On natural and other disasters

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We cannot know, when the news hits us, whether it is for good or bad. Superficially, the answer is often obvious enough. An earthquake, for instance, cannot be a good thing. Not in itself. But who can guess what redemption may be worked through it? This thought may outrage some atheist readers: but it needs saying, if we are even to begin to “vindicate the ways of God to Man.”

Likewise it is hard to see what good can come of pumping Qassam rockets into Israeli schoolyards, or dispatching suicide bombers to Jerusalem pizzerias. Palestinian incendiaries may see some good in it; I certainly cannot.

But what I see in Haiti is the benefit of that experience. For it was thanks to the skills and capabilities of rescue workers, honed in response to such terror hits, that Israel was able to put a 500-bed field hospital on the ground in Port-au-Prince, in little more than the flying time from Tel Aviv. Fully equipped and staffed by private volunteers, it is a miracle of human ingenuity. That hospital came with search expertise, to recruit patients from under the rubble; with specialists in pediatrics and obstetrics, etc. (The mother of the first born in that hospital called her child, “Baby Israel.”)

Compare the easy squalour of Michael J. Fox urging Canadians not to get frustrated by the slow pace of other Haitian relief efforts, but to continue sending money. As a former colleague from this newspaper, reporting this remark from the radio, commented: “The Haitians are dying and WE have to be patient?” Yes, our narcissism has reached those levels.

Bad can come of bad, good from good, bad from good, but also, good can come of evil. Our task is to make the best of any fate.

Sometimes the disaster comes from nature. Far more often, it comes from human cause. Sometimes that cause is far from dramatic. There is no evil plot, no grand conspiracy; the very people doing harm are full of “good intentions.” (Hitler himself thought he was doing the Germans a favour.) There may be an upwelling of foolishness, as broad as a national electorate.

Long months before the election of Barack Obama, as readers of this column may recall, I could see exactly what a disaster he would be as president of the United States. Indeed, any person of sound conservative conviction could predict what now even Paul Krugman begins to grasp, in New York Times blog posts under titles like, “He Wasn’t The One We’ve Been Waiting For.”

Krugman and company may never know why he was a disaster, but the idea that Obama was not God’s gift to the Democratic Party strikes more Democrats every morning. That a man who, for all his charm of rhetoric and imposture, can be so out of touch with the “core beliefs and values” of his own countrymen—yet still become their leader—is something on which to marvel. Yet it has happened again and again in history.

In retrospect, the election result of 2008 could have been worse. John McCain might have won; and had he done so, the U.S. would now be in a less tractable mess. The liberal media, which made George W. Bush the most reviled U.S. president since Abraham Lincoln, would have turned on McCain (and his schoolmarm vice president) with even greater savagery. The Republicans would be wearing all the consequences of public policies not that much different from Obama’s, so far—bailouts and buy-offs and bafflegab—yet giving the false impression these were “conservative” schemes.

The victory of Scott Brown, in the Massachusetts byelection, has brought the Left agenda—Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid in White House and Congress—to an abrupt halt. And it has done so before that much damage could be done.

In the bluest of all American blue states—the one which already had a taste of progressive “Obamacare” at state level—people realized they’d made a horrible mistake. A vote swing of more than 30 per cent changed the complexion of a Senate seat that had belonged to the Kennedy family since 1952.

Debt is not the answer to economic problems, there or here; more bureaucracy is not the answer; nor is the further empowerment of public sector unions to hold taxpayers to ransom.

And as to terrorism and foreign threats, Mr. Brown was able to play, before the most politically correct constituency in the U.S., variations on the theme: “American taxpayer dollars should go to buying weapons to kill terrorists, not pay for lawyers to defend them.”

Hallelujah! … And don’t thank Martha Coakley for throwing that election; the polls show indisputably it is Obama we must thank. By “pushing his envelope” an inch too far, he has accomplished what took George III far more effort.

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