Saturday, May 10, 2008

It's time for the U.N. to forcibly do the job the Myanmar government won't do.

It's not often that I advocate that the United Nations take military action.

However, the intransigence of the Government of Myanmar, where as many as 100,000 people are believed dead from a cyclone and millions more even now at risk of dying of starvation, water-borne illness and other effects of the cyclone, may leave no other choice.

Aid workers have been turned away or refused permission to enter the country. Aid shipments have been seized by the military government. They say they will distribute the aid themselves, but from all accounts that isn't happening. Even doctors have not been allowed in, or to travel to the region. It's not like this is happening simply because of incompetence though-- the military there was quick and efficient enough to put down pro-democracy demonstrations a few months ago. I guess it is clear what the generals in charge of the government consider a crisis to be and what they don't consider to be one.

To simply allow millions of people to starve and an epidemic to start because a couple of generals are afraid that someone may talk about democracy is unacceptable behavior, and so is allowing it to happen.

I don't support unilateral action by the U.S. or any other country. Unilateral military action, even for the best of reasons, often leads to a costly engagement with unforeseen consequences (such as our ill-fated mission to Somalia a few years ago.)

For this reason intervention to feed the people should be done by the United Nations. There are concerns on the part of many nations about sovereignty, and understandably so. The history of colonialism is not all that far in the past for people in many parts of the world to have forgotten about. But while any intervention at all raises some questions about it, a U.N. force is the least likely to raise concerns about any desire to enforce a permanent occupation. The Myanmar junta has few allies in the world, but they do have one important one-- China. Of course China has a veto in the security council and has shown little concern about human suffering, but after getting a black eye earlier this year from their handling of Tibet and with the Olympics about to be underway in Beijing, I doubt if China would exercise its veto to prevent the U.N. from sending a multinational force to the Irrawaddy delta to feed people and treat disease.

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