8, skews what should be a proper set of national priorities by arguing that the United States, the sole remaining superpower, should have as its top priority the promotion of democracy abroad. The problem arises from an overly austere definition of superpower: a "nation able and willing to project its power around the world," and the implication that the Bush administration would know a democracy if it saw one. El Salvador? China? What the author ignores are the ultimate determinants of power that will be around long after his weapons have been beaten into plowshares: the quality of our technology, education, health services, and guiding values, just to begin. He fails to recognize the threat that his narrow-minded definition of "power" would pose to this nation's future and would do well to see it more as a disabling factor than as an asset. While "bringing millions throughout the world that same freedom that is the cornerstone of the American nation" may be a commendable goal, it risks compounding the very flaws that presently exist in US foreign policy - paternalism, double standards, opportunism, and jingoism. This nation would do far better to put its own deeply troubled house in order - energizing our decaying industry, pushing for a more competitive school system, and eradicating hunger, violence, and drugs - before running around the world "projecting" its power and then not knowing what to do in its aftermath. Greta Paa, Washington, Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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