Burma Faces Military Intervention “in the name of humanitarianism”
The case for invading Myanmar
By Shawn W Crispin
BANGKOK – With United States warships and air force planes at the ready, and over 1 million of Myanmar’s citizens left bedraggled, homeless and susceptible to water-borne diseases by Cyclone Nagris, the natural disaster presents an opportunity in crisis for the US President George W Bush’s controversial pre-emptive military policies.
A unilateral – and potentially United Nations-approved – US military intervention in the name of humanitarianism could easily turn the tide against the impoverished country’s unpopular military leaders, and simultaneously rehabilitate the legacy of lame-duck US President George W Bush’s controversial pre-emptive military policies.
Myanmar’s ruling junta has responded woefully to the cyclone disaster, costing more human lives than would have been the case with the approval of a swift international response. One week after the killer storm first hit, Myanmar’s junta has only now allowed desperately needed international emergency supplies to trickle in. It continues to resist US and UN disaster relief and food aid personnel from entering the country. Officially, 60,000 people have died; the figure is probably closer to 100,000.
The US is prepared to deliver US$3.25 million in initial assistance for survivors, which if allowed by the junta could be rapidly delivered to the worst-hit areas using US Air Force and naval vessels, including the US C-130 military aircraft now in neighboring Thailand, and the USS Kitty Hawk and USS Nimitz naval warships, currently on standby in nearby waters.
With the host government’s approval, the US military led the multinational emergency response to the 2004 tsunami, including in the politically sensitive, majority Muslim areas of Aceh, Indonesia. The response to Myanmar’s tragedy, in comparison, is being undermined by the play of international power politics, including most notably the military government’s antagonistic relations with the US.
In the wake of the cyclone, the criminality of the junta’s callous policies has taken on new human proportions in full view of the global community. Without a perceived strong UN-led response to the natural disaster, hard new questions will fast arise about the UN’s own relevance and ability to manage global calamities.
This week, French Foreign Minister Bernard Koucher suggested that the UN invoke its so-called “responsibility to protect” civilians as legitimate grounds to force aid delivery, regardless of the military government’s objections. On Friday, a UN spokesman called the junta’s refusal to issue visas to aid workers “unprecedented” in the history of humanitarian work.
While Myanmar ally China would likely oppose a US military intervention, Beijing has so far notably goaded the junta to work with rather than against international organizations like the UN, and more to the point, it lacks the power projection capabilities to militarily challenge the US in a foreign theater. Most notably, the US would have at its disposal a globally respected and once democratically elected leader in Aung San Suu Kyi to lead a transitional government to full democracy.
Many have speculated that Myanmar’s notoriously paranoid junta abruptly moved the national capital 400 kilometers north from Yangon to its mountain-rung redoubt at Naypyidaw in November 2005 due to fears of a possible pre-emptive US invasion, similar to the action against Iraq. Now, Cyclone Nagris and the government’s woeful response to the disaster have suddenly made that once paranoid delusion into a strong pre-emptive possibility, one that Bush’s lame-duck presidency desperately needs.
Perhaps the most baffling aspect of Burma’s response to Cyclone Nargis is its insistence that the referendum on a new constitution will go ahead as scheduled on 10 May, except in areas immediately affected by the disaster.
The military is reported to have commandeered large numbers of vehicles for use during the referendum, and in towns unaffected by the cyclone, like Mandalay, trucks have been driving continuously through the streets, blaring out the government’s pro-referendum message.
Residents contacted by the BBC have expressed their disgust that this is happening when so many are in such distress in the Irrawaddy delta.
It is a measure of the ruling military council’s determination that it is ploughing on even in the face of the worst natural disaster in Burma’s recorded history.
<!–Day Eight of the Cyclone disaster: –>The Burmese military junta reversed itself early on Saturday and said the United States can deliver one planeload of emergency aid, and maybe more – as the United Nations estimated the death toll could reach more than 100,000, partly because the regime has denied most aid and all relief workers for a week. Donors around the world have donated enough aid to last for three months – if Burma allows it to be distributed.
There is too much to say about this disaster. For whatever causes global weather patterns to grow more violent, or earthquakes and volcano eruptions to happen, natural disasters are on the rise. An arrogant government that puts its politics ahead of the welfare of its own people is an equally outrageous disaster. The Myanmar Junta Government is self destructing at the expense of millions of human beings. That is only the first and most obvious consequence of this behavior.
Again, I emphasize the “Ripple Effect”, because, anything that happens on one side of this planet will ultimately be felt on the other side. Whether the Ripple becomes an economic hazard or a health hazard or food hazard depends on the success of First Responders. When First Responders, regardless where they come from, are prevented from addressing the immediate needs of the victims, then, the worst case scenario is invited to take over.
Burma’s happy little junta is proving to be a sick little junta. What kind of mentality or political dogma decides the value of humanity? Would that the roles were reversed and the new military capitol were in the path of the cyclone? Would the 75 year old, Than Shwe, in poor health, who is worried about what will happen to his cronies and family after he’s gone. He expects the formalisation of the armed forces’ dominant role in the constitution will protect them. But, if that picture changes, and the casualties and angry victims outnumber his military clones, there will be a civil war nightmare in Myanmar. The casualties will be terrible. Outside military intervention may be the least of all evils in the eyes of the victims.
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