Friday, September 28, 2007

Round One to the Burmese Regime

The iron fist has come down. The socialist military leaders of Burma are now applying large-scale suppressive methods which cannot be peacefully opposed. Yangon Thu reports:

we called this monk in Yangon, whom my whole family admire, a monk known to be supportive of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to check on how he was doing. He said to my mom "Da khar ma gyi, we are staring at death in the eyes. They might come for me tonight. I think it is my turn." What am I supposed to say to something like that?

And the UN is on the way. Mizzima news fears a sell-out:

with China, which along with Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution on Burma earlier this year, once again calling the ongoing protests and crackdown an internal affair, the Council ended up urging the junta to exercise restraint.

The Council, however, agreed to send Gambari, who has extensively traveled to key countries in Europe and Asia including Asean countries to consult on Burma's political issue in June and July this year, to visit Burma immediately.

However, critics fear that Gambari, who has made two earlier visits in 2006, would be used by the junta to save face internationally.

I think Robert Mayer was right when he called it for the government, which apparently has not split and has made the decision to crack down hard. The peaceful phase of the resistance to the Burmese regime is apparently over. What comes next is another story.

Nothing follows.


Blogger John Aristides said...

This is a depressing state of affairs all the way around, not least because it once again exposes the inherent tension between our national self-interest, on the one hand, and our instinct toward moral obligation, on the other.

9/28/2007 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

Stopping the violent oppression is well within our power. A shame the world is so complicated.

9/28/2007 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

One wonders if the Burmese junta is attempting to change its nation's religion.

It is easy to crack down on clergy when the government's religion is different from the people. Tibet, for example. But when popular religion is also shared by the military and the clergy of that religion turn against a military government, the solidity of the government comes into question. Even Henry II did public penance for the murder of Thomas Becket.

Is the Burmese government Buddhist? Or is it willing to promote a different state religion to undermine the power of the Buddhist monks? I have my doubts that "Myanmar" is prepared to replace Buddhism with something else like Mormonism, Pentacostalism, or Maoism.

9/28/2007 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger A Jacksonian said...

The US is not the World's Policeman. Absent a coherent alternative to the current regime via means of rebellion or other organization standing up as different government and demonstrating its want and ability to govern, there is little the US can or should do. It is unfortunate that the people of Burma have repressive government that sees fit to harass and kill those that disagree with it.

The US has neither the power nor right to intervene in the affairs of Burma. I do believe in the inherent and self-evident rights of individuals, but for Nations to embrace that their people must and remove such government that does not do the same. Until such time the US can help those that may be threatened by this chaos if asked to, and we should do so for those neighbors threatened by spill-over. That, however is limited... for a world to be simple enough to step in, it is also one in which allowing for the differences amongst men to have free expression is likewise under the thumb of such simplicity. That which has the power to overturn such without being asked is also that power which can oppress freely as it is strong enough to resist those that would stop it. We live with the sorrow of such poor governments so that peoples can come to terms with their own needs and their own ideals and, perhaps, embrace something better to turn out tyrants and dictators.

To those that are willing to put such oppression to heel and need help in doing so, help should be given so that liberty and freedom can find home. That cannot be done until that realization and need finally manifests and those willing to risk all for liberty come forward to put forth new order to sustain it. Many are the ills that man will suffer from government that goes repressive until such is no longer tolerable by those under it. Apparently this repression and disorder are not enough for the people of Burma to unite against it and seek liberty and freedom for themselves.

That is, indeed, very sad. How much will the people of Burma tolerate until this becomes intolerable? Only time will tell.

9/28/2007 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

The Burmese haven't given up. They didn't give up after 1988. So they'll be back. But China will still be there: the lesson is that China won't let go. Burma, Tibet, Taiwan are all watching.

In contrast, the West has an endurance of about six weeks on any key issue. A little longer if it is attacked in Manhattan and the Pentagon. And it's enemies know this. We're never back.

During the Cold War the US could maintain a bipartisan foreign policy thread for half a century. Today ... well never mind.

9/28/2007 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

In addition to China, Thailand has had their soft Islamic Coup.
...for the time being.
Would be nice to hear from the good Doctor.

9/28/2007 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...
I requested a Drs visit.

9/28/2007 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

The world is being outfaced by the thugs. And it seems to me that liberal democrats, mystic Christians and pacifist Buddhists are getting the worst of it while groups which know all about blowing things up and interrogating people with electric drills and thumbscrews are thriving.

We get invitations to "express our solidarity", display our "moral superiority" etc and I have heard it argued that the bad guys are somehow going to be impressed by these exhibitions and be "shamed" into retreat. But in reality, if the bad guys had any shame to begin with they wouldn't by definition, be bad guys at all. We are throwing pearls before swine.

But we have such a touching faith in striking these dramatic poses. Bollinger argues with Ahmedinajad, thinking that somehow this makes sense; and he would have argued with Hitler too, if he had the chance. But absent the protection of the Armed Forces, Ahmedinajad would have thrown Bollinger in jail or had him shot for the Columbia president's onstage remarks; and Hitler would have turned him into soap. You could have done a movie scene with Bollinger finishing a climactic peroration and standing satisfied; then Ahmedinajad reaching calmly into his coat, pulling out a pistol and shooting Bollinger; then turning to the audience to say "we have no gays in Iran". It would be a good scene, but one I am afraid, which would make people uncomfortable. Do you laugh, do you clap or do you cry? The lesson it conveys would be too disturbing. The sword is mightier than the pen.

This is not to say that nonviolent resistance is totally useless. By no means. But it is often insufficient. I would have thought the Second World War would have proved the limits of sanity and reason; but then it was failing to realize that reason is inadequae to deal with monsters that precipitated World War 2 to begin with. Total pacifism is a circular kind of ignorance.

9/28/2007 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

For example, Byron York at the Hill describes Ted Kennedy's new defense obsession.

What is the critical issue in our wartime debate over defense reauthorization?

You might think it’s how many U.S. troops should remain in Iraq in the coming year.

Or how much we spend on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Or what rest, training and equipment our forces will be given.

Of course, those things are important. But the critical issue? Well, anyone who’s listened to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) would know the answer: It’s whether we should include the phrase “gender identity” in the definition of protected classes under our hate-crime laws.

I used to laugh at the apocryphal story where French aristocrats, faced with an existential threat from hungry revolutionary mobs, were said to have declared, "If they have no bread, then let them eat cake!" Or that Nero played the lyre while Rome burned. One day, if the history of the present momentous events are written, people will remember what our esteemed private-jet riding, thousand-dollar hairstyled, 15,000 square foot housed, one sheet of toilet paper using elite were concerned with.

9/28/2007 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Do you laugh, do you clap or do you cry? "
You get real quiet and respectful, all things being equal.
Luckily, things have never remained equal forever.

9/28/2007 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

At least that sheet was covered properly by Carbon Offsets.

9/28/2007 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Bush Outlines Proposal on Climate Change

President Bush said today that the world can limit global warming while still promoting prosperity.

Mr. Bush proposed the creation of an
“international clean technology fund,”
to be supported by "contributions" from governments around the world, that would help finance clean-energy projects in developing countries.
The president said Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. would lead discussions with other countries on starting that fund.

“No one country has all the answers, including mine,”
On Thursday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that climate change was a real global problem, and that the United States was a major contributor.
She said the United States was willing to lead the international effort to reduce emissions of gases that had led to the warming of the planet, with the attendant ill effects.

9/28/2007 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

Lesson for those who hope that Iran can be reformed without external interference -- as long as a government can pay its soldiers, it can suppress any movement for change.

9/28/2007 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

$45 Billion in Oil Money will do the trick for now.
Whack a Monk

9/28/2007 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger Kinuachdrach said...

One day, if the history of the present momentous events are written, people will remember what our esteemed private-jet riding, thousand-dollar hairstyled, 15,000 square foot housed, one sheet of toilet paper using elite were concerned with.

That is a stimulating thought. One of the problems with history is that, looking back, it all seems obvious. There is only one path through the multitudes of possibilities that never came to pass. On the other hand, looking forward, all those multitudes of possibilities are real.

The one thing we know for sure is that this moment will pass. Already, most Americans cannot answer the question -- where were you when John Kennedy was shot? Or even -- where were you when Mary Jo Kopechne was left to die?

If the Chinese allow future westerners to retain enough of their own history to be worth studying, it is a reasonable guess that political posturing which seemed stupid in 2007 is going to look even worse from 2107.

9/28/2007 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Vaclav Havel has these comments on Burma.

On a daily basis, at a great many international and scholarly conferences all over the world, we can hear learned debates about human rights and emotional proclamations in their defense. So how is it possible that the international community remains incapable of responding effectively to dissuade Burma's military rulers from escalating the force that they have begun to unleash in Rangoon and its Buddhist temples?

For dozens of years, the international community has been arguing over how it should reform the United Nations so that it can better secure civic and human dignity in the face of conflicts such as those now taking place in Burma or Darfur, Sudan. It is not the innocent victims of repression who are losing their dignity, but rather the international community, whose failure to act means watching helplessly as the victims are consigned to their fate.

The world's dictators, of course, know exactly what to make of the international community's failure of will and inability to coordinate effective measures. How else can they explain it than as a complete confirmation of the status quo and of their own ability to act with impunity?

My own response would be that the international response consists in waiting for America to do something; and whatever America does, it's subsequent activities are entirely devoted to criticizing what America has done.

America has limits. And right now its forces are being used to justifiably oppose the main threat to the world, which is radical Islamic terrorism. The Burmese socialists may be evil men, but they are a second or third order threat.

The tragedy of course is that there are second and third class powers who might, in the Burmese junta, find a foe fit for their strength. But unfortunately they are over strained by the taxing chore of demonstrating in front of US embassies and denouncing American imperialism. I await their recovery from these exhausting labors and their subsequent employment at preventing human rights abuses in Darfur, the Congo and Burma. Ha-ha-ha.

9/28/2007 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Japan may be getting ready to play a larger role. According to the Mutant Frog, coverage in Japan has upped political pressure to hit the socialist military in the wallet.

9/28/2007 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Wretchard --

The fallout of this affair is to show the total bankruptcy to the Western publics of the efficacy of the UN, the international system, the Press, and so on. They are bankrupt and have no use. As non-violence has no real use.

[Save for limited applications within countries that already wanted to do things anyway, like end segregation or dump India as a colony, non-violence has NEVER worked, certainly NEVER outside the US or Britain. Only violence works, and then only when applied in massive doses on the scale of Hiroshima or Baghdad after Hulagu Khan.]

Liberal Democrats world-wide have argued "try it our way with dialog" and have been found wanting. What's next?

Why Jacksonian Nationalism of course. The argument Western Intellectuals made after WWII was that all military spending/efforts was both bankrupt morally and ineffective. Well, Burma provides a classic example of the failure of the so-called Third Way or the EU/UN approach.

What is left? A nationalism centered around national institutions, national identity, language, shared culture, and a strong military. With definite limits and exclusion of the "other." Which has some negative to ugly effects depending on the degree of nationalism.

US defense as A Jacksonian (who's blog is outstanding btw) points out is limited and in decline absent the Cold War struggle. Now nations are largely on their own and must look to themselves for their own salvation.

Which means they will have to fight for what they have, against aggressive people who want to take what they have from them. In other words, business as usual for the human race.

9/28/2007 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger Kirk Parker said...

"During the Cold War the US could maintain a bipartisan foreign policy thread for half a century. Today ... well never mind."

Damn but I miss Scoop Jackson.

Now my state sends Maria Cantwell (a nothing cipher) and Patty "Osama the Daycare Provider" Murray to the Senate. What pathetic fools we are...

9/28/2007 08:53:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The Video of the Japanese reporter delivered a rather unambiguous message.

9/28/2007 09:24:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Murray is now even taken seriously, from what I gather!
How soon they forget.

9/28/2007 09:25:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

U.S. Steps Up Confrontation With Myanmar Junta

The administration seems to regard the violent crackdown on Burmese monks as a long-hoped-for opportunity to get other Southeast Asian nations to rethink their insistence that they should not interfere with the internal politics of their neighbors. The hope is that American pressure might force the Burmese leaders into a political process that would drive them from power, if not from the country.

“What we are trying to do is speed their demise,” said a senior American official. “The question is, do we have the diplomatic and economic influence to hit a bank shot here,” by persuading Beijing, in particular, that its dealings with Myanmar could embarrass it as the 2008 Olympics approach.

9/28/2007 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger Robert Mayer said...

As wretchard notes, the feasibility of non-violent resistance is questioned by these events. When non-violent demonstrators are faced with an autocratic government, which presumably has the near monopoly on force, that is solid and determined to hold power, there is very little hope for it to work. The only time when non-violent resistance has been shown to work in situations where the regime suffers an elite split, and depending on who supports whom either the a weakened regime will stay in place, a power-sharing pact will evolve, or a weak transplacement will occur.

During the Orange Revolution in Ukraine a couple years ago, over a million people were in the street at some point. Though there are many factors for why the oligarch-dominated, authoritarian government of Leonid Kuchma eventually succumbed -- including negotiated constitutional amendments which allowed for the eventual regaining of power for his supporters -- in the very least there was the implicit threat or possibility of a violent, raging mob of a million people. When one elite group has a million people in the streets and another only has a few tens of thousands, it's a no brainer who wins that round. (and in the TUlip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, hell, there was violence, causing then-president Askar Akayev to flee to Russia!)

One reason a solid regime may yield is if it determines that it is better off by doing so. In Central Europe, non-violent resistance worked against the Soviets because they were a foreign occupiers. They could simply determine that control was no longer possible, while packing up their things a leaving without a worry of being massacred after the change of power.

In Burma, there is absolutely no imperative for the military autocracy or its Chinese financiers to yield to mass demonstrations. Their crimes against the Burmese people have been so great that there is the distinct possibility that these men will be put to the firing squad along with every ethnic Chinese businessman from the retail owner to the mine owner. Short of that, there is also the possibility of huge wealth confiscations from the Chinese. All of this is very reminiscient of Indonesia in 1998, and I'm sure that must be in their minds somewhere (not to mention a history pre-1988 of discrimination against Chinese in Burma).

Unfortunately, most guerilla groups with a recognizable amount of power were neutralized in the early 1990s, while China has buffed up the military's arms quite highly since then.

I have a feeling this regime will continue to shed blood until it is completely overthrown, and even then, those criminals will have their own blood shed to the same degree if not worse. Whereas we won't prevent the massacre of so many thousands of people by their own government, China will certainly do its best to prevent the massacre of its own citizens.

The only way I can see this not happening is if the pro-democracy camp takes a radically different approach toward confronting and negotiating with the current regime. I noticed that in the 1988 protests, the people of Burma were hoping desperately that the United States would invade (a naval carrier was nearby) and made that desire very well known. I seem to recall images of nearly the very same thing this time around, asking for a UN invasion. In both cases this would spook the regime indefinitely, as an invasion from any country except China would lead to the near-eradication of ethnic Chinese wealth in the country which, go figure, accounts for the vast majority of it.

The opposition may have to simply suck up two decades of defeat and, somehow, convince the regime that there will be no confiscations of wealth, no trials of senior or lower military officials, and certainly no violence. It would be, in essence, a pacting agreement which would lead to a constitution enshrining a very basic, restricted democracy where the rightful elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi could have public power. While the military would still wield huge power, both constitutional and extra-constitutional, it would give the opposition the ability to negotiate policy that favors the public at large rather than simply a small minority of Chinese businessmen. Having both this representation as well as signs of progress would ease the agitation the regime has had to deal with, a boon for them no doubt, while also easing international pressure.

On this point, while the United States has almost zero room to flex any kind of economic, military, or political muscle here, there is no reason it couldn't negotiate from this same position. Criticism will be held up, travel restrictions will be removed, and economic sanctions will also be lifted should the rightful democratic government be put into place. This is a major selling point, I think.

It will also pave the way for a smooth transition to eventual full democracy, whether that takes five year or a couple decades. Simply put, I don't see any leaps and bounds of progress here, only negotiated baby steps that will allow the regime to see that democratic governance will not lead to all the horrible things (in their view) imagined. Coupled with Western foreign investment and projection of values, Burma can eventually become a prosperous democratic country with a vibrant civil society.

The only reason I can imagine this not being a possibility at all is if China's endgame is to keep Burma, with all its natural resources, from becoming a rival manufacturing and export center, taking all of those resources for itself until they're all used up. In this case, the Chinese and the generals will never let go, and I have very little hope for the Burmese people.

9/28/2007 10:56:00 PM  
Blogger davod said...

aristedes: Stoppping the violent oppression is not well within our power.

Wretchard: Stop with the "let me eat bread" crap. Due to state manipulation of pricing cake was cheaper than bread.

9/29/2007 02:03:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

From Foreign Affairs:
"Two years ago, Than Shwe even moved the seat of government from Rangoon (which the junta calls Yangon), the traditional capital, to Pyinmana, a small logging town some 250 miles north -- reportedly on the advice of a soothsayer and for fear of possible U.S. air raids."

How stupid is that. As I understand it, basically no one but the Generals and their staff and supporters now live in Pyinmana.

That means that the US (or whomever wants the job) can carpet bomb the city with minimal collateral damage. (they would be much safer in the middle of the city with innocent civilians) Tell the Generals who survive to "stop it," and let the people of Burma get on with their lives with some semblence of a compassionate, democratic government. If they refuse, wash, rinse, repeat.....

We at least know who the future leader will/should be. As does the rest of Burma.

9/29/2007 04:09:00 AM  

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