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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Statehood for U.S. Territories: A Historical Chance to Make America Great(er) Again. Literally.



The current political discourse in the heated 2016 electoral year gravita-
tes around some simple, common-sense, yet grandiose ideas like making
America great again through reviving trade, by recapturing overseas jobs
(lost in favor of other nations beneficiaries of globalization), and streng-
thening the military (weakened by the political demagogues’ lack of visi-
on). As a result, many American manufactured products are not being com-
petitive anymore on international markets, the same as American military
which, it is said, is not being capable to fight anymore on two fronts at the
same time. [1]

In the meantime, on the international arena, America’s traditional foes ha-
ve been already coagulated their territorial expansion policies. Russia is
extending its sphere of influence in both the Arctic and the Pacific Rim.
China is pushing its boundaries in the disputed South China Sea. While
North Korea does not make any secret of the fact that is ready to attack the
coast of Alaska. In addition to those aggressive actors, a series of lower le-
vel rogue nations (among them: Iran, Venezuela) already have been displa-
ying bombastic discourses about regional dominance. To all that, interna-
tional terrorism is added.

Given the circumstances, it is imperiously necessary for the United States
to solidify their narrative about a new era of American greatness and excep-
tionalism. We are not talking about “the world’s policeman”, nor about “na-
tion building”. Instead, we are talking about a new period when America
should recapture its greatness again for itself, and not so much for the

But before that, we need to remind ourselves the past periods when Ameri-
ca used to be great(er). Let us briefly recap some revealing moments in  re-
cent U.S. history:

1. The Spanish-American War of 1898: the U.S. win sovereignty over
Cuba, Puerto Rico (in the Atlantic/the Caribbean Sea), Guam and the
Philippines (in the Pacific), and soon after that over the Panama
Canal (in 1903).

2. During the years of the World War 1 (U.S. entered the war in 1917):
U.S. administration of Haiti (1915), Dominican Republic (1916), Virgin
Islands (purchased from Denmark in 1917), and Rhineland/Germany

3. During and after the World War 2: U.S. occupation of Iceland and Gr-
eenland (1941), parts of Austria and Germany, including West Berlin
(1945), Japan and South Korea (1945), Trieste/Italy (1947), and the ad-
ministration of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands/West Pacific
Micronesia (1947). [2]

On the other hand, the United States have a long lasting tradition of turning
its territories and possessions into states when imperatives of the times have
required them to do so. To begin with, most U.S. states, except the original
thirteen, were territories before they became states. The last U.S. statehood-
granted territories were: Oklahoma (in 1907), New Mexico and Arizona
(both in 1912), Hawaii and Alaska (both in 1959).

Currently, there are sixteen U.S. territories, five of which are permanently in-
habited: American Samoa (AS), Guam (GU), Northern Mariana Islands (MP),
Puerto Rico (PR), and U.S. Virgin Islands (VI). The rest of the eleven territo-
ries are small islands, atolls, and reefs spread across the Pacific Ocean and the
Caribbean Sea, with no permanent population. Also, there are certain constitu-
tional and administrative differences between these territories. Some territories
are or are not incorporated (as part of the United States proper), and do or do
not have an organizedgovernment (that is, through an organic act passed by the
U.S. Congress).

Thus, there were incorporated organized territories of the U.S. (such as Alaska
and Hawaii until 1959). Currently, there are only U.S. territories that are incor-
porated unorganized (Palmyra Atoll), unincorporated organized (Guam and U.S.
Virgin Islands), unincorporated unorganized (American Samoa and other islands,
atolls and reefs in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea), and commonweal-
ths (Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico). Other former U.S. territories
have become independent countries (such as: the Philippines, Micronesia, Mar-
shall Islands and Palau). It should be mentioned the fact that, with the excepti-
on of the Philippines, the other three former U.S. territories gained their inde-
pendence under the Compact of Free Association (COFA), which allows the
United States to have full authority over aid, defense, health care, and other go-
vernment services (such as federal communications and postal service), plus
the right to work in the U.S. and vice versa. [3]

In spite of the various local organizational differences among these entities,
the common denominator is that they all are (or, in case of few others, used
to be) U.S. territories and, for the obvious aforementioned strategic, military,
and economic reasons, there should start a serious and uninhibited approach
toward granting - at least for five of them: AS, GU, MP, PR, and VI – the U.S.
statehood. A step forward would be to attract the current COFA entities into
the new federal construction. An inspiring movement, which we call STATE-
HOOD FOR U.S. TERRITORIES, coming from the top executive level (the
 President), in conjunction with its top legislative counterpart (the Congress),
is expected in order to gather and channel the grassroots energies and resour-
ces toward this noble and visionary ideal. If properly implemented and accom-
plished, this country project or national plan is able to assure a perennial place
in history for its initiators. And, indeed, Statehood For U.S. Territories can
find its natural inception within the already popular trend of “making Ameri-
ca great(er) again”. Literally. [4]



Tiberiu Dianu is a legal scholar, book author, graduate of the American  University Washington 
College of Law in Washington, DC, the University of Manchester Faculty of Law in Manchester, 
UK, and an exchange scholar of the Oxford University in Oxford, UK. He currently lives in Wa-
shington, DC and works for various government and private agencies. The opinions expressed in 
the preceding article do not necessarily reflect those of The Puerto Rico Monitor, its editors or 

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