Yearly Archives: 2008
Robert Kaplan’s NYT op-ed today is infuriating on a number of levels. Kaplan argues that the United States and a number of our European allies should consider mounting an invasion of Burma. He concedes that once such an an operation is mounted, the regime might fall so we should also be prepared to impose security afterward. Kaplan acknowledges that a Security Council resolution authorizing an invasion would likely be shot down by the recalcitrant Chinese, but proposes we send a coalition of the willing anyway.
No problem with that, right? It’s not like American forces are already fighting two costly wars. As for the Europeans, I foresee two problems. One, it’s a big step to think that the Europeans will circumvent the Security Council. They take international law very seriously. Second, European forces are also bogged down around the world in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chad and Lebanon. Fact is, most European (and Commonwealth) governments are under strong domestic pressure to scale back their military commitments oversees. A new “coalition of the willing” for Burma is basically a non-starter.
Also bothersome about the piece is that he believes the fantasy that we can just airdrop food and humanitarian assistance to the affected areas. This is just not so. Without intelligence on the ground (i.e. where to drop the relief) and a ready-to-go distribution mechanism, airdrops can do more harm than good. The strong will fight off the weak and people with guns will sell the relief on the black market. The aid will not go to the people who need it most.
Yes, we do have a moral obligation to help the suffering Burmese. The way to fulfill that obligation is not to froth at the mouth for toppling another odious regime, but by working diplomatic channels to force the junta to relent their obstruction of humanitarian relief efforts. This may mean taking a harder line with China over its support of the junta. It certainly does not mean we need to ready the gears of war to invade and occupy the country. That, frankly is a distraction and counterproductive to first imperative of helping those in danger.
From the UN News Center:
Unless more access to Myanmar is granted to allow aid to flow more quickly to victims of this month’s deadly cyclone, a second catastrophe could result, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned today.
Despite some progress, efforts to help the 1.5 million people affected by Cyclone Nargis must be enhanced, a spokesperson for OCHA told reporters in Geneva.
Elizabeth Byrs said that, some 12 days after the cyclone struck, the UN and its partners have reached about 270,000 at-risk people, less than a third of those affected. Heavy rains have been forecast, further impeding aid efforts. Ms. Byrs called for an air and sea corridor to channel aid in large quantities as quickly as possible.
The official death toll reported by Myanmar’s Government has reached almost 32,000, with over 34,000 others missing.
>>China – Yesterday, fighting heavy rain and destroyed roads, rescuers finally reached the epicenter of the earthquake in Wenchuan county, where as many as 60,000 people are still missing. By some estimates, the overall death toll is already north of 15,000. China’s central government has sent $160 million and 50,000 troops in relief.
>>Myanmar – Aid workers in Myanamar are concerned that even the small amount of aid they have been able to get to the capital is not being delivered it to its intended destination, a duty that the military junta has reserved for itself. The British Perm Rep to the UN has received unconfirmed reports that aid is being redirected away from victims. Meanwhile, the junta is still blocking large-scale aid drops and has refused U.S. offers of assistance, as well as those of China, Bangladesh, Singapore, and Thailand. Over 11,000 U.S. troops are in Thailand conducting a military exercise. Also, on Monday Doctors Without Borders was ordered out of the Irrawaddy Delta, and less than half of the visa applications for UN relief officials have been processed.
>>Middle East – President Bush landed in Tel Aviv this morning, to begin a five-country, three-day tour of the Middle East. He has already met with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and plans to meet with Mahmoud Abbas later in the week at Sharm el-Sheikh. The trip coincides with the 60th anniversary of Israel.
>>Colombia – Colombia extradited 14 paramilitary leaders to the U.S. yesterday, an unprecedented action at a time when Colombia is hoping for a trade deal with the U.S. The men will face drug-trafficking charges. Such extraditions are controversial in Colombia and among the human rights community as the prisoners will only serve time for breaking U.S. law not atrocities committed in Colombia. Though they may end up spending more time in jail in the U.S. and, after extradition, are less able to command their networks, which has been a major problem when they were held in Colombian prisons.
- California Gets Clarity
- The Matthew Yglesias Interview
- Boston Globe: The United Nations Can Save Burma
Look out hybrid owners, there’s a new eco-car in town. This Summer, Honda will release its new “FCX Clarity” hydrogen fuel cell vehicle for lease in parts of Japan and Southern California. It boasts improvements over older models, including a much smaller fuel cell that gives the car ample interior space as well as a lithium ion battery to store excess energy for later use and improve the car’s overall efficiency. In case you haven’t heard of this technology, the fuel cell basically mixes hydrogen and oxygen to create water and uses the energy from that process to power the vehicle. So the vehicle’s byproduct, rather than CO2, is a much friendlier 2-letter 1-number combination: H2O.
The reason the car is being released in such a limited capacity is because the car doesn’t use gasoline, so in order to refuel it, you need special refueling station. In parts of Southern California, Honda has created a “home energy station” that would put your gauge back on “F” while the car is in the garage. And though it would be quite cool to always set out on the open road with your car already fueled up, these stations produce hydrogen using natural gas, which is less than ideal. For now, hydrogen refueling stations are not widespread in the United States, but given high gas prices and the fact that the car itself zero emissions and–in my opinion–pretty sporty, maybe they will be soon.
The Atlantic blogger and author of the Heads in the Sand: How The Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up The Democrats talks to UN Dispatch about his new book, explains why Americans need to get in touch with our liberal internationalist roots, and warns against displacing multi-lateral institutions with so-called “concerts of democracies.”
Ivo Daalder and Paul Stares argue for Security Council action on Burma.
The United States and Britain should join with the French government and introduce a resolution in the UN Security Council demanding that the Burmese government immediately allow the entry of international relief supplies and personnel into the country and allow the UN to take charge of the relief mission. To make the case, Washington should show detailed imagery of the suffering and the extent of devastation in Burma (as it did so effectively in the cases of Bosnia and Darfur to shock a disbelieving United Nations).
The resolution should hold open the possibility of additional measures – including air drops of relief supplies – if the government did not comply at once. And the Security Council could commit to return to the matter in 24 hours, assess Burma’s response, and consider additional actions.
I completely agree with the sentiment expressed, but the authors do not address the tricky question of what happens to the relief after its been airdropped. As a number of UN aid officials have warned, simply dropping in supplies without setting up proper distribution mechanisms can be as dangerous as not dropping in supplies at all.
Their broader point, though, makes sense. Taking this to the Security Council could help pressure to the junta so that they do cooperate with relief efforts. They key here is China. Should Beijing lend its support to a Security Council measure demanding the junta cooperate with UN relief agencies, we may just see the junta budge.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.