Regime Change

Cody Hoesly

Just wondering, but is the situation in Myanmar an example of when regime change, if ever acceptable, might be?

A UN-backed force, for instance, taking over the country temporarily to help those in crisis after the recent disaster there, when the local government is so callous?

Just curious about the thoughts of an Oregon crowd likely against the regime change perpetrated in Iraq, and maybe also that in Afghanistan.

Comments

  • Max (unverified)
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    If the U.N. wants to go for it, I'm all in favor. I'd not hold my breath waiting on them, though.

    I think they'll stand around and let over a million people die. Action isn't something the U.N. excels at.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    This from Chapter 1, Article 2 of the United Nations Charter suggests an invasion of Myanmar is not permissible: "Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll."

    However, a full study of the Charter may reveal some article that might make a humanitarian mission possible. It may be that the Security Council has that option, but it doesn't appear that the provisions of Chapter VII that would allow intervention would apply in this case. There doesn't appear to be any threat to international peace.

    Perhaps, the junta is following the Bush Administration's example in the matter of Katrina.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Looking at Mr. Hoesley's photo in his posting, I am guessing he was a very young boy at that time that the Soviet Union imploded and left/liberal circles in the US became captivated with the idea of "progressive" foreign intervention as opposed to the nasty interventions we'd been previously involved in.

    One could write a thesis on the subsequent history of "progressive" foreign intervention.

    Presidents and congressmen don't like telling their constituents that their sons and daughters got themselves shot up for a "good cause" any more than for the nasty old sort of intervention. Given what happened in Rwanda and Bosnia, neither do prime ministers and members of parliament in a number of othr countries.

    I don't particularly like writing this, but please Mr. Hoesley, you don't want to be the progressive version of Dick Cheney, who proposes sending someone else off to fight while being otherwise engaged.

    By the way, one important detail: Myanmar aka Burma has an enormous standing army. Who exactly is going to take on the "humanitarian effort" of kicking them out of the way?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    If the Security Council proposed an intervention very likely China would exercise its veto.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Presidents and congressmen don't like telling their constituents that their sons and daughters got themselves shot up for a "good cause" any more than for the nasty old sort of intervention.

    The Bush Administration, most of Congress and countless newspaper editorials didn't seem to have a problem sending our military into harm's way where they "got themselves shot up for a 'good cause'." Nor has this debacle dissuaded some from laying the groundwork for a war on Iran. It wasn't that long ago John McCain made a speech laying out a scenario of several wars in the future. Given his "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" lyrics we might reasonably presume he is looking forward to a jolly old war or two during his administration.

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    In a more perfect world Burma would be a prime candidate for regime change. National security strategist Tom Barnett has set out a process (here briefly and more extensively in his books) for dealing with politically bankrupt states: the UN indicts, the G-20 authorizes and commits funds, the US military takes out the local military, an international reconstruction team begins nation building, an international reconstruction fund kicks in development funding and former leaders are prosecuted before the international criminal court. Unfortunately we do not now have these international institutions and relationships in place to make this work in Burma’s case.

    What happens in Burma will depend upon China and India. There is no use talking about regime change until both those countries want it. If they both wanted it, then we could talk about shared implementation. This would not be a time or place for US unilateral action even with the UN blessings.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    Dumb idea! Try conducting a humanitarian operation in the middle of fighting a war of invasion, against a foe that knows the terrain and you don't. And then doing a nation building operation against another guerilla insurgency. Idiotic neocon idea!

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    Personally, I had no problem with the regime change in Afghanistan. That, at least, was logically related to the events of 9/11.

    Iraq was, of course, a farce and continues to be one. Worse, by wagging the dog we've allowed Afghanistan to edge back towards chaos or at least towards a protracted struggle where many more will die before security is restored.

    I would tentatively support regime change in Myanmar only if it's led by the UN or by Myanmar's neighbors. And by "led by the UN" I don't mean they rubberstamp something and we go charging in. I mean, they lead, they charge in, we lend support.

  • james r bradach (unverified)
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    A warrior culture with significant oil resources. Let's get after that!

  • Ron Hager (unverified)
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    Look at it from a different perspective. There was no call for the UN to invoke a regime change in the United States under our despotic president, Bush "The Torturer".

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
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    If we had decided to topple the Burmese dictators instead of Saddam, the people there would have greeted us as liberators. Alas, we're too bogged down now to do it.

  • davidg (unverified)
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    In the last 60 years, the US has a pretty lousy record of trying to successfully implement regime changes in Southern Asia. Viet Nam, Iran (the shaw), Afganistan, and Iraq are all good examples of what a bad idea regime change can be.

    Myanmar next? Don't even think of it.

  • Dan (unverified)
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    The only possible solution to intervene I can see would be to disperse humanitarian aid drops throughout the damaged areas.

  • Dan (unverified)
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    The only possible solution to intervene I can see would be to disperse humanitarian aid drops throughout the damaged areas.

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    ok, no one has the ability or will to actually go into Myanmar and force the needed aid down the tyranny's throat.

    what then? how do we demonstrate our dedication to the free will of other nations when half-a-dozen people possess that will? how do we prevent hundreds of thousands of people from dying when their leaders don't give a damn?

    if we weren't wasting our good will in the global community in Iraq, could we use it to lead the world to force the military thugs in Myanmar to do the "right" thing?

    this is how badly we've lost our way since the end of WWII: we see clearly what needs to be done in Myanmar and Darfur — protect and help those who are powerless at the ends of many guns — yet we are impotent to act or even see a path to action.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Problems with humanitarian intervention:

    • Nations invade other nations for selfish reasons, usually the selfish reasons of powerful people who have influence over public opinion and government decision makers. Military action justified as humanitarian is rarely done for that reason.

    • Outside intervention tends to rally support for the government of the target nation, even when the government has brutally mistreated its people.

    • War tends to create death, destruction, chaos, and poverty. Intervention may create more of what it aims to end.

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    Cody, to start with I reject the common blog-spin idea of "the xyz crowd" -- it never describes anything accurately.

    Secondly, "regime change" is a euphemism for aggression and imperialism. Although it has died back after the wheels came off of Bush's Iraq invasion bus, during the ginning up of that aggression and for 6 months to a year after, quite a number of pundits were floating ideological balloons to the effect that the U.S. should openly acknowledge having an empire and assert its "right" to act accordingly.

    Thirdly, as far as I am concerned the United States utterly lacks any standing other than its (our) brute force power to attack Myanmar militarily. What the Myanmar military junta has been doing in obstructing aid is nasty and reprehensible, but has only lasted a few days and the excess deaths above what the cyclone would have caused even in the best case are likely small by comparison say to those in North Korea, where the government has during a number of recent famines refused outside aid for protracted periods.

    It also is fairly comparable to actions by the U.S. ally Indonesian government for a few days after the great tsunami several years ago in Aceh province, before an accommodation was reached by them with a separatist movement there, or problems in Sri Lanka around political interference in tsunami response there around the continuing civil war/Tamil separatist movements there.

    More to the point on some idea of a U.S. invasion, the scale of excess deaths also is small by comparison to the hundreds of thousands into the millions caused by U.S.-led and preserved sanctions against Iraq, combined with infrastructure destruction during the "First" Gulf War, the continued infrastructure destruction under Clinton in "retaliation" for violations of no-fly zones, the renewed infrastructure devastation of the 2003 invasion, and the incompetent and corrupt failure of reconstruction during direct U.S. administration of the country and since the installation of our client government led by al-Maliki.

    What the Myanmar government is doing and failing to do is not active genocide such as was carried out by the Rwandan government in 1994, which could have been and ultimately was stopped by military action. It is not even like the quasi-genocidal actions of the Sudanese government in its civil wars in the south of the country and more recently in Darfur.

    It is a gross and grotesque failure of governmental duty to protect its own population, but as such is no worse and probably not as bad as the U.S. collusion with the Husseing government in Iraq in killing hundreds of thousands or millions with sanctions in the 1990s ("we think it's worth it -- Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State in the last Democratic administration in the U.S.), and our almost complete failures of responsibility as an occupying power after our aggression in 2003.

    Bill R.'s point about the inconstency of an invasion with humanitarian relief as a practical matter is absolutely right. If the government were actively committing mass murder as was the case in Rwanda in 1994, that would be a different matter, and action under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter might be in order. But the destruction caused by an invasion and likely guerrilla war following would only create more displaced civilians, more destruction, more obstruction of people's ability to grow food. Exactly this tension is part of the problem in Darfur now, though only part of it. An even closer example might be the huge number of deaths caused by failure of government, civil war, and active and proxy wars by neighboring (post-genocide) Rwanda and Uganda in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    The Burmese government has been terrible and repressive for a long time. But the imprisoned opposition leader who won the last elections held there, Aung San Suu Kyi, has never called for external intervention to impose "regime change."

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    Change to what?

    That's the part that keeps getting left out of these ideas. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan didn't have any follow-up to them. It's one thing to topple a government. It's something else entirely to replace it with something that actually works.

    Myanmar's government is dysfunctional, but unless you've got a replacement in the wings -- or some way to hold things together at a level of cohesion better at least as strong as the existing government, foul as it might be -- then you're only exacerbating the situation.

    It's not enough to make room for a Karzai or a Chalabi in the seat of government. They need to have governmental infrastructure, some way to maintain security, and the apparatus to execute government functions.

    How many times do people need to make that mistake?

  • JohnH (unverified)
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    When you hear that the Myanmar regime won't accept humanitarian aid, be sceptical. "Aid" could be a Trojan horse for more disaster capitalism--like we saw in Thailand after the Tsunami. There, aid came with strings attached: like driving fishermen from their villages so that resorts could be built in their place. The press has been full of the Myanmar regime's culpability but has failed to disclose what the West wants.

    Also, would Myanmar really be better off with regime change and an Iraq-style occupation? This is not to defend the horrendous regime there, but sometimes the solution is worse than the problem.

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    Let me urge us to call the country Burma, as James Fallows does here and here, saying “that people should call the country Burma -- as the Bush Administration, Senators Clinton, McCain*, and Obama, and the Washington Post do -- rather than Myanmar, the term chosen by its junta and now accepted by CNN, NPR, and the New York Times.”

  • Urban Planning Overlord (unverified)
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    There are a number of terrible governments in this world whose people truly deserve to be liberated from the yoke placed upon them. Burma/Myanmar is just one of them - other notable examples include Zimbabwe, Sudan, North Korea, Cuba (yes, Cuba!), Syria, Iran, Turkmenistan (and a few more of the "stans") ...

    But until we have a truly effective United Nations that is dominated by democratic and responsible nations willing to pool their military resources in a fair and equitable manner, I don't advocate any unilateral U.S. action, or any other "coalition of the willing," to do the dirty work necessary to extricate these regimes and replace them with better ones.

    A mini-model of what I am suggesting can be found in the actions of NATO in the former Yugoslavia. And even that has had some problems because of Russia's intransigence.

    And, of course, there is a large contingent of dead-enders in the U.S., starting with our President, who want nothing to do with the U.N.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    Asia Times On Line has a couple of related articles. I just skimmed through them so won't express an opinion. Judge for yourself. The case for invading Myanmar/a> and The problem with dictators and disasters.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Neocon intervention ideology: We're saving the world for democracy and getting rid of another thuggish dictator. And by the way, we get to then steal natural resources and set up more military bases.

    "Progressive" intervention ideology: We're saving the world for democracy and getting rid of another thuggish dictator. See, having the US as world policeman is a good thing after all, so please, UN, pick up the tab for us.

    If anyone can think of a way to promote "progressive" military intrvention in a way that does not further militarize our society and economy, let me know.

    P.S. Anyone else remember that Time magazine cover from 2003 showing the Iraqi giving a GI a big kiss on the cheek? Think about it.

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    Úberplanning Urbanlord,

    The uninterest of the Bush administration in working with the U.N. is a direct reflection of the fact that the U.S. is not a "democratic and responsible nation."

    Politically we are an electoral oligarchy. Our electoral system functions to restrict the choice of candidates and policy ideas just as much as the Supreme Council of the Revolution does in Iran, though by different mechanisms.

    And the U.S. has been grossly irresponsible for decades -- pursuing narrow interests of only parts of the national population in an arrogant, hubristic, hypocritical and short-sightedly opportunistic manner. The extent to which Bush has transparently made "responsible" a synonym for "agrees with my policies" and made "reform" at the U.N. mean "change to produce greater agreement with my policies" is only a difference of degree, not in kind.

  • idlyitw (unverified)
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    <h2>um.....responsibility to protect anyone? already passed by UNSC, and it's an Olympic year for China. And how convenient for everyone to bemoan the UN's inaction after having berated the US for sidestepping the UN to use force in Iraq. Feel free, ASEAN, to pick up the slack any time! Last I checked, the U.S. had a tendency to problematically align itself with states whose natural resources it hopes to plunder...not invade them. Hence the myriad issues with our foreign policy agenda. Damned if you do (Iraq, Afghanistan), damned if you don't (Darfur, Burma). Make up your mind, people.</h2>

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