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  Commentary: Humanitarian Guns for Burmese Guerrillas

While the U.S. fights an unwise, unnecessary war in Iraq, wisdom and morality say we should equip Burmese guerrillas to wage war against their vicious government.
By Stewart Nusbaumer

When a brutal regime refuses international aid and humanitarian workers are barred from entering the country following a horrible catastrophe that has devastated the country, when conditions continue to deteriorate and citizens continue to die and the government continues to refuse foreign assistance, it may be time to intervene. But how? How about economic sanctions? No, that would be too little, too late. Military intervention? By the time a coalition of troops was assembled, or even a U.S. interventionary force, that would also be too late. Moral persuasion? That has been tried and continues to fail.

If the Burmese junta refuses foreign assistance there is nothing the world can do. Thousands of Burmese clinging to life will die, the horror will expand, and the world can do nothing except watch this horror expand from the sidelines.

While the U.S. squanders billions of dollars and thousands of lives in Iraq -- a war not justified for our national security, nor for the well-being of Iraqis -- we do nothing to combat equally or even more brutal regimes. We don't lift a finger to combat these despots as they continue to massacre (through action and inaction) citizens. Yes Sadden Hussein was terrible and the world does not miss his departure, but greater evils exist in this world and we can battle them in ways that do not require an enormous, costly and ineffective conventional military force of occupation.

Yes we lack the capability to intervene in Burma now, but we can begin to involve ourselves in that sad country and hopefully stop its next unnecessary disaster.

Yet, to quote President Lyndon Johnson (who unfortunately did not adhere to his own words), "We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10 thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves."

Not a single American should fight in Burma, not a single American should advise any Burmese anywhere in Southeast Asia. We should have a Congressional firewall so "mission creep" does not in the future lead to Americans being directly involved in the fighting or advising the insurgency. We need to stop the slippery slope before any slipping begins.

What we should do is send an appropriate level of basic arms and equipment to the Burmese insurgency, a force that seeks to overthrow the brutal grip of Southeast's worse butchers. And nothing more! When, or if, the insurgency expands, we should send more assistance. This does not require the Special Forces (Green Berets) or the Marines, this require merely a simple procurement office in Washington and a clandestine Southeast Asian transportation company.

Would other countries join the United States in supplying the rifles, mortars, ammunition, simple communications equipment, manuals on training and battlefield tactics and other basic tools for the Burmese to fight their vicious junta? Well, few would join with the Bush Administration, a junta of its own sorts, but some would join with a U.S. President that cooperates closely with Congress and treats them with respect. Still, if the world prefers to return to its callous memory hole, the U.S. can move ahead with its own inexpensive, limited assistance to the Burmese fighters.

Yet, Americans need to understand these indigenous fighters battling their evil government are not themselves angles. And they need to know that results will certainly not be swift – that would require a foreign military invasion, something we strongly reject. This is a job for Burmese, not Americans. Most important, Americans must never forget that failure is to be accepted. The U.S. should not ratchet up its involvement in Burma to starve off defeat. Victory or defeat will be determined by Burmese, not Americans.

The middle way between simply doing nothing and attempting to do everything seems particularly difficult for Americans. We consistently overestimate our national power and underestimate the capacity of underdeveloped countries to resist our power. This happened in Vietnam, and more recently led us into Iraq. Americans need to understand being a so-called superpower does not give us super-power. We need to recognize there is a legitimate, intelligent middle way of limited commitment and involvement with a people suffering horribly under an atrocious military junta. We can do something, then, between nothing and everything.

To twist the words of Karl Marx, "Burmese citizens, fight! You have nothing to lose because you are dying." And to help the Burmese fight, the world should give them the weapons to fight. If the world won't, then the United States should.

Posted May 9, 2008


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· Humanitarian Guns for Burmese Guerrillas   (05/10/08)
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Humanitarian Guns for Burmese Guerrillas | Log-in or register a new user account | 1 Comment
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Re: Humanitarian Guns for Burmese Guerrillas

(Score: 1)
by Granpah on Jun 10, 2008 - 07:27 PM
(User information 
Stewart: Our May-June mission is making the rounds Budapest-Sarajevo-Tuzla-Neum-Split-Budapest-St. Louis, wondering what you've been up to and how you've been. Nothing has changed in the Balkans since '92-95 -- a wet powder keg, waiting to dry out. Everyone here hates The Other. Marika is just fine (had cataract and bunion surgery with 100 success). In '07 right after I got a "new" 1979 Honda GoldWing gl1000 for riding to work, my journalist daughter had her second baby -- thus with four of them now, I've adopted the monicker Granpah (how one of the kids addresses me, phonetically). So the life cycle continues.

Hope my message doesn't mess up the gravitas of the "Humanitarian Guns for Burmese Guerrillas." But for the sake of relevant comments, let me add that quite a few Bosnians who had fought through the Bosnian war of aggression (Serbs invading the Bosnians' sovereign country) recently told me personally that had they been allowed to have decent weapons then they could have repelled the Serbs (who were armed to the teeth) and prevented both ethnic cleansing and also the siege of Sarajevo. But the UN (and U.S.) took the early position that if the Bosnians were permitted to get armed there'd be a blood bath. Well there was a blood bath anyhow because the Bosnians were forced to be defenseless .. and then later they got royally screwed by the Dayton Accord which divided their country three ways politically and then left them with an isolated infrastructure (roads, railways, etrc., etc).

Your point is well taken -- but I'd go a step further. What the world community had done to the Bosnians 1992-96 is being repeated in Burma.

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