Russia joins the ranks of the delusional, offering up half-baked diplomatic initiatives and theories of dominance that don’t mesh with reality. Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post has the details. I acknowledge the wisdom of TDAXP‘s assessment of Russia when faced with hubris like this.
“Traveling to Berlin early this month on one of his first trips as president, Medvedev stressed the need for “a new world order.” Leaders call for the founding of a new world order only when they are convinced that their nation will dominate it. That was true for George H.W. Bush in 1991, and it is true today for Putin, Medvedev and others in Russia’s reformulated leadership.”
Nevertheless, if Malthus is wrong, then why is it necessary to prove him wrong again and again, every decade and every century? Perhaps because a fear exists that at some fundamental level, Malthus is right. For the great contribution of this estimable man was to bring nature itself into the argument over politics. Indeed, in an era of global warming, Malthus may prove among the most-relevant philosophers of the Enlightenment.
Fareed Zakaria and Thomas PM Barnett both helpfully pour cold water on the heated rhetoric of fear and exaggeration that dominates America’s understanding of problems like terrorism and Iran’s nuclear program.
In a sense, the warriors are pessimists. In the old days they were scared that communists would destroy America. Today they rail that Al Qaeda and Iran threaten our way of life. In fact, America is an extremely powerful country, with a unique and extraordinary set of strengths. The only way that position can truly be eroded is by its own actions and overreactions—by unwise and imprudent leadership. A good way to start correcting the errors of the past would be to recognize that we are not at war.
As I’ve said repeatedly, terrorism is, to me, what’s left, not what’s next—much less what’s transcendent.
To me, that’s like America in 1875 saying Crazy Horse and threats like him are the future of the United States experiment and we should reshape our entire government and foreign policy and national security establishment to meet this transcendent challenge.
Andrew Sullivan reviews the writings of Bill Kristol, mocking Senator Chuck Hagel in late 2002 for daring to ask what happens after Saddam’s regime would fall, and dismissing with maximum ignorance the possibility of sectarian violence in post-Saddam Iraq. The repugnant Kristol has proven time and again he has the same level of reputability as Tim Donaghy, the disgraced NBA referee, yet is a darling of the media and now enjoys a perch at the New York Times as a resident conservative columnist. There are far, far better conservatives to represent our ideas and opinions than him, and I find it a tad insulting the Times misrepresents us so.
Years from now, how will the world recall the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis? How will the abandonment of between a quarter million to a million or more people to certain death by the world be viewed?
Of course, killing fields are all too common so this line of questioning is pointless.
Cambodia, Rwanda, Dar Fur, the Congo. All have witnessed “the treatment”, international hand-wringing and the occasional hiccup of half-hearted measures to stem the dreadful tide of death. History repeats itself, especially in this fashion, early and often.
Burma seems destined to join these ranks. Credible reports of aid theft, continued obstruction and delay of accepting the necessary aid workers and whispered observations of ethnic minorities getting nothing intentionally (we call that ethnic cleansing in some places) mean nothing to the world at large.
What then could be done?
Military intervention is highly unlikely and probably not advisable.
Inaction is preferable to most but morally repugnant.
Begging the junta publicly and privately to accept aid is disgraceful.
Once again, the US finds itself in a position where it could influence events but cannot because it lacks the capacity in most instances to operate on multiple levels of policy and activity. The crisis develops to America’s policymakers as an either/or fallacy, either intervention or nothing, or like Dar Fur, intervention or half-hearted measures.
There is more to the picture. The following are examples of other measures that could be explored, some in tandem, some obviously cancel the other out.
- The US could dangle the prospect of a lifting of sanctions against Burma in exchange for a firm agreement to allow aid and (perhaps) engage in a real dialogue with China, India, Thailand and ASEAN or the UN present with regime opponents. The sanctions have a symbolic effect but little else in a country where the above countries enjoy far greater influence and economic pull than we do.
- The US could muster the “democracies” as John McCain and Robert Kagan are fond of claiming can be “aligned” and push at the UN and through the global media for an ICC related indictment of the junta as war criminals (Crimes against humanity, to include ethnic cleansing). Even if the Chinese and Russians veto it, push and push harder until the Olympic Games are set to begin. Control the narrative of the global media by influencing events relentlessly that builds up pressure on more affected parties like India, Singapore and Thailand. Failure is still likely but lessons learned from this may come in handy in future potential disasters like Bangladesh, North Korea, Laos, Cambodia, etc.
- Find an answer to the question of how influential are the Chinese in Burma? How many of the officers in the junta are in their pocket? What it would take if the possibility existed for China to support a coup in Burma? How could the US push this forward?
- Start arming the rebels in abundance. Such a tactic may be morally dubious at worst (though given the ruthless assault on ethnic minorities via rapine, aerial bombardment, murder of children, food weaponization and enslavement by the regime it isn’t that repugnant) but it will be China, Thailand & India’s mess to clean up after the failed state finally totters over. Their choice to worship the false deity of “Burmese stability” that supporting the generals represents is tantamount to that of an accessory to mass murder.
Is anything else available? Perhaps a long-term goal of opening the regime through trade (again, the lifting of useless sanctions) is the best option to be explored, though its also the most unlikely due to the idea of sanctions being a sanctified sacred cow in bipartisan American foreign policy.
Note none of these require an intervention by the US military. Just as a variety of diplomatic possibilities were not explored before and during Dar Fur, failure to identify the RPF as preferential to Hutu Power (Or even jamming the Hutu Power radio signals) and how realpolitik trumped humanity (supporting the ghastly Khmer Rouge versus the Vietnamese), matters are regularly portrayed in Washington as “either-or” and actual understanding of the problem at hand (and the opportunities open to explore) suffers greatly as a result.
Above all else, the world today and in the near to mid future will likely be as hostile and unpromising to the application of American military power to address such tragedies. The need for potential alternatives besides doing nothing will only increase.
This blogger is not egotistical enough to believe the ideas presented here are the best alternatives for Burma, yet considers the need for options beyond “just do something” or “do nothing” imperative to having a fighting chance at achieving some measure of our goals for Burma and respond to the enormous injustice regularly inflicted upon the many Burmese peoples in the future.
* Besides, stunned silence in the face of such depravity and craven shortsightedness from the generals and politicians in Asian and Western capitals is too much to bear without at least one more post about this.