Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Burma Problem


Robert Kaplan entertains the idea of providing Myanmar with Aid at the Point of a Gun:
60,000 people may have died as a result of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, and at least 1.5 million are homeless or otherwise in desperate need of assistance ... France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, has spoken of the possibility of an armed humanitarian intervention, and there is an increasing degree of chatter about the possibility of an American-led invasion of the Irrawaddy River Delta ... As it happens, American armed forces are now gathered in large numbers in Thailand for the annual multinational military exercise known as Cobra Gold. This means that Navy warships could pass from the Gulf of Thailand through the Strait of Malacca and north up the Bay of Bengal to the Irrawaddy Delta. It was a similar circumstance that had allowed for Navy intervention after the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004.
I am going to opine on this problem presented by Myanmar.

This is the same old generic problem that comes up with all issues pertaining to intervening to prevent holocausts. Relevant provisions in international law would be most important components of any discussions of this scope, but I'm setting that aside because that's above my expertise and pay grade. I'll just stick with my level of non-expert, non-elite understanding of how things work.

In the first place, nations do not intervene militarily purely for the purposes of preventing holocausts. The American Civil War was not fought to stop slavery, our own national holocaust. Our entry into World War II was not motivated by a need to prevent the genocide of 6 million Jews. Where nation-states intervene in cases of genocide, they do so because of their national interests. This presents two questions.
  1. Where do national interests of states encourage intervention in incidents of mass mistreatment of populations? The most obvious answer is where ethnic cleansing and like abuses of populations infringes on national interest of other states in the neighborhood. The creation of tides of refugees can become an actionable national interest issue. An influx of refugees can gravely affect a neighboring nation's economy. Or it can destabilize a region. On these grounds, I enthusiastically approved of our intervention in Haiti, since 1990, anyways. And for these reasons, I actively urged NATO and American intervention in the Balkans. Serbia's wars of Yugoslavian dissolution threatened the demographic stability of the entire region. The most egregious current case is now Zimbabwe, which has caused a considerable (three million) emigration of refugees. Outsiders such as myself wonder why member states of the African Union do not intervene in this case.

  2. Where do national interest of states permit intervention in incidents of mass mistreatment of populations? The most obvious answer is location, location, and location. Where do the would-be interventionist powers have sustainable technological access to intervening? This is what prevented Clinton from intervening in Rwanda. This is what prevented intervention in the Cambodian killing fields. This is what put the kibosh on intervening in the currently infamous case of Darfur. And, this is what prevents great powers from intervening in Burma. With the exception of China and/or India, no one has logistical access to Burma.
A final consideration bears mentioning. Elective invasions have a tendency of breeding illegitimate, indefinite and costly occupations. Thus,
  • the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq
  • the Ethiopian occupation of Somalia
Kaplan correctly concludes his piece in the NYT:
Sending in marines and sailors is the easy part; but make no mistake, the very act of our invasion could land us with the responsibility for fixing Burma afterward.
Enough said on this point, eh? Where there's no exit plan, exits do not come easily.

9 Moderated Comments:

Blogger MadMike said...

I agree that the United States does not need to intervene in Burma. We have enough problems as a result of mixing in the business of other nations. We need to clean up our own house before we mess up someone else's house.

5/15/2008 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger George W Bush said...

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.

We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Tazi nanks -Nazi tanks - crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.


(14-May-08)

5/15/2008 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

Thanks for posting this, GWB. Let's remember who said:

'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.'

It was William Edgar Borah, a Republican.

5/16/2008 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger DivaJood said...

I wish someone would come clean my house, because frankly, I'm too busy working and getting underpaid.

5/16/2008 07:10:00 AM  
Blogger MadMike said...

Great trivia Yellow Dog and I thank you for it. Divajood thanks for the smile:-)

5/16/2008 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger Indicted Plagiarist said...

The Law of the Jungle: Myanmar's Junta Gets a Pass from Powerful Neighbors

"The misfortunes of poor countries are automatic fortunes of their rich neighbors. It's the law of the jungle."

Countries like China, India, Singapore, Thailand, on the other hand, are sitting pretty: "These countries pay the strongmen of poorer countries so they can come in and cut down their forests, access their mines, siphon off natural resources, tap their rivers, and invest," said the journalist. "Not to mention the benefit of having near slave wages."

5/18/2008 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger Petrosexual said...

Virgil, Anti-foreigner violence kills 22 in South Africa. Goes to show what happens if states do not take action on criminal dictators in neighboring countries that cause mass immigration, and then don't repulse immigration when it occurs.

5/19/2008 07:58:00 AM  
Blogger the WIZARD, fkap said...

vigilante, I AM in agreement with your essay.

But Indicted Plagiarist said it so correctly:

Countries like China, India, Singapore, Thailand, on the other hand, are sitting pretty: "These countries pay the strongmen of poorer countries so they can come in and cut down their forests, access their mines, siphon off natural resources, tap their rivers, and invest," said the journalist. "Not to mention the benefit of having near slave wages."

This pretty well reinforces my comments here: A True Crime Against Humanity

5/19/2008 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Boris said...

Petro, South African President Thabo Mbeki has been stalling on taking action against Zibawi. His inevitable successor, Jacob Zuma, is bullish on kicking Magabe's ass. But Zuma is beset with a corruption charge. You can't convince me that South Africa can't take care of business. If Lou Dobbs were PM, Magabe would be on his plane to Romania or places like that.

5/19/2008 08:14:00 PM  

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