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Burma as Interventionist Talking Point


George Packer writes:

If the fear of Baghdad and Falluja is what keeps foreign powers from saving huge numbers of Burmese from their own government’s callousness, that will be one more tragic consequence of the Iraq war.

On the other hand, if it’s going to be done, it should be done quickly. I know all the arguments why we shouldn’t. But there are at least a million counterarguments why we should.

Right…. Yglesias nails this; the appeal of invading Burma to hawks on the left and on the right is, primarily, that there is no chance that the invasion of Burma will ever happen. Packer stumbles into one reason that it won’t happen when he writes that “it should be done quickly”, or not at all. I noted last week some reasons why invasion as disaster relief is likely to prove, well, disastrous in Burma, but here’s another one:

Remember the Mistral? That’s the French naval ship that Bernard Kouchner announced would deliver aid to Burma whether the Burmese junta liked it..or not! The Mistral was supposed to arrive in Burmese waters the middle of this week on its unilateral mission of mercy. But it’s not there.

The Mistral has been steaming around the Bay of Bengal in circles…because it didn’t have any rice in its hold…which it has to buy from India…and is only now completing loading at India’s port of Chennai…and it hopes to reach Burma Sunday…on the two-week anniversary of the cyclone.

That’s not a spectacular improvement over the relief efforts of the Myanmar junta.

It is simply not within the capability of the international community to carry out an invasion as humanitarian operation within the time frame dictated by this crisis. Arguments like Packer’s (or Kouchner’s, for that matter) take on the aspect of fantasy in the face of the practical problems presented by the disaster. As such (and as Yglesias notes), the real curiosity is what hawks, both left and right, think they get out of making the argument for intervention.

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