I have just read Naomi Klein’s column in The Nation, it’s online here. She makes an argument that the cyclone in Burma and the earthquake in China could lead to greater political unrest in those nations. I guess that’s always a possibility in the aftermath of such shocks, but how can people really fight back when they’re starving and their backs are literally to the wall?
It’s worth reading Klein’s analysis. I think she’s right about one thing (perhaps among others):
The cyclone, meanwhile, has presented [Burma’s rulers] with one last, vast business opportunity: by blocking aid from reaching the highly fertile Irrawaddy delta, hundreds of thousands of mostly ethnic Karen rice farmers are being sentenced to death. According to Mark Farmaner, “that land can be handed over to the generals’ business cronies” (shades of the beachfront land grabs in Sri Lanka and Thailand after the Asian tsunami). This isn’t incompetence, or even madness. It’s laissez-faire ethnic cleansing.
Mark Farmaner, is the director of Burma Campaign UK. But I fear that well-meaning organisations like Marks are really providing some soft cover for possible western military action against Burma in the name of “human rights”. The Burma Campaign group is organising protests calling on the French, British and American governments to act “unilaterally” to force the Burmese regime to “accept” aid.
“The regime in Burma is still blocking the aid needed to save lives,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of the Burma Campaign UK. “The USA, France and UK have navy ships in the region that could be saving lives now. The regime will never give permission for them to go in. The choice is stark. Go in now without permission and deliver aid unilaterally, or let thousands more die.”
I think this is a politically mistaken strategy. It’s reminiscent of the excuses used to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. The argument that the local people cannot save themselves and need a benevolent invasion to help them is fraught with danger. This is not real-politik.
The only reason that the US, UK or France might want to force the hand of the Burmese regime is to get access to the wealth of the nation. This is what imperialism does in times of such crisis. it is precisely what the shock doctrine is about. However, in Burma’s case, it seems that the argument is being made that the regime is most able to benefit and move in relation to the shock – that is its position will be strengthened. While this is true, we also have to recognise that global capitalism does not have a human face. No amount of special pleading by well-intentioned activists can change that. All it does is muddy the waters and create confusion for the left.
The Burmese regime is vile, no question about that, but this should not lead to automatic support for an invasion of Burma.
The other aspect of this is of course the role of China. It is unlikely that the Chinese regime, reeling as it is under the impact of earthquakes, would allow western troops on the ground in Burma. Though, it might be the case that China’s own problems make it less likely for it to provide military support to the Burmese regime to repel a so-called “humanitarian” invasion.
How can any humanitarian aid be shipped into Burma against the wishes of the regime without causing some kind of military conflict? Proponents of the shock doctrine might argue that the regime is internally too weak to put up much resistance – thus the need to act quickly.
George Bush is being “urged” by Congressional leaders to act quickly and even people like Desmond Tutu are jumping on the humanitarian intervention bandwagon.
Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu has also written to Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, saying the UN Security Council should authorise immediate shipments of aid to Burma “over the objections of the military regime”.
“The refusal of the Burmese military regime to accept full, adequate humanitarian aid from the international community is nothing short of criminal and unprecedented in recent history,” said the former South African archbishop.
Tutu has said that the Burmese government has committed crimes against humanity by refusing to accept foreign aid. Strong language and the sort of talk that leads to crazy a$$hole$ like Bush to jump on his white horse and batter down the borders.
It’s not too far fetched to believe that an invasion scenario has been war-gamed by the Pentagon. It’s certainly a topic in the blogosphere. Here’s a grab from a post by former New York Times staffer Blake Fleetwood’s blog on Huffington Post from September last year:
CIA commandos have already mapped out invasion scenarios with the support of oppressed ethinic tribes. A quick strike in this misbegotten country would not be difficult.
Finally a war we can win.
If you want to find a really bad guy, forget Ahmadinejad; General Than Shwe is the real deal in the genocide department.
The loopy-right blogosphere is also in on the act; it’s a good job we don’t have to take it seriously.