Apparently the Burmese people just have not been made to suffer enough, because Time.com is recommending this morning that we "give war a chance" and consider military invasion as a solution to the country's ongoing humanitarian and human rights catastrophe. There's no byline on the article. We can only assume it comes from one of the twelve people in the US who consider Iraq a success.
This will no doubt do as much to help get the doors open to getting real assistance in to the victims as Laura Bush's using the cyclone as an opportunity to grab some imagined "high ground" on disaster relief and publicly shame the junta from the White House Press Room - something that always goes over particularly well with Asian regimes.
Now that we've given the other ASEAN members -- whose pressure on Burma is desperately needed right now -- reason to give pause and question our real intentions, I think we can safely say that the US's chances of getting in to Burma are slim at best. The chances of getting military teams in to ensure the supplies get to where they are intended are probably close to zero. It's time to start looking at other solutions.
Retired General William Nash has something close to a rational solution in the Time.com article, suggesting that China could use its influence over the junta to get it to open up and then supply support to the Thai and Indonesian militaries to carry out relief missions.
Nash suggests that the US should use some supposed ability to pressure China to do this, and even offer to pay for it. Like any good American businessman, we should walk into the offices of a government that rules 1.3 billion people, tell them what we want them to do, open our checkbooks, and watch as they rush to comply.
There's another more sensible reason why China could step up on its own and take the lead on the Burmese relief efforts. China has an enormous sore -- a PR problem -- that erupted with the protests over the Olympic torch, and one that is going to continue to fester until August. Making the right moves now could start to heal that sore.
China has the capacity and the influence to coordinate relief efforts across the region, including as Nash suggests, the flights from Thailand and Indonesia. The military of the three countries, if they are needed, have a far better chance than American marines of getting their feet on Burmese soil. They could, in a coordinated effort, ensure the supplies get where they are intended to go.
China would end up with a badly needed feather in its cap which, combined with moving forward on talks with the Dalai Lama, would give it something to rightfully crow about to the international community. The real payoff -- it could start to dampen the fire of the international protests that, left unhindered, will certainly haunt the Olympics, not only in the lead up between now and August but in the history of the Olympics itself.
Yes, the actions of the Burmese junta are beyond vile. We are all outraged, we are all heart broken for the Burmese people. But when a hundred thousand people are dead or dying, and the normal doors to relief are being shut in our faces, this is not the time to become indignant or arrogant in the eyes of the international community. Even worse is to antagonize our allies in the region by threatening action that would be certain to create more civilian death. A moment like this is the time when you find the strategy that will work, the moves that will get the supplies to the people whose survival in the next week depends on it, and throw your full support behind them. How the Burmese junta is dealt with can be the subject of discussion between the international leaders -- after the dead bodies are removed and the thousands of orphans have something in their stomachs.
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