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.