May 9, 2008

The Ultimate Act of Nepotism and Cronyism

Monique Chartier

The United Nations was forced to temporarily suspend aid shipments to Myanmar because the ruling junta confiscated the intial materiel sent, saying that it preferred to distribute aid "with its own resources".

In order, presumably, to control exactly who receives the badly needed food and supplies. Because of unprecedented and unconscionable foot-dragging by Myanmar's government, only eleven aid planes have landed since the cyclone hit almost a week ago. The U.N. estimates that the death toll could reach 100,000 if assistance is not expedited.

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Myanmar's rulers are more concerned about maintaining their own power than taking care of their citizens. That much should not be a surprise.

What may surprise some in the world is the failure of wealthy OPEC nations to offer any assistance and China's rejection of having the UN Security Council increase the pressure on Myanmar's government to allow aid.

In the past few years, several Western European countries have criticized the US and some have even gone so far as to say that they felt China's rise would help contain American "imperialism".

Maybe this provides some insight into what a world in which China contains the US might look like?

Posted by: Anthony at May 9, 2008 5:38 PM

Like the $200,000,000 in help offered to the USA,after Katrina, by dozens of countries around the world, but blocked by the Bush Cheney Administration

Posted by: Rosario at May 9, 2008 6:15 PM

The crux of the underlying issue is the circumstances under which it is justifiable to violate national sovereignty. Previously, there have been at some good case studies -- the possession (or suspected possession) of weapons of mass destruction and delivery vehicles by a rogue state, the occurence of genocide in place like Rwanda (and almost, so far, Kenya), or the apparent intention of a rogue government (in Zimbabwe) to systematically destroy a national economy. The cyclone in Burma adds a new case study -- would it be right to pressure the government there to allow aid in to save hundreds of thousands of lives? Would it be right to use force if this pressure failed?

Clearly, the world's leading autocracies -- China and Russia -- believe that national sovereignty is paramount.

Others aren't so sure. However, that raises the question of when and to what extent the violation of national sovereignty is justified.

As reports begin to emerge of thousands dying for lack of aid, I have no doubt this question will be debated at length.

It will be interesting to watch this debate unfold, both on AR and on RIF.

Posted by: John at May 9, 2008 6:30 PM

Do you know when Bush will use force to save the people of Myanmar?

Three minutes after Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid leave the Oval Office and walk to the Rose Garden with GWB and announce the bi-partisan agreement to invade another country because it's the right thing to do.

Posted by: Greg at May 9, 2008 9:31 PM

Myanmar's government does ignore its people. So do the governments of a lot of countries, some friendly to us and some not. That being said, who can blame Myanmar for spelling The Agency for Economic Development (A.I.D.) as C.I.A. Any country receiving A.I.D. assistance from the United States should question just who and what accompanies such aid. Our track record demands it. So yes, the Myanmar government is an abomination, but pleased do not be so naive as to assume pure altruistic motives, by this administration especially.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at May 9, 2008 10:24 PM

Bravo Rosario.
Muy bien dicho!

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at May 9, 2008 10:26 PM

Old Time Lefty:

When it comes to the delivery of international disaster aid, you are well and truly clueless, aren't you?

This isn't a USAIR mission, my friend -- it is primarily a US military mission -- nobody else has the sealift, airlift, supplies at hand, and sheer organizational capability required to deliver what is needed within the timeframe that is critical. If you doubt this, look at the history of the response to the Boxing Day Tsunami.

I can only feel pity for someone with a worldview that apparently is preemptively blaming the deaths of hundreds of thousands on the United States, through the tortured logic you use. Absolutely pathetic, and evidence of a degree of moral bankruptcy that is frankly astounding.

Posted by: John at May 10, 2008 12:10 AM

Rosario and the other left-wingers: you're wrong. The Bush Administration accepted over $1B in foreign aid after Katrina. It refused accepting 20 million barrels of oil from Iran that was conditioned upon the lifting of sanctions against Iran.

To refresh your memory:

Granted, some of the foreign aid was not claimed because of legal limits on how aid from foreign nations can be spent and some of those nations were asked to re-direct aid through private groups such as the Red Cross. In other cases, it would have been more expensive to distribute the foreign aid then for the government to distribute supplies already existing in the US.

But your comparision of a wealthy nation such as US not claiming aid for legal and logistical reasons to a poor country such as Myanmar which refuses to help its own people because it views its own people as a threat is as laughable as it is sad.

You said "Clearly, the world's leading autocracies -- China and Russia -- believe that national sovereignty is paramount."

Yes, because throughout recent years China and Russia have always made national sovereignty "paramount".

Just ask the people of India, Latvia, Czech, Vietnam, Lithuania, Korea, Ukraine, Georgia, Hungary, Poland, East Germany, Croatia, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkemenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Estonia, Tajikistan. They'll tell you all about how China and Russia hold national sovereignty paramount.

The reality is that China is willing to violate national sovereignty when it sees fit. However, it willing to play the national sovereignty card to avoid criticism of its own internal policies.

The US is one of the few countries in the world that is concerned about more than its own self-interest.

Posted by: Anthony at May 10, 2008 12:20 AM

We should've sent Brownie over there. He knows how to get things done.

Posted by: rhody at May 10, 2008 2:06 AM

Your remarks are not worth a response, but I will throw pearls before swine and restate my point that Myanmar, or any country for that matter, should look very carefull at the strings associated with U.S. assistance. Whether it's a military operation or a US Air drop is irrelevant to this point.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at May 10, 2008 9:02 AM

Old Time Lefty, you're right.

Look at what we required from France, Japan, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Denmark, Austria, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Holland when we gave them aid. We "made" them become wealthy democracies. Gee, I'd hate to force that on anyone.

Oh, and I suppose we required the fighting to cease in Bosnia before we gave them significant aid. Totally unreasonable.

And let's not forget places like Africa, where we provide aid to countries like Kenya, even though the Kenyan government is locked into a contract with the Chinese government for oil exploration--Kenya's only potential valuable natural resource. Oh wait, I'm sure there were strings attached--Starbucks probably requires the US to get the best coffee beans.

If you spend some time in other countries (particularly non-Western), you rapidly realize the uniqueness of the United States.

Posted by: Anthony at May 10, 2008 4:25 PM

"we MADE them become wealthy democracies"
"made them" ???

"It was hard work,by the Western European contries" G. Bush 7/12/2005

Posted by: Rosario at May 10, 2008 6:16 PM

Here is a history lesson for you regarding WWII. Please read this from Oxford University Press,2003.

DURING September 1947, Anglo-American economic diplomacy met with a crisis, hard on the heels of that which had attended the suspension of sterling convertibility the previous month. The multilateral trade talks taking place in Geneva, which were aimed both at the eventual creation of an International Trade Organization (ITO), and at securing substantial reductions in barriers to world trade, had run into major problems. Accordingly, Ernest Bevin, the British Foreign Secretary, and Sir Stafford Cripps, the President of the Board of Trade, met with William L. Clayton, US Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, and Lewis W. Douglas, the US ambassador to London. Clayton emphasized strongly that, unless the British made substantial steps towards the elimination of their imperial preference trading system, the Americans would look upon it as a repudiation of one of the important conditions' of the 1945 US loan to Britain. Douglas stepped in to say that, unless she amended her attitude, Great Britain might well get left out of any help given to Europe under the recently announced Marshall Plan.

Great Britain eventually abandoned the Imperial Preference System and the world's financial center moved from London to New York.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at May 10, 2008 9:47 PM

"that raises the question of when and to what extent the violation of national sovereignty is justified."

This is still bugging me a day later.

What action would constitute a violation of national sovereignty in bringing aid to the people of Myanmar (whose government pulled troops away from the aid effort to make sure that a referendum election took place)? If another country, for example, choppered in and dropped food and water directly to people ...?

Posted by: Monique at May 10, 2008 9:56 PM

The main concern of the Myanmar government is and always has been the maintenance of its Golden Triangle heroin business.The population is a captive nuisance to them.Myanmar has become a very difficult country for outsiders to penetrate ever since the name change.
Curiously,another Buddhist state(this one with no drug resources),Bhutan in the Himalayas,has until recently been rather insular,banning television among other things.In their case maybe they feared an invasion of latter day Eurotrash hippies such as occured in Nepal.

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 11, 2008 9:14 AM

Yes, Rosario, "MADE".

Participation in the Marshall Plan required member nations to meet certain prerequisites before receiving aid. They had to have their respective economies independently assessed and had to agree to certain provisions that led to greater economic cooperation across national boundaries in Europe. It also led member nations to adopt certain American-style business management approaches.

The US also invited the USSR and Warsaw pact nation to participate if they would agree to these political/economic reforms.

So yes, it was US foreign aid that MADE the European nations into wealthy democracies. I doubt the EU would even exist today if it weren't for the US, and can virtually guarantee that Japan would still be run by an emperor if it weren't for the US.

In recent years, liberals have attempted to diminish the effect of US foreign aid by suggesting that the UN Relief & Rehab. Administration was responsible for much of Europe's recovery. Of course, those same liberals tend to leave out the part where the UNRRA was actually the idea of the US.

Old Time Lefty, thanks for supporting my point. What you fail to point out is that the imperial preference trading system ran counter to the goals of the Marshall Plan. Giving aid to Britain under the Marshall Plan without abandoning the preference system would be the equivalent of asking Greenpeace to give money to Exxon Mobil.

The goal of the Marshall Plan was not to help finance the recovery of European nations so they could begin fighting one another again. It was to provide aid in such a manner so as to bring about a more peaceful Western Europe. The imperial preference plan (which as the name implies gave trade preference to British colonies over European trading partners) only served to split Europe from continental Europe and increase the potential for continued European conflicts between England/France, England/Germany, etc.

Posted by: Anthony at May 12, 2008 3:20 PM
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