Saturday, May 10, 2008

Regime Change Myanmar?

Myanmar Destruction

The humanitarian crisis in Myanmar is the most recent example of state failure among the developing world's authoritarian regimes.

Yesterday's Los Angeles Times noted, for example, that the Myanmar government's initial refusal to accept international relief reflected the junta's indecision and fear.

Whatever the cause, it's simply unacceptable for the world community to stand by idly while hundreds of thousands perish, and the nation descends into a nightmare of disease and hunger.

The woman above, stands amid the ruins of her cyclone-destroyed house south of Yangon, while the world waits. Below is the image of one of the "thousands of bodies" drifting in Myanmar's water delta:


We've been in situations like this before, when the major powers of the West said, "Never Again." In Bosnia, the West stood immobilized amid Serbia's murderous campaign of ethnic cleansing. After Rwanda, Western leaders bemoaned the failure of the international community to halt the genocide.

What about today?

Will we hold back, while aid trickles into the country, to slowly to help the lives of the multitudes, and while the regime proceeds with a regularly scheduled referendum designed to cement its grip on power?

Ace of Spades points out there's some clamor in the mainstream media for international action, for example, in Time's piece, "Is It Time to Invade Burma?"

Ace finds a cruel, ironic bitterness in left-wing media-based advocacy for unilateral action in Burma:

Give the left a purely humanitarian mission, untainted by any possibility of the US advancing its own security interests, and they're ready to expend all the blood and treasure in the world in a unilateral war of choice.

There's no doubt that we have the moral right to invade Burma. There's little doubt that, given enough soldiers (and deaths), we could do some good there.

But isn't it awfully funny the left is forever undermining the wars we're actually fighting and agitating to start wars which are not in our clear national interest and hence almost certainly won't fight?

This is an excellent point, and it reminds me of the pre-9/11 debate on American power and the responsibility to protect (see David Reiff, "A New Age of Liberal Imperialism?").

I'd suggest, further, however, that besides the Time piece, I'm seeing very little advocacy for the robust exertion of American military capability in South Asian to stem the humanitarian crisis (more on that here)

Yet, if there was ever a time for bipartisanship in foreign policy, regime change in Myanmar should be it.

Conservative "realists" argued against intervention in the Balkans, and now "liberal internationalists" argue for a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq. At some point partisan bickering needs to stop. American leadership is a force for good, and that's a more powerful thing than victory in the next election.

Photo Credits: New York Times, here and here.