Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

May 11, 2008

Question Of The Day: Time To Invade Burma ?

by Doug Mataconis

Time Magazine asks the question:

That’s why it’s time to consider a more serious option: invading Burma. Some observers, including former USAID director Andrew Natsios, have called on the U.S. to unilaterally begin air drops to the Burmese people regardless of what the junta says. The Bush Administration has so far rejected the idea — “I can’t imagine us going in without the permission of the Myanmar government,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday — but it’s not without precedent: as Natsios pointed out to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. has facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid without the host government’s consent in places like Bosnia and Sudan.

A coercive humanitarian intervention would be complicated and costly. During the 2004 tsunami, some 24 U.S. ships and 16,000 troops were deployed in countries across the region; the mission cost the U.S. $5 million a day. Ultimately, the U.S. pledged nearly $900 million to tsunami relief. (By contrast, it has offered just $3.25 million to Burma.) But the risks would be greater this time: the Burmese government’s xenophobia and insecurity make them prone to view U.S. troops — or worse, foreign relief workers — as hostile forces. (Remember Black Hawk Down?) Even if the U.S. and its allies made clear that their actions were strictly for humanitarian purposes, it’s unlikely the junta would believe them. “You have to think it through — do you want to secure an area of the country by military force? What kinds of potential security risks would that create?” says Egelend. “I can’t imagine any humanitarian organization wanting to shoot their way in with food.”

Not only is it hard to imagine, it’s hard to imagine how it could succeed without thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands, of innocent Burmese being victimized, most likely by their own government.

Let’s face it, the Burmese junta is so unpopular that any move to move in on their territory to help people is unlikely to arouse all that much international condemnation.

The problem is, what do you do after that ?

Delivering the aid and seeing that it gets to the people who need it is one thing. Then comes rebuilding, and that means a near-permanent presence in a country that very few people know anything about.

As with most international interventions for “humanitarian” reasons (Somalia anyone ?), military action in Burma is likely to lead to even more problems than we would be trying to solve.

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  • http://anarchangel.blogspot.com Chris

    Well, I think it would be an objective good to mankind to simply shoot the entire “government” out of hand… but it’s not exactly a practical solution now is it.

  • UCrawford

    There is absolutely zero reason for us to consider intervention in Burma. The place is of little to no strategic value to us, the problems there are complex, and we’ve already gotten ourselves in enough messes that we’ve yet to sort out. The idea that we have a duty to go into Burma is as laughable as the idea that we had a duty to go into Iraq or Darfur or Vietnam…it’s a position usually submitted by hypocrites who think they’re being humanitarian when they throw U.S. soldiers into the middle of a civil war to get shot.

    Fuck Time Magazine…it’s a rag run by idiots.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/22/a-bit-about-kevin/ Kevin

    I agree with both Chris and Crawford. We should leave them alone while acknowledging the best solution is the execution of the entire Burmese junta.

    In fact, since the Burmese government doesn’t want American disaster aid, we should stop sending disaster aid and withdraw any aid offers we have already given.

    Here’s a bonus question: which two countries are the Burmese regime’s biggest enablers?

  • http://longwalktofreedom.blog.com Thatoe Kyaw

    We Are Ex-Politacal Prisoners In Burma and activists of Last September Saffron Revolution . Burma Junta are no supplies ,no food, no water for cyclone Nargis Victims and also improper in International Aid .

    Peoples are water ,food and freedom .So U.S and Others Countries must be Invade to Burma and SAVE OUR PEOPLES .

  • UCrawford

    Thatoe,

    If you’ve seen the aftermath of what happened the last time the United States went in to liberate people using military force (it’s still on the news) you should probably reconsider asking for us to invade your own country. We screwed up in Iraq because we overlooked the complexity of the situation on the ground and we didn’t have the resources to dedicate so the troops could do their job…we have even less to work with now. Invading Burma would be a disaster, particularly since it’s very likely that the junta, once removed from power, would start an insurgency that we can ill-afford to fight.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/22/a-bit-about-kevin/ Kevin

    Crawford,

    Absolutely. Plus, the terrain of Burma is much more conducive to guerrilla warfare than Iraq is. Finally, make no mistake, countries like China which have an interest in seeing the US occupied in other engagements will keep the insurgency well armed and equipped.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    Kevin,

    Not to mention that the junta appears to have plenty of support among the Burman population who make up roughly 68% of the country. The locals who want them gone are the fractious ethnic minorities that make up the other 32% and possess much less of the wealth and influence than the ethnic Burmans do. In essence, we’d be trying to overthrow a government that actually has the popular support (albeit possibly begrudging) of its people to empower minorities that likely don’t have a sufficient power base to maintain control short of installing their own military dictatorship. So you can’t make the claim that intervention is to “promote democracy” (as stupid a concept as that is).

    It’s unfortunate, but sometimes you’ve just got to let these things play out on their own. The best thing that we could probably do to help the minorities fix their situation is to open trade with Burma, regardless of our opinion of their government. Keeping the country poor isn’t going to do anything to change the dynamics…and it probably will only make things worse as it’s likely to lead to more oppression as people are forced to fight over what resources Burma does have (a fight the junta will likely win). More importantly, trade sanctions against Burma wouldn’t help us either…and it would just push Burma further into China’s sphere of influence.

  • tkc

    “Not only is it hard to imagine, it’s hard to imagine how it could succeed without thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands, of innocent Burmese being victimized, most likely by their own government.”

    Umm, the Burmese junta is already victimizing a large part of its own citizenry.

    Still, this would be tough. China would not be happy. I don’t think the junta would have any problems killing aid workers so force protection would be a nightmare. And even if the junta gets overthrown, then what?

    There had better be a better occupation plan than the one for Iraq. Nevermind that the US can’t afford what it is doing now.

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