Justifying Intervention: Burma

by pegleghippie 

Man is free at the instant he wants to be.

Voltaire

Burma’s government is making me rethink my attitude towards foreign involvement.  My personal experience has led to to view intervention unfavorably: I grew up on overseas military bases, which are not always family-friendly. Later, I watched the Iraq failure along with the rest of America, which led me to believe that military involvement in other nations should be incredibly limited.

For me, limited meant only helping  if a nation ask us for help, or if the United States was under attack.  Even in those situations, I’m very weary of violent solutions.  Direct force just doesn’t seem a viable problem-solving method.

Enter Burma:  a cyclone kills as much as 100,000 people, and the insane military dictatorship in charge denies all foreign aid.  Are they protecting the opium trade?  Do they just hate their own people and want them weak and helpless, so as to better control them?  In short, how is any of this alright?

Also, a democratic parliament does exist for Burma, but the Junta has exiled them (the military party received less than 2% of the vote when elections were last held).  It would seem that Burma’s government is holding the people hostage, thus negating the truth of the above Voltaire quote.

The international community, and the United States in particular, have the power to force aid on the Burmese people.  The military could sweep in, knock out the powers-that-be, let the parliament back in, and start administering aid to cyclone victims.  Mekhami mentioned rebuilding Burmese infrastructure and guaranteeing stability.  I disagree. While I’ll tentatively admit to a moral obligation to provide aid, I can’t see any such obligation to rebuild Burma.  They’re still entitled to national self-determination.  The only reason I’m even thinking it is acceptable to remove the current government is because they’re refusing to accept help for their own people in a rather drastic situation.  Nation-building is at the heart of the Iraq quagmire, and we don’t need two of those.

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9 Responses

  1. To be completely honest, I’d say that nation-building is NOT the heart of the Iraq quagmire. I’d say the need for oil, the lies about WMD’s, these are the heart of the problems in Iraq. Nation-building is a good thing, we’re just getting all fucked up by terrorists and need to get our military out of there and let our political influence already established do the work.

    Phased recall, with financial and political support from the DEMOCRATIC Iraq government, while we re-focus our military efforts… somewhere else. Don’t even know where. A dozen places pop up in my mind… Darfur, Myanmar, Canada… (not kidding.) (Wait yes I am.)

    I think that’s the real answer to our Iraq problem.

    But that isn’t what we’re discussing here…

    The problem with Myanmar is that we’ve let a military regime similar to Hussein’s, but, if fathomable, less responsible and empathic, control the nation, while a democratic form of government was the dominant power and is currently in exile. I’d say if anything, we storm it, Black Hawk Down style, knock down this Punta Junta, get parliament in there and set up, and then get relief going.

    Humanitarianism is a good thing but the wrong card has been played in Iraq. Now, in a turn of total hypocrisy, Bush Administration says they aren’t considering military force in Burma. (The nation that wants and needs it.) This should be proof positive, Iraq was about Oil.

  2. I don’t think you appreciate how prohibitively expensive building a country from scratch is. It wasn’t hard for us to take over Iraq, but an outside force can’t do an inside country’s job for it.

    It’s the same problem with your attitude towards myanmar when you say “we’ve let a military regime,” implying that the United States is somehow responsible for acting in the affairs of another nation’s politics.

  3. The world can’t have it both ways; they want our involvement as long as we’re giving them stuff, but don’t want it if we have a say about the way things are run? I think if somehow the world thinks we are a superpower, and thus are morally obligated to give our time and money to them, than we should have more than a small hand in the way the country is run, especially if the way it’s run is detrimental to the very reason we’re there.

  4. there’s nothing “small-hand” about saying that we “let” a certain form of government take power. Forms of government are everything for a nation’s people, and there’s no way we can be said to be responsible for a certain people’s sovereignty.

    It’s like a parent raising a child and demanding the child follow a specific religion. Aid is not ownership, it’s empowerment.

  5. The nation’s people chose a government- a small military power took it away from them.

    Are we not responsible, in humanitarianism, to uphold the will of people who can’t speak or fight for themselves?

  6. Right, let me illustrate the difference between big and small intervention. Removing a demonstrably illegitimate regime, restoring the exiled legit government, and administering aid is one thing.

    Building roads, enforcing that legitimate government, Occupying a land until such a time of peace is to be found, is quite a different thing. Responsibilities that belong to a nation, not to an outside nation or nations.

    The problem here is the Junta violating Burma’s own sovereignty and is withholding the power to change this arrangement. that is something that can be said to be a role for the international community to address, since sovereignty is supposed to be respected. Infrastructure and determination are the responsibility of a nation’s own people.

    One requires a smaller cost and a smaller commitment, and leaves a people free. The other requires an enormous cost in both money and lives, a prolonged commitment, temporary suspension of national sovereignty, and the removal of a people’s freedom.

  7. I think we’re simply arguing semantics and agree on the overall goal here.

  8. sweet!

  9. One life, but we’re not the same…we’ve got to carry each other, carry each other…ooooooooooonnnnnnnneeee…

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