This situation is sickening. 200k dead, maybe 300k; surely more if no one gets in there soon. A BBC interview today with a UN spokesperson revealed that the UN people cannot even get hold of the Burmese leaders on the telephone — no one picks up! Not even an answering machine. The UN says access is a problem, yet BBC correspondents are wandering around counting corpses, without a single soldier in sight.
Here is Robert Kaplan’s op-ed piece making the case for armed intervention. Relevant quote:
Because oceans are vast and even warships travel comparatively slowly, one should not underestimate the advantage that fate has once again handed us. For example, a carrier strike group, or even a smaller Marine-dominated expeditionary strike group headed by an amphibious ship, could get close to shore and ferry troops and supplies to the most devastated areas on land.
The magic of this is that an enormous amount of assistance can be provided while maintaining a small footprint on shore, greatly reducing the chances of a clash with the Burmese armed forces while nevertheless dealing a hard political blow to the junta. Concomitantly, drops can be made from directly overhead by the Air Force without the need to militarily occupy any Burmese airports.
In other words, this is militarily doable.”
My heck, even the French are up for this one. Or if international will is lacking, send in Blackwater, as penance for their Iraqi bloodbath.
Your post reminds me of George McGovern’s wise voice in the 1970’s. He spoke strongly against the Vietnam War. Republicans painted McGovern as a extreme leftist and pacifist. Soon after we had extracted ourselves from Vietnam, McGovern started pushing for the US to take action to overthrow the Cambodian Khmer Rouge regime.
We are rather clumsy as an nation with the concept of Just War.
That’s for sure! “Just War” theory is quite a thicket. I do think, as a practical limit, that no country should act upon another without getting some measure of approval from the UN Sec Council and/or G8.
I don’t see how approval from the UN Sec Council is a practical limit. If anything the Council is an Ole’ Boys Club. We perm members can do anything we like; our veto can protect us others checking our actions. The check it represents is placed on states that are not aligned with a veto nation, or worst, has a legitmate security threat from a veto nation (or ally). Let’s say that a nation was building a nuke power plant because they are highly efficient and they want to stop burning their natural resource ‘oil’ for power when it can be sold on the open market and improve the lives of the people through both cheap and abundant power and oil-profit paid for health and education. Without a veto country to protect you, another veto country, or a security client of a veto state could strike you w/o UN Sec Council approval, and you would have no hope get approval for reprisal. Also, because others disagree with a states choice to engage in warfare for its own interests, causing a state to act against its interests, seems dumb? The G8 seems an even more problematic bar to set. Would you want the US and Russia making decisions about your foreign policy?
It seems that one reason that humanity has looked for an international solution is its post-WWII distrust of nationalism. The US is the loudest nationalist on the planet. Yesterday McCain and Obama had a contest, each trying to fit the most flags on their stage, suit, podium, and boxer sorts. The US is an anomaly in the international sphere because the dangers of nationalism are foreign to us. We don’t have the Nazi shame, we beat the Nazis. Our nationalism hasn’t humbled us in defeat. The 100,000 deaths in Vietnam were not enough to affect the kind of war scars that Europe bares. It seems unlikely when it is all said and done more than 7,000 will die in combat in Iraq, with first week casualty estimated in the tens of thousands… Instead of extra-constitutional controls over US policy, we should demand more from our political leaders. No other intuition is need of back as the legislators in the US. The most sweeping wire-tap bill in history? Passed by Democrats, signed by Bush.
I have to admit I’m only following Thomas P.M. Barnett here, in his book Blueprint for the Future. You’re right that getting UN/G8 permission can’t be a “requirement” for one country to invade another. (What a meaningless suggestion! Like North Korea or Iran would even try.) Rather, it should be a requirement the US puts on itself, as a kind of check against its unilateral powers. Smaller countries will continue to invade each other all the time, but the US’s overwhelming “Leviathan” should be employed only when there is enough consensus among the major players to warrant its use.
And you’re right about how pathetic our pols are. Zakaria’s The Future of Freedom has a nice bit about how politicians used to see themselves as voted into office to exercise their leadership, not pander to the polls. What we need is less nationalism and more patriotism.