Thursday, May 29, 2008

Myanmar Wrap-up

To respond to considerable and thoughtful reader criticism and comments addressed to my Myanmar posts, I’d like to organize and expand my views on what’s happening in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis.

What the Myanmar regime is doing:

Disaster relief on a brutal triage basis

Exerting iron control over the delta to make sure it is the only viable aid conduit (it is becoming more apparent that the Myanmar military does have a significant presence in the delta and its guiding priorities are not simply disaster relief: they are control of the population and control of the aid process—objectives we find reprehensible—that are part of an integrated strategy to successfully extract aid and diplomatic engagement from other countries. In other words, a carefully conceived and executed—and apparently successful-- strategy to leverage the cyclone survivors as hostages.)

Accepting civilian aid that it distributes according to its priorities and objectives.

Not accepting military aid. (Foreign military flights are probably impossible even after the junta controls the situation in the delta and allows foreign aid workers on the scene).

What it is not doing:

Not accepting aid. This canard has caused a lot of heat and confusion that has obscured the true nature of what’s happening in the delta. It’s not incompetent, malign neglect—it’s the planned and energetic imposition of regime control over the disaster scene and the aid process—and the acceptance of no-strings-attached assistance from friendly or apolitical parties and dump-and-go aid.

What the Burmese people are doing:

The bulk of disaster relief, heroically, as local communities always do, even in horrific catastrophes of this magnitude

What in-country NGOs and their largely Burmese volunteer staffs are doing:

A tremendous job

What NGOs without a local presence are doing:

Looking for an aid mechanism that will assist them in playing a meaningful but secondary role

What the United States, France, and the UK are doing:

Worrying excessively about the junta gaining an undeserved political and economic bonanza from the disaster

What they are not doing:

Effective, large-scale disaster relief

What they should not be doing:

Trying to strip control of the aid process from the junta by advancing doomed-to-fail humanitarian intervention agendas

What ASEAN and the UN are doing:

Doing the right thing and organizing apolitical relief and a mechanism that will allow foreign aid to flow—that will unfortunately benefit the junta.

What the free-Burma organizations are doing:

Seething in justifiable frustration as the junta exploits the disaster to advance its economic and political agenda

What should be done:

Engage apolitically with the junta despite its corruption and brutality to restore the physical infrastructure of the delta and get the monsoon paddy planted.

What should be done after the basic physical security and livelihood of the people in the delta has been secured:

Link reconstruction and development aid to political reforms.

1 comment:

joshua said...

Are you going to correct your libel about me or not? In 2007, at the Arms Control Wonk blog, you falsely stated that I had an advance copy of Treasury's Final Rule on Banco Delta Asia as part of my role in some "Boltonian shenanigans" you hallucinated. In fact, I received the Final Rule through a publicly available subscription service that you yourself could have signed up for.

You never asked me if this was true before you wrote it, and you never even linked back to my blog, so I had no way of knowing you made that statement until I accidentally found it while researching on google.

Your statement was false and defamatory. I'm not just going to forget this. You owe me a retraction, and I'm going to get it one way or another. Why just be man enough to admit that your mouth outran the facts?