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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

Women in combat Regarding the editorial "Women on the Front Lines," Aug. 9: It is curious indeed that the people urging women into warfare are, in many cases, the same people complaining about "date rape." Can women hold their own against male aggressiveness or not? Parker Bauer, Oklawaha, Fla.

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The editorial strikes me as rather peculiar. Why advocate spreading participation in combat by the more peaceful and gentle segment of humanity? Adolf Schoepe, Anaheim, Calif.

Judging accomplishments Thank you for the wonderfully enlightening article "The Judge Who Judged His Sister," July 30. The author has singularly taps into an important aspect of the Clarence Thomas nomination for the US Supreme Court. She pares away other less relevant facts and focuses this reader's attention on issues that are relevant to us all. The issue is measuring individual achievement. It is often limited to "What have you accomplished professionally?" That's akin to saying the importance of a job is strictly a function of how much the job pays. Clarence Thomas has done well for himself professionally. But so has his sister Emma Mae Martin. She raised her children after her husband abandoned the family. And she took care of an elderly incapacitated aunt. However, her good work is not recognized by our society. I applaud Ms. Martin for doing what was right. And I applaud the author for picking up on it and making the concept understandable. God bless Ms. Martin; it is people like her who enrich our lives. They are the somebodies who should be held up as role models more often. Dick Sheasley, Anchorage, Alaska Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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