Letters to the editor

By
The Fifty-first State?

In his article on the problems facing the United States in a postwar Iraq ( "The Fifty-first State?," November Atlantic), James Fallows makes a seemingly sound point: if Washington invades Iraq alone, the United States alone will bear the high financial costs of rebuilding the country. After all, why would countries that opposed the war spend millions of dollars to deal with the aftermath?

This line of reasoning, however, overlooks a key point. It would be in the interests of Europe and Japan to provide money for reconstruction. As Fallows points out, Iraq, with its vast, untapped oil reserves, has the potential to be another Saudi Arabia. If Western countries opted out of providing financial assistance, they would jeopardize their oil interests in Iraq, which history shows they are loath to do. France has avoided taking a hard-line stance against Saddam Hussein partly because of its desire to tap Iraq's oil once sanctions end. After the Persian Gulf War, Japan helped to maintain its influence in the region through construction projects for Iraq's neighbors.

In short, the allure of Iraq's oil and the desire to limit the United States' economic gains would compel Europe and Japan to provide financial assistance even if Washington fought Saddam alone. As Fallows argues, Washington would face major problems in a postwar Iraq, but a heavy financial burden for reconstruction would probably not be one of them.

Erik Swabb
Salt Lake City, Utah

James Fallows writes with foresight about the terrible consequences if the United States invades Iraq. But he doesn't similarly write of the consequences of Saddam Hussein's having a nuclear weapon. So both sides may be right: it's a disaster if the United States goes in and a disaster if it doesn't. In foreign policy we sometimes face a variety of alternatives, each one demonstrably wrong. The test is which are the better alternatives when none of them are desirable.

Ron Cohen
Houston, Texas

End of the West

It is difficult to envision Europe's becoming "a formidable counterweight to the United States on the world stage," as postulated by Charles A. Kupchan (The Agenda, "The End of the West," November Atlantic), considering that the EU "heavyweights" (Germany, France, England) are steadily undergoing a profound racial and ethnic transformation by unfettered immigration, from predominantly Caucasian to Middle Eastern Semitic and African Negro, and in religious identity, from predominantly Christian to Muslim.

The EU had best make haste if it is considering "making a run at the United States," before it collapses in multicultural chaos, although a dispassionate analysis of current immigration-driven demographic trends in the United States portends a drowning of national identity in multicultural chaos here, too. Looks to me like a contest between ninety-seven-pound weaklings, with Communist China the chuckling onlooker.

Leonard C. Johnson
Moscow, Idaho

Charles Kupchan's article raises several excellent points about the troubled future of the trans-Atlantic alliance but misses two key points.

First, citing expansion into Eastern Europe as a means of increasing the European Union's power overestimates the value these states will bring to the EU. As with the induction of new countries into NATO, the states of Eastern Europe will be a net drain for some time to come. In particular, the hordes of cheap labor that stand ready to flow into Western and Northern Europe will present a real point of contention. Kupchan cites Europe's antipathy toward foreign immigrants as a values gap with the United States; Western Europe fears cheap labor swarming in from Eastern Europe every bit as much as from North Africa. Moreover, as the EU acquires new members, it will also acquire a host of new dilapidated economies, ravaged environments, and sharp ethnic conflicts. Given decades of intensive investment, Europe will in time realize the potential of these countries, but to assume that geographic expansion automatically translates into increased power is erroneous.

Second, heavy American military investment in European security through NATO remains the elephant that no one wants to talk about. Kupchan's remarks do not address the twin problems that would readily beset Western Europe should the United States radically reduce or remove its European military presence. Not only would the absence of "neutral" third-party America likely drive some if not all of Western Europe to reconsider old rivalries, but those same European nations lack the financial resources to meet the challenge of arming for themselves—even to a modest level. Western European military forces are a mere shadow of their former selves and lack much of the advanced technology that makes U.S. forces so effective: strategic lift, command and control, precision-guided munitions, and the like. The trans-Atlantic defense community has long recognized a growing gap between the very high-tech forces that the United States fields and the traditionally low-tech forces fielded by its NATO allies.

At issue, then, would be the very effectiveness of the defense forces that the EU would have to build for itself. For any mission beyond territorial defense, the nations of the EU would have to make substantial cuts to their socialized butter in order to pay for the new guns—and post-Cold War history shows that the nations of Europe have been extremely reluctant to cut the social-welfare benefits that high taxes and high investment bring in order to pay for robust militaries. Moreover, building robust militaries—even if only for territorial defense—would require either expanded conscription or extended terms of service, both of which are highly unpalatable to Europeans.

Joe Gigliotti
Alexandria, Va.

Charles Kupchan seems to have been carried away by the ease of driving from Germany to France. Adding that not-really-so-new aspect of European integration to a series of other observations, he makes a case for a united Europe with global reach. He draws an unsustainable parallel with the United States' long path toward unity. Without citing any statistics, he asserts that much of the investment capital that buoyed the U.S. economy in the 1990s is now headed to the other side of the Atlantic. He further asserts that the recent gains of the euro against the dollar will enhance EU productivity and growth. He is all wet.

I have never met a citizen or subject of any country who describes himself as "European," except in a geographic sense. And many British wouldn't even go that far. "Europe" is a collection of separate peoples, some of whom have chosen to unite in a common market and even fewer of whom use a common currency. Nothing more.

In drawing a parallel with U.S. history, Kupchan ignores the fact that one thing that drew the United States together was a common language. Unless we take into account the laughable experiment with Esperanto, no one has seriously proposed a common language for Europe.

Saying that "two thirds of the union's population" supports "the adoption of a Europe-wide constitution" is misleading. Not all European states are EU members. The English Channel will freeze over before France and England are united under a common constitution. The latter doesn't even have a constitution in the traditional sense. The Mediterranean will freeze before all of Europe is united under a common constitution.

Carlisle Johnson
Radio Infinita
Guatemala City, Guatemala

Charles A. Kupchan replies:
Joe Gigliotti is correct that the EU's enlargement to the east will present the union with a host of new political, economic, and social challenges. But enlargement will in the long run strengthen the EU, for three main reasons. First, to ready the union for the inclusion of new states, current members are fortifying and centralizing its governing institutions. Precisely because a bigger EU could potentially be a more unwieldy one, its members are preparing for enlargement by deepening the union's collective character and identity. The ongoing European Convention is in the midst of debating crucial steps, including the adoption of a constitution, the direct election of a European President, and the appointment of a single Foreign Minister to represent Europe in the global arena.

Second, with many of the EU's current members facing demographic decline in the years ahead, enlargement offers an important means of augmenting Europe's work force, as does immigration from Turkey and from Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The influx of laborers will no doubt trigger social tensions and impress upon Europe the need to assimilate its growing Muslim population more effectively. But contrary to the perspective offered by Leonard Johnson, immigration and multiculturalism will ultimately strengthen Europe's economy, as they have strengthened the U.S. economy.

Third, enlargement will enhance the EU's geopolitical influence in Europe's heartland. Mr. Gigliotti is right to point out that EU members remain militarily weak and need to devote more political capital and money to improving their defense capabilities. But they are slowly heading in the right direction. France last year announced that it intends to increase its defense spending by 20 percent. EU members have collectively placed orders for almost 200 A400M transport aircraft. The EU is gradually taking over from NATO responsibility for ongoing peacekeeping missions in the Balkans. Countries soon to join the EU will make their own contributions to building up Europe's defenses. Poland, for example, has a sizable army and recently placed orders for forty-eight F-16s.

Carlisle Johnson's Europhobia is impressive, even if misguided, and prompts me to recommend that he invest in a pair of ice skates. If the Mediterranean will freeze over before Europe has a constitution, he may soon need them to cross it.

Animal Rights

In his review of Matthew Scully's new book, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, Christopher Hitchens ("Political Animals," November Atlantic) is as morally generous as he can be within the limitations of his humanist thought box. Every year in the United States alone, 10 billion animals are confined, transported, and slaughtered in unimaginably grisly and cruel ways. Their suffering and death belie any claim to decency this society has, or any person, for that matter, who perpetuates this suffering through gluttony and thoughtless consumption habits.

Hitchens is rightly appalled by the barbarity of factory farms and slaughterhouses, but his call to decency falls flat, because it is an inadequate response to the scale of animal suffering, and he reasserts the very human-over-animal hierarchy that informs the practice of every vicious form of animal exploitation.

Hitchens is symptomatic of the complete failure of leftist thought, which since the Enlightenment has affirmed the doctrine of rational humanism. Although certainly an advance over theocentrism and theocracy, humanism affirmed the core speciesist values of Christianity, which hold that animals exist not for their own good but, rather, to serve human ends. Like sexism, racism, homophobia, and other discriminatory outlooks and practices, humanism creates a bogus dualism between the "superior" group (human animals) and the "inferior" group (nonhuman animals), and uses it as a justification for power, violence, and exploitation. But like other forms of discrimination and exploitation, speciesism lacks a rational justification and in the end is a pathetic prejudice unworthy of any claim to enlightenment.

Through empathy for animal suffering, Hitchens has at least taken the first step toward a proper ethic. But he needs to transcend the limitations of rational humanism to merit the appellation of enlightened thinker in the eyes of those who have rejected the last vicious form of prejudice remaining—speciesism.

Steven Best
Chair, Department of Philosophy
University of Texas at El Paso

Christopher Hitchens unfairly characterizes those who are dedicating their lives to healing through biomedical research with animals. For compassionate as well as scientific reasons, the American research community is deeply concerned about the condition of the animals it studies. Poor care results in unreliable research data. And because laboratory animals have been indispensable to the causes of medical progress and scientific discovery, researchers are swift to recognize and embrace their moral duty to provide them with the best care and treatment possible.

Hitchens's pseudo-scientific claims about the significance and validity of research are without any basis in fact. He claims, "Much animal experimentation is a wasteful perversion of science (Jonas Salk's vaccine seemed useless when tested on anything but a human being)."

The ludicrous assertion that animals played no productive role in the development of the polio vaccine is an oft repeated piece of animal-rights folklore. As it happens, the polio virus was first isolated in nonhuman-primate kidney-cell cultures. Both the Salk and the Sabin vaccines were developed and tested for safety in animal models before being administered to millions of children. Such testing is required under the provisions of the Helsinki Treaty and the Geneva Convention, which prohibit medical experimentation on human beings before animal testing has taken place.

Animal research has played a role in virtually every major medical advance of the past century. Practically every present-day protocol for the prevention, control, and cure of disease, pain, and suffering is based on knowledge attained—directly or indirectly—through research with laboratory animals.

Hitchens's statements also demonstrate a lack of understanding of the essential need for the use of animals in research. His claim that "much animal experimentation" is a "wasteful perversion of science" cannot be made without discounting, indeed ignoring, the considered professional opinion of an overwhelming majority of physicians and researchers in America, and also every Nobel laureate in medicine and physiology.

Frankie L. Trull
President
Foundation for Biomedical Research
Washington, D.C.

Christopher Hitchens is, as usual, very provocative and often right. He does, however, make one factual error when he refers to Peter Singer as "the intellectual pioneer" in the field of animal rights and as having a "chilly eminence." In fact Singer is not even a member of the animal-rights community, much less a pioneer, eminent or otherwise. In many of his writings Singer disavows the notion of animal rights, and he has had a long debate on the matter with the intellectual leader of the movement, Tom Regan, of North Carolina State University.

Singer's view is wholly utilitarian, and he states that every utilitarian must recognize the equal consideration of all beings who have interests. Animals have interests, but that does not mean their treatment must be equal to that of people—at least not according to Singer. On the other hand, Regan, in dozens of articles and in his by now classic The Case for Animal Rights, maintains that the inherent rights of animals are equal to those of human beings and that a right is not the sort of thing that can be sacrificed out of considerations of utility. Thus the differences between the two are not merely semantic, and the policy implications are enormous.

Sidney Gendin
Professor Emeritus, Philosophy
Eastern Michigan University
Ypsilanti, Mich.

With great appreciation for Christopher Hitchens's review of Matthew Scully's book, some points should be clarified. The biblical passage that gives human beings dominion over animals restricts that dominion against eating them by commanding Adam and Eve to be vegetarians: "I give you every herb, seed and green thing for food" (Genesis 1:29).

Hitchens's dismissal of religious arguments aside, this has great significance for biblically based vegetarians. Hitchens points out that the concept of rights for animals is modern (about 200 years old)—but so is the concept of rights for human beings. Religious and philosophical systems of the past had much to say about the human duty to and treatment of animals (as well as people), but it was not expressed in "rights" terminology.

The argument about anthropomorphism suggests how chaotic modern discussions are about the relationship between animals and people. Animal researchers cannot interpret their data from animal studies without reference to human standards (indeed, what would be the point of such studies otherwise?), and psychological and stress tests on animals have no meaning at all without human terms of reference: mother love, aggression, depression, feelings of powerlessness, and so forth.

The animal-rights movement does have contradictions, as Hitchens notes, but so does animal research. Descartes's disciples accepted his judgment that animals were machines, and then proceeded to cut dogs up alive to search for their souls.

Roberta Kalechofsky
President, Jews for Animal Rights
Marblehead, Mass.

Thank you for Christopher Hitchens's critical review of Matthew Scully's book Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy. I would like to address a couple of things Hitchens says about social-justice responses to animals and animal rights.

Hitchens invokes the English utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham to support his claim that talk about animals' rights is "nonsense upon stilts" because "rights have to be asserted," and "animals cannot make such assertions." However, we make representations all the time on behalf of people who cannot speak for themselves owing to infancy, debility, or senility, and Bentham himself said that nonhuman animals possess rights that have been withheld from them by human tyranny. He was talking about moral claims of fellowship that transcend the ability to articulate a plea for fairness in polished verbal language and which are yet a basis for legal rights. Indeed, we hire lawyers and members of the clergy to assert claims that exist in us as sentiments of justice and injustice that, if pleaded by ourselves on our own behalf, without intercession, might to a judge's ear (or the ear of God) sound like nothing more than "bleats and roars and trumpetings"—a lot of unambiguous protest, in fact.

I think it's time for our species to step down from the "chilly eminence" that Hitchens ascribes to the animal-advocacy philosopher Peter Singer and give to animals, who are neither "voiceless" nor "dumb," a voice in every affair that concerns them. If we can speak for people who can't speak for themselves, we can speak for these animals, and so we should.

Karen Davis
President
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
Machipongo, Va.

The Next Christianity

I am disturbed that many readers may take Philip Jenkins's "The Next Christianity" (October Atlantic) as an authoritative interpretation of Christian theology. His article omits the core of Christian theology and focuses on beliefs and practices that are at best satellites to the basic things. For example, he describes the original Reformation as revolving around such issues as the authority of bishops versus lay autonomy. In fact Luther focused the Reformation on what he saw as established traditions and practices obscuring the vision of a gracious God made known in the crucified and risen Jesus. Calvin did not disagree or introduce a basically different focus. Luther rejected bishops only where they rejected the Reformation. In Sweden, in fact, the authority of Roman Catholic bishops was used to introduce the Reformation.

To carry this into modern times, Jenkins sees the ordination of women as marking "liberal" theology. In fact conservative theologians in my own church body have come to see the restriction of ordination to men as fundamentally a misinterpretation of Scripture (which, to be honest, we might not have bothered to verify until more-secular forces aroused us!). In any case, it is not core theology. Other movements that Jenkins sees as traditionally biblical, such as millenarianism and Pentecostalism, are in fact largely based on late-medieval innovations using supposedly literal understanding of Scripture fragments. They lack the contextual insights of true conservatism.

LeRoy Martinson
Valparaiso, Ind.

In "The Next Christianity," Philip Jenkins raises our consciousness about the rise of Southern Christianity, especially the Roman Catholic variety. As one who has taught African seminarians, I can affirm with him that ideologically, Southern clergy are indeed rigidly conservative. But Jenkins has overlooked several issues.

He says that many Third World Catholics accept an authoritarian Church because of their poverty and ignorance; they are not accustomed to asserting their rights. But when Third World peoples look for role models to escape their situation, they find them in North America and Europe, where liberal, secular governments promote higher living standards. If these Third World Catholics must have secular governments to raise their standard of living, they will do so, and there is historical proof of this. Seventy-five years ago Ireland and Poland were European "Third World" countries, ignorant, poor, and groveling to religious authoritarianism. Now they are secular democracies—and Catholicism continues to flourish in both countries.

Joseph F. Kelly
Department of Religious Studies
John Carroll University
University Heights, Ohio

Philip Jenkins states that demographic trends are transforming the Catholic Church, as exploding numbers of worshippers in the developing world move its center of gravity southward. He predicts a future Church more "conservative" and more subservient to Rome. This is misleading, to say the least.

In America the Church has followed an Irish model of piety, with relatively rigid adherence to catechism and doctrine. (Today's pedophile-priest scandal is so shocking precisely because it ruptures a long tradition of iron discipline.) Paradoxically, the Church in the developing world is characterized by professed loyalty to the Pope coupled with breathtakingly deviant practice. Corrupt and sexually predatory clergymen have victimized African congregations for decades. Priests are famously attracted less by religious devotion than by social status and regular meals. The eager participation of priests and nuns in the Rwandan genocide was not an aberration. Rather, it exemplified a Church subservient to tribal morality at the parish level. More pagan than Christian, one might say.

The Vatican turns a blind eye to such atrocities and heresies in Africa while furiously stamping out any whiff of dissent in Europe and America. Why? Because the Pope's crusade to drag the Church back to the nineteenth century trumps everything else. John Paul II is packing the College of Cardinals with ostensibly orthodox members—most from developing nations—to extend his reactionary legacy. A Stalinist adherence to the papal line is more important than genuine devotion. Blatant evil within the Church has been swept under the carpet to avoid disrupting the plan.

Geoffrey Wittig
Dansville, N.Y.

Philip Jenkins replies:
In response to LeRoy Martinson, I, too, would be disturbed if any readers took my condensed summary of the Reformation debates as a comprehensive survey of Christian theology, but I doubt that many would. Most would understand that I was touching briefly on some major points of Reformation controversy, in order to stress the critical consequences of the new theological paradigms for Church and State, and especially of the shifting balance between lay and religious authority. After all, if the Reformation had consisted of just a theological controversy fought within the universities, without wider consequences for society and politics, we would not view it as an epoch-making historical moment.

I would take issue with Mr. Martinson on the definition of contemporary ecclesiastical liberalism. Some New Testament passages seem, prima facie, to veto a leadership role for women in the Church, and Church traditions offer powerful support for that stance. For various reasons, many churches have decided that these scriptural and traditional authorities no longer apply. In other words, they are arguing for a substantial revision of the bases of Christian authority—one that most would, I think, view as liberal on the conventional political and religious spectrum. If these ideas are not strictly "theological," there is certainly a very high degree of correlation between those holding liberal theological views and those urging such modernizing reforms in Church life.

Joseph Kelly may well be correct when he says that I have overlooked important aspects of Southern Christianity. However, he does me an injustice when he says that I attribute the respect for authority in many Southern churches to the "poverty and ignorance" of their members. I never claimed—nor do I believe in—such a linkage. I wrote repeatedly of the poverty of many Southern Christians, but never of their ignorance.

Is Ireland really a good example of Catholicism's flourishing in a modern post-industrial democracy? Ireland's material success in recent decades has been wonderful to behold, but religious practice has declined significantly, particularly as measured by vocations. For better or worse, the Irish educational system has also become much more secularized, owing in part to a grave shortage of clerics and religious. Now, it might be argued that Irish Catholicism as such is flourishing, albeit in a less clerically dominated form. Even so, repeated surveys point to an unprecedented questioning of the Church and its values, partly in consequence of sex scandals much like those in North America.

Geoffrey Wittig presents a familiar range of tired anti-clerical stereotypes. African clerics have experienced a number of scandals over the years, though I know of no evidence that they are any more prone to sexual or financial malfeasance than their counterparts on other continents. Nor do clerics anywhere even begin to rival political, corporate, and media leaders in misdeeds. It ill befits North Americans to lecture other societies on flaws in the conduct of their public life. Mr. Wittig's comment that African clerics pursue their vocations only for the sake of "social status and regular meals" is scurrilous. If the African Church is so notoriously evil and scandal-prone, why aren't people leaving it in large numbers—instead of flocking to it?

Advice & Consent

William Langewiesche's October article ("American Ground: The Dance of the Dinosaurs") paints an incomplete and unwarranted picture of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's efforts to protect workers involved in cleanup and recovery at the World Trade Center site. Not only did he choose to exclude most of what OSHA accomplished but, worse, he made light of the agency's serious attempt to minimize further loss of life during a most tragic time in our nation's history.

Langewiesche was right when he said that OSHA "had been present from the start," but his statement that we had been "largely ignored" is simply wrong. We mobilized quickly following the attacks and began work immediately with construction contractors, unions, and the City of New York to protect the safety and health of workers at the site. OSHA's round-the-clock presence for nearly ten months worked. We identified thousands of serious hazards that were immediately corrected. We distributed 130,000 respirators and trained thousands of workers on their proper use. We monitored working conditions to continue to demonstrate the need for respiratory protection. And we conducted hundreds of enforcement inspections around the World Trade Center project to ensure adherence to workplace standards.

All this was accomplished in a serious and professional manner. No lives were lost during the rescue, cleanup, and recovery. In fact, no one sustained a life-threatening injury during the 3.7 million work hours, and the injury rate was about half of what would be expected for a normal cleanup project.

Given the unprecedented circumstances at the site, that was no small feat. It was also a testament to the hard work and dedication of the many professionals—not only from OSHA but also from other government agencies, construction contractors, labor organizations, and the City of New York—who answered a special call to duty this past year.

John L. Henshaw
Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health
U.S. Department of Labor
Washington, D.C.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/03/letters-to-the-editor/302689/