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Round Up the Usual Suspects

The government in Myanmar has decided they would like to recreate the success of the Kent State shootings in the 70’s by opening fire on Buddhist Monks who are protesting them.  Nothing says freedom like dead protesters in the street.

On a related note, the Bush Administration gave lip service to new sanctions against Myanmar, and the European Union followed suit saying they would do the same thing if violence erupted.  Well, it did, now let’s see if they follow through on their threats.

Hidden Unities has an interesting take on it, bringing China into the mix.

  1. Wise Man Slayn
    26 September 2007 at 10:43 am

    “On a related note, the Bush Administration gave lip service to new sanctions against Myanmar,” Lip service? Being a wee bit slanted, are we brother? For all the many faults of the Bush Administration, this is one thing they’re getting right. They’re also being more supportive of the demonstrators and critical of the military regime there than anyone else, especially China and, rather repulsively, leftist-run India. 😛 And here’s the Wiki link for you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_reaction_to_the_2007_Burmese_anti-government_protests

    Given that we’ve had sanctions against them for quite some time – and that most sanctions usually end up affecting the populace at large and not their rulers – there are only so many more steps we can take short of one of those unilateral moralistic military actions that so upset people. 😉

    I know you don’t like Bush, but seriously, giving him grief over this is silly…

  2. 26 September 2007 at 8:23 pm

    Wise Man,
    Not such a wise response.

    US sanctions barely have an effect on Burma’s junta because they are almost entirely supported by China and also by their nasty drug money laundering business which is rather lucrative. If Bush really cared, he would issue a threat to the junta that we would start training and arming all the various groups fighting for their freedom from one of the most oppressive regimes on Earth. Or threaten to ruin China’s Olympics by lobbying the European Union and Canada to join the US in boycotting Beijing’s Olympics if China didn’t lean with all its might on the junta to enter into an internationally controlled democratic process with the rightful leaders of Burma and the people themselves.

    Or just threaten to park the USS Nimitz or the Kitty Hawk off the coast and bomb the daylights out of Burma’s military.

    While none of these are more realistic than the lip service of more ineffective sanctions, they are more than lip service and would constitute an actual difficult decision to make for the Decider.

    If anything could be considered realistic, it would be for Bush to meet with Speaker Pelosi, a known China-hawk from the human rights side of the house, and ask her to put China on blast on a regular basis over this if there are more casualties on the ground there and have her threaten legislation targeting Chinese businesses with Burma ties.

    Classic good cop/bad cop routine, and I think it could work, rather well actually.

    What scares me about this is the monks are involved, which means this is no one-shot deal that will fade quickly but a showdown, one that will end in a power-sharing agreement with the democratic activists, horrendous bloodshed or the highly unlikely outright fall of the junta.

    As I mention before, you need a serious meeting of the powers here with China, Japan, India, ASEAN, Britain, Australia, etc. China has a substantial human side to its extensive business interests and if the violence engulfs them somehow, China will be sending troops one way or another. They might as well be part of an intervention force that is there to enforce a power-sharing agreement.

  3. Wise Man Slayn
    27 September 2007 at 11:28 am

    *snarl* I had a big reply and then it got wiped out.

    Eddie, nice reply, although the ad hominem kinda detracts from it.

    Let’s see, better condense what I was initially saying…

    – You seem to have missed my point that criticizing the Bush Administration’s actions as only ‘lip service’ when they’ve done more to oppose the regime than ANYONE else, including the EU (has Prodi gotten the EU to lift the ban on selling weapons to China yet, hmm?) and DEFINITELY more than ASEAN, China, or India, isn’t accurate. You seem to be upset that we haven’t invaded them or something by now.
    – China has both natural resource and geopolitical reasons (ports on the Indian Ocean) to support Myanmar’s regime, and is quite willing to ignore criticism in pursuit of those goals. The Olympic criticism threat might be a pressure point, but I wouldn’t count on it, not with the magnitude of their interests. Not to mention they’ve taken “non-interference in state sovereignty” as their international motto, a motto with quite a lot of international support, and cited by some (including states you say we’d need to do anything in Burma) to oppose U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would take a lot more than harsh words to get them to change their stance.
    – For that matter, much the same could be said of India, which has even engaged in collaboration against rebels in their border areas, in part to try and counter Chinese influence. And they are even more opposed to “interference in internal affairs” (especially by those horrible imperialist Americans, etc.) than the Chinese, if that’s possible.
    – ASEAN has usually been part of the problem, not part of the solution, in regards to Burma, having opposed action against them for nigh on two decades if not longer. Since Thailand and Laos are the bordering countries to Burma, well, there goes another avenue of pressure. If they do anything more than *real* ‘lip service’ against the military regime I will be amazed.
    – Russia, like China, has long backed the military government there and, like China, has signed natural resource and weapons deals with them. Not to mention their own, howlingly hypocritical, stances against internal interventions, but they’re on the UNSC like China, so they count.
    – Oh, Bangladesh, also ironically against internal interventions and all that, and kinda busy with their own internal matters. I doubt they’d be willing to host any type of international force (which IS what would be required to DO anything in Burma).
    – So, how exactly is an international solution going to be enacted, what with all the important countries who oppose such an action? Who in the area that borders Burma would support it (and all the wonders of naval forces aside, you WILL need a country with a land border to enable logistical support)?
    – Getting to the drug money angle, very true but who funds that? Oh, right, U.S. drug users. Cutting that revenue stream off would require more authoritarianism than people will support.
    – As nice as it sounds to just invade the place and topple the regime (something that should’ve been done, oh, during the Clinton years was an excellent time, when the forces weren’t engaged elsewhere and the major opposing powers were weaker), we don’t have the forces available, and why would this work out better than Iraq? And where would we invade *from*? We can attack from the sea but we can’t take anything from there except maybe some ports – we couldn’t smash through to Nay Pyi Taw without land-based forces, and that brings in the same logistical issues that any international force would have.
    – Note that Burma has been a mess for a very long time, the current spasm going back almost twenty years through the past THREE presidents, so it’s more than just “the Decider”, as you contemptuously put it, who has done nothing there.
    – I wasn’t able to establish with clarity if the U.S. has sent weapons to the Burmese rebels now or in the past (results were inconclusive when I did a quick search) although Chinese and Russian weapons sales to the military regime were confirmed. In any event, the military regime there is *nasty*, and has successfully crushed their opposition for over forty years, which is the first and most important point involving weapons supplies to the rebels (something I’ve backed for a long time regardless): would it make any difference at all? The other two points are: one, without support from neighboring countries just how are we supposed to get the weapons there? I suppose you could pay off the Thais although they’re not exactly reliable on this issue; and two, is it worth the inevitable anti-American blowback from the champions of state sovereignty mentioned above plus those elements of the Political Left (and some on the Political Right) who have a knee-jerk opposition to anything the U.S. does whatsoever) plus most of the Third World (who go out of their way to oppose interventions over matters such as this) plus whoever else wants to give America a hard time? I’d say yes, but then again the dictates of international opinion are not what I base policy on…but be aware, this blowback would definitely happen (I mean, the U.S. gets criticized for AFGHANISTAN, after all). I don’t think the Burmese military regime is worried about threats to supply the shattered fragments of the rebels…invasion, yes, that they worry about, but as mentioned above the forces aren’t there and as importantly neither is the regional support. Also, if you’re going to arm the rebels, then just do so and don’t dither about making useless threats. This is the type of thing that wouldn’t be seen for a while.
    – While I’d cheerfully support the moves to push China to change its stance as you described, I highly doubt it will work. China will calculate that we won’t trigger a worldwide recession over this (and, sad to say, that IS what would happen over any *meaningful* moves against Chinese businesses…and to hit the ones with Burmese ties, err, you’re going to hit most of them) and at most will do some genuine ‘lip service’ about it and not change a darn thing.
    – The monks were involved in the 8888 Protests back in 1988, the ones which ended in the slaughter of thousands, and this time around it seems they’re playing a more prominent role…not that it seems to be making a difference since at last check the military regime has violently imprisoned hundreds of them and seems to be beginning yet another bloody crackdown.
    – But they’ll make certain not to kill any Chinese nationals. You can count on that. Or Indian nationals. Or Thai nationals- you get the picture. And consequently, why would China change its mind? And if you can’t get China to change its mind (they are *very* resistant to getting pressured from “the West”) you certainly won’t get the Burmese military regime to change its mind, since they don’t care at ALL what we think. These are the people who cut off all contact with the outside world for decades…heard of the Burmese Way To Socialism? Any group willing to go into autarky is not one vulnerable to outside forces.
    – All this said, how do you expect there to BE an international solution to this? Unless there’s an agreement to send an outright UN invasion, err, peacekeeping force in there, it is very unlikely things will change. You can’t talk your way to a solution with the Burmese junta. The only ones who *might* be able to pressure them are the Chinese…and good luck with that. Even then, do you think the end result of a Chinese intervention would be the establishment of democracy, a system the Chinese government is OPPOSED to? You’d probably end up with “current regime lite”, a slightly less oppressive new military regime and a total Chinese puppet.
    – And back to the original point…so why are you so critical of the Bushies? They are doing more than anyone else, and are doing all they have the power and support to do, as I have mentioned at length above. Geez, go rip on the Chinese or Indians or anyone else who hasn’t even imposed more sanctions (*looks at Malaysia*). I hope this isn’t one of those cases where the same people who howlingly opposed the Iraq War for being an illegal moralistic international intervention are howlingly criticizing the Bush Administration over NOT launching an illegal moralistic international intervention. Show some consistency, will ya?
    – But maybe we’ll get lucky and get that one-in-999 chance where the junta sees the error of their ways and steps down in favor of a transitional civilian government. I’m not holding my breath.

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