To the Editor:
In claiming that the United States is exceptional and justified in its expansionism, John Steele Gordon writes that the U.S. “did not seek or acquire any additional territory as a result of [World War II]” (“What Makes America Exceptional,” March). This is at best simplistic and at worst baldly false. While the initial intentions of the U.S. may not have reflected expansionist spirits, the result in the Pacific was a massive expansion of America’s territorial commitments under its own terms.
This U.S. did this both in the South Pacific and the East China Sea. The country, through action in Kwajalein, Enewetak, Peleliu, Saipan, Tinian, and the surrounding waters stripped the Japanese Empire of its possessions under the South Pacific Mandate of the League of Nations. It then immediately legitimized its control as the administrator of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands under the United Nations, of which the U.S. is a P5 Security Council member and which Japan did not join until December 1956. The U.S. also established the United States Military Government of the Ryukyu Islands after the Battle of Okinawa, one of the most hard-fought battles of the Pacific theater. This organization was succeeded by the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands, which lasted until 1972, and the ongoing Marine presence on the island.
It does a disservice to remove these areas from the discussion. Furthermore, a portion of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands has evolved into the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a United States–organized insular area represented by a delegate in the US House of Representatives. The U.S.’s complicated and difficult reckoning with its own composition is only impeded if there is not an understanding of the full expanse of the country.
Samuel W. Biddle
John Steele Gordon writes:
Regarding Samuel W. Biddle’s objections, yes, the Northern Marianas are now U.S. territory (all 179 square miles of them—about half the size of New York City). But the reason is that the people of the Northern Marianas wanted it that way. It was their choice and they made it. The other territories he mentions, such as the Ryukyu Islands, which run south from Japan to Okinawa, were artifacts of a war that Japan started and lost. They are all, once again, Japanese territory.
Regime Change and Nationalism
To the Editor:
May I offer two comments on Michael Mandelbaum’s excellent “In Praise of Regime Change” (March), in which he points to the three states that disrupt global peace—Russia, China, and Iran—and calls on changing their regimes?
First, Mr. Mandelbaum calls the invasion of Ukraine, attempts to control the South China Sea, and dominance in four Arab capitals “aggressive nationalism”; but would these not better be called imperialism? More broadly, is not aggressive nationalism always imperialism, that is, ruling foreign peoples? This distinction is important to keep in mind.
Second, Mr. Mandelbaum is too reticent when it comes to what the U.S. government might do to turn these autocracies into democracies, offering the rather insipid trio of containment, weakening them “at the margins,” and Americans providing an “attractive counterexample.”
What he does not mention is challenging the legitimacy of the tyrannies and perhaps aiding their enemies. China and Russia would have to be handled with great delicacy, but Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin need to be put on notice that they cannot with impunity attack others, that doing so can exact a price in terms of legitimacy and stability.
Iran, in contrast, would be easy to check, due to its unrelenting hostility to the United States (symbolized by the slogan “Death to America”). Imagine what a boost to the mullahs’ myriad enemies American political and especially material support would be. Imagine, too, how this would frighten those mullahs. After 40 years of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is time for Washington to call for a change in regime.
Middle East Forum
Michael Mandelbaum writes:
I thank Daniel Pipes for his two very interesting comments. As to the first, I refer to the foreign policies of Russia, China, and Iran as examples of aggressive nationalism because the three regimes justify these policies to their target audiences—the people they undemocratically govern—by basing them on nationalist sentiment. Evidence of this is the fact that, as I note in my new book, The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth, all three assert (falsely) that the policies in question are defensive in nature, undertaken to protect their countries from the allegedly rapacious designs of the West, led by the United States. They claim, that is, that their nation is in danger. Still, imperial considerations are relevant in all three cases: Each dictatorship also justifies its foreign policies as necessary efforts to restore its country to its rightful dominance of its home region, which, if achieved, would come against the wishes and at the expense of its neighbors. Moreover, China and Iran are multinational states from which the minority nations might well choose to secede if given the opportunity; and Russia was recently the core of the world’s largest multinational empire, the Soviet Union, which Vladimir Putin sometimes seems committed to re-creating.
As for more forcefully challenging the legitimacy of the dictatorships, I see two potential difficulties. First, the dictatorial governments would surely portray such efforts as actual attacks on the nation, rather than the regime, and might thereby succeed in bolstering their own power at home. Second, the allies that the United States requires for successful campaigns of this kind might well decline to take part. Alarmed though they are at Russia’s and China’s aggressive conduct, the Europeans and especially the East Asians are reluctant to do anything to jeopardize their commercial ties with these two countries. That said, the three do have one particular vulnerability that could be more productively exploited than is now the case. The rulers of Russia, China, and Iran are all deeply corrupt. The democracies can and should do more to publicize and spell out the details of this corruption and change the Western policies that inadvertently support it, an issue on which the Washington-based Kleptocracy Initiative is doing important work.
Jews and Power
To the Editor:
I thoroughly appreciated Sharon Goldman’s sharp insight into the incompatibility of intersectionality and Zionism (“Jews Must Not Embrace Powerlessness,” March). She is right to note that the point of ideological contention between the movements is the progressive rejection of any representation of power. Zionism’s success in the establishment of the State of Israel and its endurance in the face of endless threats do not fit the cult-of-the-victim mold.
The incompatibility between Jewish social-justice activism and Zionism was the invention of the ideology of Tikkun Olam. When Tikkun Olam replaced traditional Judaism as the religion of cosmopolitan American Jewry, it replaced the chosenness of the Jewish people as represented in Zionism with the shallow moral righteousness of leftism. As long as the dogma of intersectional victimhood remains the core ideology of the left, Zionists who believe in the God-given right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, and who support its Jewish character and security, will have no home on the left.
Great Neck, New York
To the Editor:
Sharon Goldman’s great and necessary essay is missing one thing: the end vision of those who promote intersectional ideology. Like all religions, intersectionality offers a vision that animates and attracts its followers. For example, Zionism will always carry a sense of “chosenness.” Something or someone, a superior being, has selected a people and called them forward. That a people were chosen and then called, and thus made special, is an insult to the intersectional social-justice cult. Their utopia arises not from being chosen but from being inflicted upon.
The conflict that Goldman writes about is not a meager quarrel about politics, but a manifestation of serious theological discordance. The different heavenly visions of these groups are irreconcilable. It is from this theological perspective that one begins to sense the dangers within the intersectional social-justice cult. Thus, the need for meekness in our times. Please note, I use meekness in its biblical sense, meaning power that is controlled and used wisely. It is not the Jewish people alone who need such meekness, but all people who cross paths with this odious cult that hides under a mantel of benevolence. I thank Sharon Goldman for a phenomenal piece.
Father Nicholas Blackwell, O. Carm.
Bronx, New York
Jews and the Original Sin
To the Editor:
In his Jewish Commentary column “American Karni,” Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik states that Judaism denies the doctrine of original sin (March). This is perhaps not entirely accurate. In the ritual of kapparot, the fowl to be used is specific to the sinner who is seeking absolution. A man must use a rooster while a woman must use a hen. Interestingly, a pregnant woman uses two hens as she recites “ayloo chalifahtaynoo,” which is clearly plural. One hen is presumably for her, and so the other must be for her as yet unborn child. A question therefore arises: If Judaism denies original sin, then for what can the unborn fetus possibly need to atone?
Rye, New York