Contact: Roland Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org
MILITARY INTERVENTION IN BURMA
The United States designated the United Wa State Army a terrorist organization,
because of its role as a supplier of narcotics. This was revealed by Rand Beers,
Assistant Secretary of State for drug and law enforcement, and Francis Taylor,
Ambassador-at-Large for counter-terrorism.
Priscilla Clapp, U.S. Charge dAffairs in Rangoon, then rescinded the designation,
apologizing for the mistake. (Once again, United States foreign policy
speaks with one voice!)
Kobsak Chutikul, deputy leader of the Chart Pattana political party in Thailand,
proposed that the U.S. should not rule out military intervention against the Wa.
The Bangkok Post quoted an unnamed diplomat as saying that if the SPDC
do not put the Wa out of the drug business
the Americans will get
The Shan announced that the real terrorists are the SPDC themselves.
A coup attempt has been reported by the SPDC, involving Ne Wins family.
Two views on this are that the attempt was real that it was in the process
of being planned; and that the announcement and subsequent roundup was manufactured
by the leading generals as a means to eliminate Ne Wins residual influence.
Prior to this the SPDC made major weapons purchases from China and Russia (using
funding from western oil companies), for the latter including SAM missile batteries
to beef up its border defenses, and MIG-29s. It has been reported that the SPDCs
greatest fear is military intervention from the U.S.
The Shan are right. The SPDC are the real terrorists:
- Through their repression they are terrorizing the people of Burma.
- They are also environmental terrorists, through their systematic destruction
of the natural environment of Burma, which, lying as it does at the end of the
Himalayan mountains, represents one of the greatest sources of biological diversity
on earth. They are terrorizing, and exterminating, this life.
- And, they have given sanctuary to Pakistani nuclear experts who are not only
sympathetic to the Taleban and al Queida but may actually have assisted them in
the materials acquisition and technological training necessary for nuclear terrorism.
The SPDC are harboring a non-ignorable terrorist threat to the entire world.
All of this raises the question: should there be foreign military intervention
The use of force is justified in self-defense, and to assist others in their own
defense from attack, particularly if they request it. For the first, the people
of Burma have a legitimate right to defend themselves. They have been and
are continually being attacked by the SPDC. Further, they have the right
to request foreign assistance, as from the United States, the nations of the European
Union, and Australia. They could ask these countries to intervene militarily and
defeat their oppressors. In addition, such nations have their own legitimate grounds
for responding favorably to such a request (or even for acting without first being
asked), which is to ensure their own defense from nuclear attack. They are in
fact obliged to counteract all potential sources of such an attack, and this includes
taking action against anyone who harbors the threat.
Russia is also selling nuclear technology to the SPDC. One wonders if the Pakistani
experts will get access to this.
Another explanation for the coup announcement is that it was done to create a
misdirection, an artificial barrier to just such an intervention. This may hold
with the dialogue with the NLD as well.
Should there be foreign military intervention in Burma? And, should the people
of Burma themselves request such intervention? These are complex questions, with
many factors to consider, and risks. However, one thing is clear. It is now forty
years since Ne Win took power. It would be a tragedy if the people of Burma witnessed
his final defeat only through the complete entrenchment of his successors. The
saying goes: if you cut off the tail of a snake, it will grow another. If you
want to kill it, you have to cut off its head.
In summary, the argument for military intervention is as follows. There is a bully,
the SPDC; and its gang, the governments of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore (along
with numerous multinational corporations); and its big brother, China. The bullys
victim is Burma: its people, cultures, and nature. The people must stand up for
themselves and fight, but they could use some help.
The argument against intervention is that peace and the transition to democracy
should be sought through negotiation, backed-up by strong foreign diplomacy and
activism, and also that the risks are too great to bear.
There would be many risks associated with military intervention, the first of
which is in the actual conflict. (The irony of an Allied force facing weapons
paid for by their own corporations would be hard to overstate.) Still, one can
argue that for the people of Burma a decisive confrontation now, even though it
would likely involve casualties, is better than perpetual repression. Also, the
SPDC would be a less than formidable opponent:
- The nation offers sea access. Allied forces could be moved to the area in a
matter of days.
- Even given the recent weapons shipments, the Burmese military is still poorly
armed and directed.
- Most importantly, the Burmese army, the Tatmadaw, would prove an easy
if not willing opponent. Unlike the Taleban and al Queida, they have no desire
to fight. Countless soldiers are actually young men and boys who have been press-ganged
into service. It is likely that at the initiation of the conflict they would throw
down their arms, or turn them against the generals. It is essential to note that
in the 1990 elections, which the generals invalidated, the vast majority of the
armed forces voted for democracy.
The Burmese dictatorship, for all its supposed strength, is a house of cards that
the slightest foreign military intervention will blow down. Indeed, actual combat
many not even be required. As Teddy Roosevelt demonstrated almost one hundred
years ago, gunboat diplomacy may be sufficient, in this case to cause the dictators
to run and take exile in China.
As this suggests, a related issue with intervention is that it must be properly
focused. All the talk to-date has centered on drugs and the Wa. Indeed, action
against them is probably already being planned, perhaps as an extension of the
annual Cobra Gold military exercises. However, the drugs that emanate from Burma
are merely a symptom of a deeper problem. All of the specific concerns about Burma,
including ethnic cleansing, forced labor, migrant labor, deforestation, the sex
trade, AIDS, etc., reflect this problem, which is of course the dictatorship itself.
None of these concerns can ever be addressed effectively without targeting the
SPDC. Therefore, any intervention directed solely at drugs (and justified on this
basis), is doomed to failure.
More generally, there are the risks that are associated with any military action,
especially one involving the U.S. Indeed, how could anyone suggest such a thing?
The U.S. military is unable to say no, to stay out of other peoples business,
particularly in civil wars where both sides are in the wrong (this is not the
case in Burma); to escalation whenever and wherever it gets involved; and to unimaginable
funding and weapons programs. Hence, any such involvement, or request for involvement,
should be not for unilateral assistance but instead for a multinational effort.
Then there are the risks, and issues, related to making such a request. Would
it be appropriate for the people of Burma to ask for help, and if so how should
they do it? This would require a major consensus-building effort, and there would
inevitably be disagreement. Many pro-democracy groups are committed to dialogue
and non-violence. In addition, there is the issue of pride: is it seemly to ask
As an example of the last, though, the government of the Philippines has requested
U.S. assistance, in the form of military trainers, to help it confront the Abu
Sayyef. However, this has not been without controversy, witness the recent visit
of foreign peace activists to the country. Also, such involvement already shows
signs of escalation. On the other hand, the intervention reportedly enjoys great
support among the general public, who have had enough of the Abu Sayyefs
terrorism and crimes. (In such a situation, whose voices should decide?)
Lastly, there is the question: if you ask, will they come? For America, it likes
to present itself as the champion of freedom and democracy, but is this real or
is it a misdirection in its own right? There is no other way to find out than
to ask. And, for America, there would be no better way to make its words real
than by relieving the suffering of some forty-eight million people.
Dictator Watch welcomes comments. Obviously, we believe the idea of military intervention
should be considered, if only to pressure the dictatorship and force it to negotiate
with sincerity. Indeed, were such an intervention to occur, Burma would be free
this year. The long wait would be at an end, although great challenges, associated
with building a new Burma, would be just beginning. However, this is not our decision
to make. It is up to the people of Burma. Their new democracy should start now.
This is in fact our real goal: to stimulate discussion and revive the democracy
movement from the morbidity into which it has lapsed.