January 06, 2004

Earthquake Diplomacy


Iran Van Jahan has a number of good links related to the Bam earthquake. Here are a few:

On Jan. 2, AP reported: Hardliners Criticize U.S. Aid.

"We hate the arrogance of the Americans and we are sure that they haven't come for humanitarian reasons, but for other things like spying," said Abdullah Irani, a mullah from Qum, the main center for Shiite clerics in Iran.

Two days later, Reuters reports: Iranian People Cheer U.S. Warming After Bam Quake.

Ordinary Iranians are cheering a warming of diplomatic ties between Tehran and the United States brought on by the Bam quake, and hope an end is in sight to a quarter century of isolation from a country many openly admire.

Even though conservative Tehran newspapers may rail at "earthquake diplomacy" by George W. Bush, many average Iranians on the capital's streets Sunday said they welcomed the American president's overtures that may rebuild severed ties.

"I was overjoyed when I first heard America planes were going to fly in to help Bam," said Hassan Tayebi, 51, a retired civil servant, referring to the Dec. 26 earthquake that destroyed the southeastern city. "I really like Americans. They are really kind people and I hope the aid offer leads to better relations."

Many Iranians show a more favorable attitude to the United States than their own government does.

Michael Ledeen explains this difference in reaction and what it means to America's self-defense: Aftershocks: The West must read the meter in Bam and Tehran

[A]s we are reminded every day by the wonderful dentist in Baghdad who bravely blogs away at www.healingiraq.com, in the words of Jonathan Swift, "It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of what he was never reasoned into." The regime in Tehran is not reasonable, it is fanatical. It has waged war against us for a quarter century and it intends to destroy us. It claims to act in the name of all Islam, and views us as the greatest Satanic force on earth. It will not come to terms with us, because its very essence is hatred of us and of everything we represent. Knowing that the vast majority of its own people hate the regime and loves America, it murders, tortures, and oppresses them. When the mullahs appear to be acting reasonably and tell us they wish to help us fight terrorism, it is a deception, not an expression of their real desires.

Yet many of our leaders, fine men and women all, continue to believe that the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan suffice to let us return to diplomacy as usual, even as the entire Western world ties itself in knots to protect against the next assault from the terror masters. [...]

Look at the many reports on the awful degradation of Iranian society, now leading the region in suicide and teenage prostitution, its standard of living a pitiful shadow of what it was before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, its infrastructure in tatters, its armed forces distrusted by the country's leaders, its students under virtual house arrest, its newspapers and magazines silenced, its talented moviemakers and writers and scientists and artists fleeing to the West whenever they see a crack in the nation's walls. Look at the damning human-rights reports. Read the harsh condemnation of the mullahs' relentless censorship from Reporters sans Frontières," which calls Iran the world's greatest predator of free press. And listen to the cries of the Bam survivors as they ask why this had to happen, why no help arrived until long after the disaster struck, and why the mullahs preferred to see thousands of them die, rather than accept humanitarian assistance from the Jews.

And then ask our leaders what in the world we are waiting for, and why we insist on believing that a regime so demonstrably evil deserves to have good relations with the United States, and why a people so demonstrably on our side, and so demonstrably worthy of freedom, does not deserve our full support.

And Thomas Sowell contrasts the recent earthquake in California to the one in Bam: Two Earthquakes And Their Results Under Two Different Social Systems (via Capitalism Magazine).

The deaths in Iran have been counted in the tens of thousands. In California, the deaths did not reach double digits. Why the difference? In one word, wealth.

Wealth enables homes, buildings and other structures to be built to withstand greater stresses. Wealth permits the creation of modern transportation that can quickly carry people to medical facilities. It enables those facilities to be equipped with more advanced medical apparatus and supplies, and amply staffed with highly trained doctors and support staff.

Those who disdain wealth as crass materialism need to understand that wealth is one of the biggest life-saving factors in the world. As an economist in India has pointed out, "95 percent of deaths from natural hazards occur in poor countries."

UPDATE Jan. 7: Martin Lindeskog has a number of good links relating to the Bam quake.

Posted by Forkum at January 6, 2004 07:31 AM