Iran's positive influence in Afghanistan
Regarding "Iran Aids Afghans as US Frets" (Feb. 25): Propaganda involves the manipulation of definitions to fit certain words. A case in point is "meddling," which is the latest US invective aimed at Iran in the context of President Bush's "axis of evil" doctrine and the current state of affairs in Afghanistan.
Most observers agree that Iran is pursuing its legitimate interests in a neighboring country where in the past it helped ward off a total victory by the Taliban. It assisted the Northern Alliance for six years, until America finally called on its regional allies - such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia - to stop supporting the Taliban. Iran shares a common religion, culture, and language with much of Afghanistan. It is willing to work with other countries to rebuild this devastated land, and has pledged $567 million toward that end. Representatives of the UN, EU, and various aid agencies are among those who have confirmed the positive role Iran is playing.
Rather than being suspicious of Iran's role in Afghanistan, the US should express appreciation while continuing, even expanding, the US presence there. Iranian President Mohammed Khatami has the support of young voters in Iran because he represents the democratic future they desire. Iran can assist in stabilizing the government of Afghanistan and the US only damages its own image with its paranoia and accusations against Iran. The US can be watchful without making accusations. The US makes more errors trying to avoid being misled than it does joining others who seek peace and mutual benefit.
Regarding "Battle Looms Over a Noah's Ark Law" (Feb. 22): It's about time the Endangered Species Act (ESA) came back into the congressional picture. Having conducted a policy analysis of the ESA for my PhD, I know it is a big deal ecologically, economically, and politically. And, yes, there is a conflict between species conservation and economic growth.
The bottom line of my dissertation was that the ESA is an implicit prescription for a stable, nongrowing economy. Such an economy has stable population and consumption. Because of a principle of ecology called "competitive exclusion," the economy simply cannot expand except at the expense of other species. We pursue either economic growth or wildlife conservation. It is that simple.
For landowners in rural America, there is no greater threat to livelihood than to have their farms or ranches designated as habitat for endangered species. The resulting land-use restrictions can be economically devastating. By penalizing them for their stewardship, the ESA has turned landowners against species.
A better approach would end the current litigation-ridden regulatory scheme with an incentive-based program that would allow the government to enter voluntary, mutually compatible contractual arrangements with landowners to protect endangered species and their habitats. ESA reform will begin when stewardship is no longer a liability.
Bonner R. Cohen
The ESA protects species that "are of aesthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational and scientific value to the Nation and its people." To say that it was "designed mainly to save ... those noble, brave, and cute charismatic megafauna" is inaccurate. The law is intended to help preserve this country's ecological integrity, a web of life on which we all depend - not simply to protect a few celebrity species.
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