Save the Children‘s Ned Olney on the Online Newshour makes a good point, that transcends a simplistic debate between "do-good-at-any-cost" interventionists and the "nasty" Burmese generals, about why less than the total aid possible is reaching Burmese victims of Cyclone Nargis in the Irrawaddy region.
I don’t want to spritz more gasoline on the “how inadequate is the response of the Burmese junta” debate other than to say that these reports fit in with my picture of socialist disaster relief: militarized, centralized, and acting on the assumption that manpower and materials are scarce and probably inadequate, with a priority on securing vital resources and getting the population into controllable environments so that relief can be dispensed efficiently and in a way that the government’s objectives for political stability and economic reconstruction are effectively served.
In my mind, this is a different, certainly more callous, and perhaps more realistic approach to a disaster of this scale than the “leave no victim behind” enthusiasm that has gripped the West, which seems to hold—and wishes the world to act on—the assumption that adequate aid for everybody can materialize everywhere with a snap of the fingers and the arrival of a fleet of helicopters.
It’s politics, man, politics! Olney recounts how a joint convoy of Save the Children and Un aid was stopped, but Save the Children, with the UN halted, was allowed to proceed.
The interventionists have now over-politicized what will always be a touchy debate, and one where I lean towards any government on principle. How can any government, legitimate or less than popular, ever trust NGOs and the UN, if it doesn’t have the last word?
Using the crisis to undermine the legitimacy, stability, and rule of the Myanmar regime: that’s politics.
Understandable, perhaps even admirable. But politics just the same. Rather ruthless.
Trouble is, in the wake of an enormous natural disaster you can’t have humanitarian aid and transformational diplomacy at the same time.
Gotta choose on or the other.
The U.S. appears to have chosen…unwisely.
While jockeying for political advantage in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, it may have scored points in Western press and opinion, but at the expense of antagonizing ASEAN and China.
China will not allow a political void to emerge on its southern border and will move to fill any aid gap left by the western nations.
And that’s why I still think, in Asia, the United States will emerge as the political loser from Cyclone Nargis.
The SPDC is nasty and the Burmese people are suffering, but interventionists are not saints.