Why Aid Iran? An Answer

Are charity and Realpolitik incompatible? Partisans of each approach to life often give the impression they believe the answer is yes. We don't think so.

In one form or another this debate has gone on throughout history. It's relevant once more this week because of the Western world's desire to help earthquake victims in Iran, and its more tenuous instinct to help famine victims in North Korea.

During the past four years, the US and its European and Japanese allies have been increasingly divided in their approach to Iran. Washington tried to enforce an unrealistic "containment" of Iran. Its friends, longtime partners in the containment of communism, sought to change Iran's Jacobin revolutionary fervor by doing business there. Until this month. Then a German court ruled that Iran had supported terrorism. That led to bitter words between those two countries - and strained relations between Iran and the European Union.

Then came the earthquake: Collapsed mud brick houses and schools; thousands of victims, mainly women and children. With admirable speed, the US and Europe doused their quarrel with Tehran and offered aid.

For North Korea's famine the response has been more fitful - largely because Pyongyang's rigid Communist rulers have insisted on tangling aid in other demands to prop up their utterly failed regime. But, difficult or not, food aid should flow from the "have" nations to these starving fellow humans, just as food, shelter, and health aid goes to Iran's villagers.

In the end that is both charity and Realpolitik. It may, in fact, be the break that leads to sensible dealing between Iran and the West.

Jesus' words on the subject were revolutionary - and succinct: "Love your enemies...." To which Paul added the practical: "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him...."

Does it work? Look at the postwar rebuilding of Germany and Japan. And post-cold-war help for Russia. Charity and Realpolitik, inextricably linked.

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