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Nuclear weapons versus adequate buildings


In response to a colleage displeased with the fact that a developing nation (in this case, Iran) could allocate monies for nuclear research but not adequate builidngs and building codes, I see two aspects: national imperative and local practice:

National imperative:

National imperative as interpreted by a ruling elite rarely takes into account the needs of its poorest citizens. Sometimes that national imperative includes WMD, nuclear in particular, and sometimes it contents itself with small arms as do, say, a number of smaller African states. Syria chose chemical weapons as its means of gaining strike parity with Israel.

While the comments made by the Guardian are stronger that I would have expected from a center-left publication, they would apply equally well to the former Soviet Union, India, Pakistan, DPRK (North Korea), and South Africa, all of whom spent profligately on their nuclear programs while many citizens suffered. It would translate well to Brazil and Argentina whose Air Force and Navy, respectively, kept alive a nuclear program that did not reach critical mass but spend they did. In both of these cases, the poorest suffered from many higher needs, a nuclear ambition among them. I have heard the Guardian’s admonition on misplaced funding applied to the US (by some US nationals as well as Europeans) and to Israel. Both nations spend massively on nuclear weapons while some of its citizens go wanting.

I make no value judgments, save for the fact that it is unfair to single out Iran as if it has committed some special offence.

Local practice:

The US, the EU, and often Japan enjoy a level of enforced building codes unknown to the rest of the world. (And one does not have to be large to be in the ranks of the developed. Singapore is small but profitable and has made many of the same strides as have its larger brethren.)

Most of the world suffers a periodic stream of collapsed buildings that drop for no apparent reason save for sharp construction practices. It is interesting that only the developing world can afford such high enforcement as it is costly and reroutes monies in the economy. The combination of financial wealth and lower birthrates has resulted in more money to support relatively fewer citizens. Extraordinarily high birthrates leave most third world governments overwhelmed with no ability to support its poorest -- with or without a nuclear program.

Some of you may have spent more time afoot in the third world than I, but if you have, you cannot but marvel at the lack of reinforcing rod and other structural omissions. Faced with no shelter at all, I have watched the poor gladly build simple brick structures. Under the same imperative, you may have watched the wretched poor of Bangladesh build flimsy structures on the floodplains at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal. In both cases, their citizens will die when nature strikes -- and in Bangladesh it is a near annual certainty with the cyclone season. In comparision, Iran gets off lightly.

Again, I make no value judgments, save for the observation that we in the developed world are all too willing to apply standards to our neighbors that many of our own countries could not have passed a few generations ago.

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  


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