If you are reading this page in connection with the NIAC Vendetta, you should Read This First.

Answers to All Questions Iranian

Every few weeks I get an email from someone claiming to live in Iran. They usually have a Hotmail account or Yahoo mail account; some even managed to get a gmail account. They have a question for me, ranging from technical ("Is it true that all grammars can be put in an unambiguous form?", "Is there a theory that information can be neither created nor destroyed?") to the political ("Why did the US shoot down an Iranian airliner/take land from Native Americans/Depose Mossadegh, etc. etc.?", or "How do I justify 'Zionist crimes', etc.?").

I'm not sure why I get these, or whether other academics get them as well. I have a theory that there is a concerted attempt by some Iranian group to probe for friends in the US or elsewhere. I would be interested to know if others have experienced the same sort of email-writing campaign that I have. Possibly, the Article on Fundamentalism that I wrote is circulated in Iran. One correspondent commented "It is well known that I hate Iranians," even though the article doesn't mention Iran explicitly, and I actually have no such feelings. I do believe that the fundamentalist government of Iran is a huge problem, both to its own people and to the world. But the people are just fine, when allowed to participate in a free society.

So in order to save everybody a lot of time, I'm going to write down the answers to representative questions.

Question: Can I get into Stanford?

Answer: Probably not. At least I can't help you. Admissions for undergraduates are not handled by faculty at Stanford or any US school. For graduate work, a committee of faculty and students selects admittees. The process is honest and fair; no faculty member can or would influence the process. See More on the Subject.

Question: Why did the US shoot down an Iranian airliner?

Answer: Did you know that at the time, Iran was threatening US shipping in the Persian Gulf? Were you told that the airliner was not carrying a transponder to identify it, and had taken off from a military airport? When a country such as Iran takes warlike actions, unfortunately mistakes happen. Had you been in command of the American ship involved, you could not have risked a sneak attack and would have done exactly the same thing.

Question: Why did the US take land from the Native Americans?

Answer: Because that's the way things happen and always have happened. Technologically more advanced civilizations replace less advanced civilizations. I have a question of my own, which none of my Iranian correspondents was willing or able to answer. About 2500 years ago, there was a great Persian civilization. I have a suspicion that the people of Cyrus, Darius, and the other famous Persian kings were not living in Persia from the time of Homo Habilis. Where did the Persians come from, and whom did they replace? And why didn't they respect the rights of the weaker civilization that was living on the land that is now Iran?

It is striking that Iranians have no trouble pointing to questionable actions of America and the rest of the free world, yet they give themselves, and Islamic terrorists in general, a free pass for much more heinous crimes. As a start, look at the first act of the fundamentalists in Iran: holding hostage the US diplomatic corps. Contrast that blatant violation of international law and tradition with the way America treated Japanese diplomats after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Diplomats were permitted to return home, as we were obliged in 1941 to do, and as Iran was obliged in 1979 to do. To make the contrast more extreme --- the Japanese ambassador had been instructed by his government to present a declaration of war an hour before the Pearl-Harbor attack. But he neglected to do so!

Even more telling is the Iranian ranting over the fact that in the recent conflict between Israel and the Iranian-sponsored Hizbollah militia, Israel accidentally killed some civilians that Hizbollah was using as human shields. Yet at the same time, Iran provided missles whose sole purpose was to kill civilians. I think it is time that Iran looked into its own sense of ethics, and cleaned up its own act before presuming to tell the rest of the world about right and wrong.

Question: Why did the CIA depose Mossadegh in 1953?

Answer: As I understand it, Mossadegh nationalized the oil resources that had been developed by US and other Western oil companies. It is an interesting question whether natural resources should belong to the people who accidentally built homes on top of it, or to the people whose technology made it possible to extract those resources. I suspect that in 1953 the answer was clearly the latter, but as time went on, political philosophy went toward the former. Thus, seeing the events of 1953 through modern eyes, it looks different from what it was in its time. Regardless, if a country wants to import technology, as every developing nation should, it has to acknowledge the rule of law and respect its agreements with the companies that supply the technology. The penalty for not doing so is that the country will not have access to technology, and it appears that Iran is suffering from exactly that problem today.

Question: Why didn't the US stop the Rwandan genocide (or other similar events)?

Answer: Curiously, Iran and many countries object to the US playing "policeman" for the world. Yet alone among countries, the US sometimes uses its resources to help countries when there is no benefit to us whatsoever. There are examples ranging from the Marshall plan in Europe after WW-II, to Kuwait and Kosovo. Where was Iran? Where is everybody now, when Arabs are killing and raping in Darfur?

Question: What do I think of Zionist crimes (sic)?

Answer: If you are referring to the actions of the state of Israel, I don't see Israel as acting in a criminal way, given the circumstances. Rather, the criminals are Hamas, Hizbollah, and all the other Islamic terrorist groups that intentionally target innocent civilians rather than welcoming Israel into their midst. They could be having the benefits of a neighbor that is adept at modern, Western technology and is generous enough to share its advantages with friendly neighbors. It is not a crime for Israel, or any other country, to defend itself to the maximum extent possible from those sworn to kill its citizens.

I think that Iranians, from their president on down, could use a history lesson. Here are the relevant facts:

So instead of crying about "Zionist crimes," I strongly recommend that our Iranian friends look into the crimes of the Islamists among them and the Islamists that Iran sponsors.

Question: Why won't Israel compromise?

Answer: I never did find out what sort of compromise this questioner had in mind, but the answer is that of course Israel will compromise. In the year 2000, Israel offered to give back 98% of what the Arabs had lost in 1967. However, the compromise should take into account the three generations of hostility that has come from Israel's neighbors, and the fact that Israel has been victorious in all these actions. The proper comparison is what happened after World Wars I and II (or any other major war, I would imagine). The victor gets to determine the compromise. Look at what happened to Germany. They shrunk after WW-I and again after WW-II. But what remains is a prosperous, proud country. Look what happened to Japan after WW-II. They lost territory too, but came to be a dominant economic power.

I cannot speak for Israel, but I strongly believe that if the Arabs would offer a settlement that gave Israel a little extra land in compensation for the repeated aggressions of Arabs, and if the Islamic community would sincerely agree to drop the idea that there is something wrong with a democratic, non-Moslem state in the Middle East, then I think the rewards would actually flow to the Arab neighbors. Germany and Japan are excellent examples of what could happen. But while Germany and Japan had their own technology base on which to build after WW-II, in the case of Israel and its neighbors, the Israeli technology base would prove an added benefit to the Arabs. One of the great shames of Islamic fundamentalism is that it neglects to develop a technologically capable population. In the modern world, the benefits of "keeping up" are enormous. Israel could help its neighbors catch up with all the third-world countries that are now beginning to grow modern economies. But the choice is with the Moslem world: continue to wallow in self-pity, while patting yourselves on the back for your "piety," or realize that the world today is not the world of Mohammed, and you need to throw off the yoke of religious extremism and get to work.

Question: Do I think Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons?

Answer: Of course. The proof is that oil-fired power plants are much safer than nuclear plants, as we saw at Chernobl, just to mention the most devastating case. Iran has plenty of oil and does not need to take the risk of developing nuclear power plants.

Iran's drive for nuclear weapons puts into clear focus the foolishness of the mullahs who rule the country. When the Shah was calling the shots, he spent oil money to send Iran's best and brightest to the US for a technical education. As soon as the mullahs took over, that all stopped, and Iran has done nothing to build a modern technology-based economy the way so many countries have done with a boost from US education. Unlike many of these countries, which are not blessed with copious oil revenue by the way, Iran has spent its money on incredibly stupid projects. Every Iranian must realize that should they ever build and use a nuclear weapon, the country would be obliterated in the next hour. So nuclear weapons will not enable you to be taken seriously on the world stage; only a strong technology base and an inventive people who contribute solutions to the great problems of the day can do that.

Perhaps worse, what money you are not spending on nuclear-weapons development is being spent equally unwisely. Recall the Chinese proverb about "give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day; teach him to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime." What you are doing is definitely giving out fish. As mentioned above, you are failing to invest in the best available education for your brightest citizens. Worse, look at how you spend your money in Lebanon, and to an extent Gaza, Judea, and Samaria. You hand out charity to let Islamic fundamentalist parties gain supporters, but you never do anything to educate these people or help make them self-sufficient. You give them expensive missles to commit murder. Then, when their nonsense backfires (and even Nasrallah has admitted he made a big mistake), you throw more money at them to clean up the destruction, all the time claiming it is Israel's fault for defending itself. No; it is your fault for choosing to start trouble with the very money that could have meant a better life for the poor of Iran or --- should you choose to donate some of the money --- poor people in places like Lebanon.