29 May 2008

Myanmar

MM is back to form today after a weak outing last week. One point he makes in passing, which I have been meaning to say myself, is that the government of Myanmar would have to be completely nuts to let aid agencies stomp all over their country. It would be as stupid as the government of Iran refraining from supporting and arming its allies in Iraq.

Myanmar Faces Sanctions Unless Democracy Talks Begin, Bush Says - Bloomberg, Dec 2007

Brown calls for more EU sanctions on Myanmar - Reuters, Oct 2007

Now, it could be argued that the needs of the victim of the cyclone should outweigh political considerations. But if those needs should outweigh the desire of the Myanmar authorities not to invite their avowed enemies into their own power structure, then perhaps they should also outweigh the desire of Western governments to get their agents into Myanmar. Money could be given direct to the government, or else given to the Russians or Chinese to pass on. What's that? We don't want to give the money to any of those governments because we don't like them? So much for humanitarianism over politics.

France, Britain and the United States, three of the U.N. Security Council's five veto-wielding members, have indicated they want the council to take action to get Myanmar's leaders to open its borders to more aid.

But China and Russia as well as some other non-veto-wielding members have opposed having the U.N. body that deals with peace and security take up a humanitarian catastrophe.

Now, it may well be that the West has good reasons for wanting to replace the government of Myanmar with one under its own influence. But the unspoken assumption is that this rightness means that the openly-stated aim of overthrowing the government should be ignored by everyone when the subject of disaster relief comes up. This is the exact same error I complained about with Iraq. "Supporting democracy" in a country that has a non-democratic government means being an enemy of that country. That isn't necessarily bad, but it has to be remembered. The government in question is likely to remember even when we don't.

Those people running Myanmar cannot reasonably be expected to overlook the fact that every government offering aid is determined to remove them from office in a process that is likely to end up with them being lynched. The mere fact that they ought to be lynched does not come into their calculations.

(Let's throw this in for luck: ...there is an increasing degree of chatter about the possibility of an American-led invasion of the Irrawaddy River Delta.)

No comments: