Thursday, September 27, 2007

The UN OODA Loop

My own views about where the last 24 hours have taken the Burma crisis are at Pajamas Media.

The most important development in Burma over the last 24 hours is that the protest movement has not retreated before the government crackdown. ... The lastest report from Irrawaddy dimly hints that it is the generals who may be starting to crack. Unconfirmed reports from a Western diplomat speculate that the government may try opening negotiations with the opposition and that Senior General Maung Aye, not the nominal paramount General Than Shwe is now in charge.

However things turn out, the next 48 hours will be critical and events will probably develop with extraordinary speed. How does the UN handle situations like this? This article illustrates how international human rights organizations are approaching the problem: by attempting to enmesh the protest movement in bureaucracy and engaging in irrelevant symbolism.

Several countries on the United Nations Human Rights Council have begun making consultations to propose a special session to study the brutal crackdown this week by the military regime in Burma/Myanmar on young Buddhist monks and other demonstrators. ...

Yes, you read that right: 1) consult to 2) schedule a meeting to 3) study the "brutal crackdown this week by the military regime in Burma/Myanmar". That's a three step process undertaken so that they may someday/sometime soon figure out whether eclairs or petit fours go best with coffee at such meetings. And afterward they'll swing into action to consider whether to appoint a special rapporteur to study whether it is advisable to have a special meeting to consider doing something about the Burma/Myanmar problem. If anyone is still alive. The article reveals that in certain circles at least, when action time finally comes it should consist of yet still more talk.

The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, a Swiss-based conflict-resolution organisation, struck a similar tone, saying "No one side can resolve Myanmar's problems alone."

Leon de Riedmatten, the HD Centre’s representative for Burma, said "It is important at this time of crisis that we remember the serious issues that still need to be resolved so the country can move forward. The issues referred to include the political impasse, ethnic conflict, economic failure and humanitarian decline," he said.

The HD Centre announced that it would "remain on the front line of conflict resolution initiatives" despite "the current negative trends" and the March 2006 closure of the group’s office in Rangoon, which had been opened in August 2000.

The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) urgently called for a special Human Rights Council session to debate the situation and to certify the Burmese authorities’ failure to implement the recommendations set forth by the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro of Brazil.

Yes, you read that right again: "1) debate the situation and to 2) certify the Burmese authorities’ failure to implement the 3) recommendations set forth by the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro of Brazil." Has anything happened yet in this proposed process? The internationalists will be at the center of everything, an odd thought when they apparently lack the sense to operate a dog pound at a poodle-show, let alone try to be dog catchers in world of pit-bulls with spiked collars. But rest assured, they know what's important. Like finding the right logo.

The Geneva-based Press Emblem Campaign (PEC), which is seeking the creation of an international emblem to identify -- and protect -- media workers, "condemned in the strongest possible manner the crackdown on civilians in Myanmar, the killing of a Japanese cameraman, and the expulsion of two other journalists,’’ while calling on the Human Rights Council to hold a special session. Blaise Lempen, the secretary general of PEC, told IPS that the Human Rights Council should include in its discussion the inability of journalists to work in Burma and the death of the Japanese media worker.

There's an entire organization dedicated to creating "an international emblem to identify -- and protect -- media workers". In their words:

La Presse Emblème Campagne, fondée en juin 2004 par un groupe de journalistes basés à Genève, est une organisation indépendante à but humanitaire. Elle souhaite renforcer la protection et la sécurité des journalistes à travers le monde.

Sad, sad.

A Burmese girl with a gunshot wound.
I wish I could say, "don't worry, the UN is on the way"


Blogger pst314 said...

"1) consult to 2) schedule a meeting to 3)study the problem"

And, of course, there will be lots of meetings with catered meals, and these meetings will necessitate much international travel (all expenses paid, of course) plus the hiring of additional drones--I mean researchers--to assist in these most important activities.

9/27/2007 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

We could go back to OSS Days, where they parachuted in hundreds behind the lines, never to be seen again!
Not that Burma is E. Germany, of Course!
Tim Weiner
History of the CIA
- Legacy of Ashes

Hugh Hewitt
Also, Yon, Kaplan, Burns, Totten, McCarthy, and others, on the same page.

9/27/2007 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

"[...] a million bureaucrats are diligently plotting death and some of them even know it [...]" - Thomas Pynchon

9/27/2007 08:16:00 PM  
Blogger buck smith said...


Only the Belmont Club could come up with a post titled "THe UN OODA Loop" You are the man, dude.

9/27/2007 08:37:00 PM  
Blogger demosophist said...

Well, let's be realistic. You've got to drag your rear across the carpet before you can fly...

9/27/2007 09:11:00 PM  
Blogger Dr. Ferris said...

You've got this process all wrong. Most of the countries in the UN are run by despots, and many of them are affiliated with either the Left or militant Islam. The most important issues to such people regarding the unfolding situation in Burma is how the unfolding crisis might be exploited to their benefit, how to avoid the business from spreading to Leftist countries (like the Vietnamese Empire), and how to keep the American out.

These issues need serious study. In the interim, perhaps if the UN can keep the situation calm enough, the Burmese generals might have a chance to exterminate these dissidents quietly. That would suit the PRC just fine, as they are one of the only real friends of the "Myanmar" generals, and would really, really prefer not to have a successful Buddhist religious revolt in their hemisphere.

9/27/2007 09:24:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've worked at the UN. ALL they do (and many of the NGOs as well, tho they're more active as a rule) is have MEETINGS. Endlessly collegial, and no one ever cuts to the chase. A chase would, inter alia, be much too active and violent, tsk tsk.

One of these functionaries told me that "through-put" (amount actually reaching the starving) of food aid in sub-Saharan Africa is FIVE PER CENT. That's right, 5. "Where does the other 95% go?" "Raked off the top by their gov'ts., etc." he said. And laughed.

That means, of course, that donor nations sending all this aid are directly responsible for helping to keep the murderous kleptocrats in power. They use the aid for their own funding. IIRC, some fellow in Kenya begged the donor nations to stop sending aid: "you are killing us!"

None of that means anything in the face of the do-gooder's chance to preen his moral vanity, apparently.

9/27/2007 09:45:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are,

'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.
- Ronald Reagan

9/27/2007 10:05:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

re: "People's Power"
One of Tim Weiner's first assignments was the Phillipines, and he happened to be there at the time of the overthrow.
Also went to Afghanistan when we were helping the Mujahideen.

Prior to departure he asked for a briefing session with the CIA, and was told they no longer did that.

After many interesting articles started coming back from Afghanistan, the first thing the CIA did on his return was call him and ask him in for that briefing sessing!

That's when he became interested in the CIA in earnest.

9/27/2007 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

impromptu Oval Office session with the president

China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, at the White House for a scheduled meeting on Thursday with the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, soon found himself in an impromptu Oval Office session with the president. Mr. Bush urged Mr. Yang to have Beijing “use its influence” in Myanmar to facilitate a peaceful transition to democracy, said the White House spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe.

As Myanmar’s chief international patron, China blocked an effort on Wednesday by the United States and European countries to have the Security Council condemn the violent crackdown. On Thursday, while not going as far as Mr. Bush might have wished, China added its voice to criticism from abroad when it publicly called for restraint.

“As a neighbor, China is extremely concerned about the situation in Myanmar,” the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, said at a news briefing in Beijing. “China hopes that all parties in Myanmar exercise restraint and properly handle the current issue so as to ensure the situation there does not escalate and get complicated.”

9/28/2007 12:13:00 AM  
Blogger Ticker said...

A Burmese blogger has written an open letter to the President asking him for help. There's not much the US can openly do, the operative word being openly.

The US has engaged in an amazing amount of open advocacy for the Burmese resistants, people who are fighting -- Communists, although the press calls them a "junta" -- they are a socialist military government at the head of a so-called socialist government.

It is my understanding that things may have passed the psychological point of no return. The Burmese military socialists have crossed the line into estrangement from the population and whether or not this literally becomes a fight to the death, it now has the potential to become one.

This is dangerous because it may at some point become an armed struggle and if that happens it can go all sorts of ways. Really bad people, radical Islam included, can take the lead in a "failed state" situation, which Burma is rapidly becoming or will become if the socialist military completely lose their legitimacy.

This makes it all the more urgent to make things "break" our way. It's in China's interest too. US experience in the War on Terror may have created certain deniable capabilities, not necessarily kinetic, which policy makers might want to use. If China is unwilling to take the lead in engineering a soft landing, somebody will have to. Otherwise it will land hard.

9/28/2007 02:29:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Caution by Junta's Asian Neighbors Reflects Their Self-Interest
The discretion by China and Thailand in particular reflects sensitivity over their own political systems. China has been a one-party dictatorship for more than half a century, and its Communist rulers have given no sign they are willing to change anytime soon. In Thailand, a military coup d'etat gave power a year ago to a uniformed junta with different policies but the same origin -- the barracks -- as the one putting down marchers in Rangoon.

As a result, neither government can afford to be seen applauding as the Burmese monks cry out for an end to dictatorship. Were they to join the United States and Europe in clearly urging Burma's generals to step aside for democratic elections, the question in Beijing and Bangkok would be obvious: Why is democracy not also the right path for China and Thailand?

Partly out of these concerns, the main regional grouping, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, had for two weeks reacted to the crisis by citing its doctrine of noninterference in the affairs of member nations, which include Burma. Like China, ASEAN limited itself to deploring the violence and urging some kind of peaceful settlement.

9/28/2007 04:36:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

India last year granted the Burmese junta a package of military assistance, including training and weapons sales, that analysts in New Delhi said included potentially valuable payback: help against Burma-based insurgents along India's northeastern border. In addition, the government-owned petroleum company signed a $150 million deal this week aimed at exploring Burma's natural gas reserves, adding to economic interests that have made India the fourth-largest investor in Burma.

"What has sealed our lips?"
Karan Thapar, a noted television commentator, asked on the editorial page of Thursday's Hindustan Times.
"The fact that the Burmese junta may cease to curb the activities of Indian militants and secessionists from Burmese soil. I don't deny that is an important concern. But surely the government could have found a forum of words to support the cause of democracy without breaking the pact with the generals.
Our pact with them is Faustian and we need to break free of it."

9/28/2007 04:46:00 AM  
Blogger Ticker said...

Mizzima News reports:

Burmese Air Force planes airborne

Military aircrafts from the Matehtilar airbase are airborne. It is not known why the aircrafts have scrambled. On the other hand there is commotion in the Light Infantry Division 33 and 99 of the Burma Army. The exact nature of the commotion cannot be determined as yet.

Troops marching to Rangoon

There is an urgent report that Burmese troops from middle Burma has started to march towards Rangoon. The reported troops are from Central Command based in Taung Oo and South East Command. At this reporting, it is not clear if the troops are marching to reinforce or to challenge the troops in Rangoon for shooting the Buddhist monks.

The next 48 hours will be interesting.

9/28/2007 04:52:00 AM  
Blogger Ticker said...

In my mind the key piece of news are the air force sorties. Air force sorties are useless against demonstrators, unless they are going to bomb monasteries, but without PGMs, this is unlikely. Any needs in that direction can be met by direct fire from mobile artillery.

No, the only likely use for an air force sortie is to intimidate another Burmese military unit. What the news suggests is that there may be a split in the Burmese military.

9/28/2007 04:58:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...


You forgot three things: clinking of champagne glasses, signing documents, and flattering each other how they "solved" the crisis.

9/28/2007 06:47:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

When the Commie hard-liners in the USSR tried to qucnh the democracy movement in August 1991, the head of the Soviet Air Force was summoned to the Kremlin.

He had already made his mind up on as to which side he was on. He gave orders to arm bombers, keep them ready, and if his staff did not hear from him by a specific time they were to blow the hell out of the Kremlin.

Last night on TV I saw a little piece where they interviewed a Floridian who had been one of the men responsible for conducting the Nuremburg trials. He said that he feared that the world had learned nothing from that experience, and that recent experience seemed to confirm it. I fear that what he meant was not the necessity of dealing with evil but the desirability of doing so in courtrooms rather than on battlefields.

9/28/2007 07:01:00 AM  
Blogger LarryD said...

The UN is acting like the diplomats in a Retief novel.

That's not a good thing, because Keith Laumer's Retief stories are satires of diplomats.

Dr. Ferris is right, though, the objectives of the "UN" differ a great deal from either the Burmese people or the US.

9/28/2007 07:03:00 AM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

Laura Bush's OODA Loop is faster than UN!

I concur Buck Smith! Wretchard be Da Man!

Salaam eleikum, yall!

9/28/2007 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 09/28/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

9/28/2007 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger pst314 said...

"The UN is acting like the diplomats in a Retief novel."

You're being unfair: They were merely cowards and fools, whereas the UN is stuffed to the gills with crooks and thugs.

9/29/2007 08:15:00 AM  

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