Saturday, May 17, 2008

Operation Burma Blitz

After you've shot someone it's much, much easier to give them a banana. This seems to be the logic behind those siren voices calling for humanitarianism by force. However, there do seem to be some crucial problems with such an approach.

1. Who's forces? Americans? British? Congolese? I don't think so. Where are they? How quickly could they get there? Wouldn't everyone be dead in Burma by the time the friendly bombs come raining down? Anyway we can't afford it.

2. What would they do? Kill all military personnel that came near them? Kill anyone who tried to touch the bananas? Use their air power to obliterate things that later turn out to be convoys of children? Stand about whilst everything happens as before? What's the mandate?

The Burmese army would be better deployed helping the relief effort (which I believe it is doing at the moment, probably very poorly) than having to deal with hostile military interventions.

3. The repercussions of a resisted military invasion would not be confined to Burma. This region has had its fair share of jungle wars against Western occupiers, and they have a better than average score sheet too.

Burma shares a border with India and China - neither of whom would be entirely impressed with marines yomping about in the jungles, Bangladesh - which has a strong Islamicist current that might get excited about that sort of thing, Thailand (who might not care) and Laos for whom this could bring back unhappy memories. The Lib Dems make it sound like this would be easy - I say bloodbaths often are, but their consequences can be "unwelcome".

4. Would NGOs operate under these conditions? No, of course they wouldn't. "Hello, my mates just killed your Dad, never mind, have a biscuit." It's not the way its done I'm afraid.

5. Perhaps we could bring them democracy? No, we couldn't. Our entire record in the region has been to suppress democracy in favour of maintaining colonial relationships. We can't even pinch their oil because it's Western companies that are already pumping it.

A bayonet is a weapon with a worker at either end. Neither of them is smiling.

I understand the call to do "something" and the situation is horrifying. But those who've called for the use of force AGAIN because they don't care whether it works, only whether we appear to have tried to help are not friends of the Burmese people. Aid efforts cannot operate under invasion conditions and killing people in order to save them has been tried before. It doesn't work.

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