Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cunningham: Burma More or Less Needs Help


SEPTEMBER 30, 2007

At first glance, the unfolding crisis in Burma ("Myanmar") offers America a golden opportunity—after four years of bad news from Iraq and Afghanistan, suddenly a popular uprising in a land hungry for the ostensibly American values of freedom, democracy and perhaps even capitalist development.

Problem is, US President George Bush has almost single-handedly frittered away US prestige and credibility to the point where just hearing him mention the word freedom is enough to send the smart, and in some cases shell-shocked, running for cover. Under his watch, an immigrant country that had a not entirely unearned reputation for caring about human rights and humanitarian causes has become a global laughingstock, if not bogeyman.

Bush has dug himself into a diplomatic hole so deep it is beginning to resemble a black hole. That a man at the end of his tether might be desperate for a bit of high ground, something to cling to, something to show he isn't an entirely spent force is understandable, but a Bush intervention in Burma would be an unmitigated disaster.

Anything Bush or his minions have to say is colored by the actions of an arrogant administration that has shamelessly promoted torture, eavesdropping and kidnapping, not to mention a self-serving and totally manipulative war on terror. Bush invaded Iraq for all the wrong reasons, a family vendetta being central among them, and he has continued to shamefacedly lie about it. Unfortunately for the people of Burma in their hour of need, Bush has shot the wad of US credibility, and anything he touches is likely to be contaminated, if not broken and crumbled to bits, by know-nothing neo-con greed.

Had Bush not invaded the wrong country, or had he faced up to his mistakes with at least an ounce of accountability, the US government, as the representative of the American people, might not be hamstrung in its ability to help. Had Bush and the cosseted "chickenhawk" architects of the war in Iraq, the most abjectly craven of whom are now pressing for a war with Iran, shown even a glimmer of humility to atone for setting Iraq on the road to disaster which has cost a million-plus souls, perhaps Uncle Sam could offer a lending hand without scaring the very people he seeks to help. But Bush remains unrepentant and imperious, making the prospect of a ham-fisted US-led intervention in Burma too frightening to contemplate.

Burma needs help, desperately, but with a "friend" like Bush trying to capitalize on his "freedom" agenda, they might do well to look elsewhere.

ASEAN is a good place to start, Burma is a member country and informal personal, cultural and trade links provide intelligence and potential leverage. Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN's new Secretary General is a veteran diplomat who as foreign minister under Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai, chose not lend support to the dictators of Burma, in sharp contrast to the devil-may-care profiteering in Rangoon and elsewhere on the part of the successor government led by Thaksin Shinawatra.

And Japan, the largest aid donor and home to a community of Burmese exiles has a modest role to play.

But the real wild card in the Burma conundrum, with immense leverage for better or worse, is China.

Just as it might be prudent at this checkered moment in US history for the US to tame its impulse to intervene, China conversely, needs to discard its traditional policy of radical non-intervention, the product of a time when China was poor and powerless, to a more responsible global role commensurate to its rising power.

China President Hu Jintao and his foreign minister Yang Jiechi have inherited a seemingly idealistic and lofty model of diplomacy that was only truly lofty in proportion to China's poverty and inability to project power. Even during the heyday of non-intervention under the guidance of Zhou Enlai and Chen Yi, China engaged in significant, albeit largely clandestine, meddling in Southeast Asia and provided some significant development assistance in Africa.

Times have changed and China is neither altogether poor nor powerless, indeed it is a lopsided power in which the supremacy of economic considerations is running havoc with environmental and humanitarian concerns at home and abroad.

For China to now claim fealty to political non-intervention at a time when it is economically active, if not rapacious, as it secures and consumes natural resources across the globe from Burma to Zimbabwe at an unprecedented rate is disingenuous. It's like trumpeting economic reform in the absence of political reform, it's awkward, ungainly and ultimately off-pitch.

What Hu Jintao's foreign policy needs is what pre-Bush America once claimed to possess in spades, a willingness to engage in humanitarian intervention not because it can be commercially profitable or even politically advantageous but simply because it is the right thing to do. China's deaf ear to people crying out for help is the mirror image of the US telling people what they need to do; both extremes overlook the genuine possibility of outreach to the downtrodden, the bullied and disenfranchised.

In recent months, China has made modest adjustments to its Africa policy, recognizing that being "neutral" with respect to cruel and tottering regimes in Zimbabwe and Sudan is not only a public relations failure in the run-up to the Olympics, but endangers long-term stability and interests in the region.

Similarly Beijing, which has enjoyed profitable if not entirely cordial relations with Burma's military dictators, is said to be cultivating some support among opponents of the current regime. In addition to solid trade and military ties, China additionally boasts perhaps a million of its own citizens eking out a living in Burma as a petty bourgeois Peace Corps of sorts, providing an unusual degree of leverage and exposure in both formal and informal terms.

For China's foreign policy to meet the needs of Burma's downtrodden calls for deft, timely intervention, a prudent policy guided by something more than laissez faire trade-at-any-cost and something less than the bombs-and-bullets of military intervention of the sort currently favored by the Bush administration.

A more nuanced and humanitarian thrust from China, effectively unmooring itself from the darkest forces in Burmese society, while putting economic considerations on hold, could prevent things from spiraling out of control and provide a bridge of interregnum stability until a new government can coalesce. The risk of continuing to put one's weight behind the despicable Than Shwe is that China will be a tarnished if not unwelcome player in the inevitable post-Than Shwe Burma that is certain to emerge from the ashes of the current crisis.

The courage of journalists covering the courageous mass demonstrations allows the world to peer into Burma's closed society with compassion and concern. And clearly help is needed. But for now, US governmental help would be as unhelpful as China's unwillingness to engage in truly humanitarian intervention.


lambert strether said...


Shameless, surely!

BK said...

The people that I have spoken with in Burma/Myanmar all share a few things in common, among them a hatred of the Chinese. Businesses to be boycotted are derisively labelled "Chinese" by the average Burmese. Individuals driving newer vehicles are immediately labelled "Chinese". The Chinese are universally despised by the people of Burma, and any moves by the CCP and/or the Chinese nationals working in Burma will be met with suspicion.

JM Hanes said...

"Under his watch, an immigrant country that had a not entirely unearned reputation for caring about human rights and humanitarian causes has become a global laughingstock, if not bogeyman."

Depends on what circles you run in, I suppose. When it comes down to Who Ya Gonna Call? if you're desperate, it's funny how many folks actually fighting oppression in so many disparate places apparently answer, "Bush." Too bad they don't seem to know we're realists now.

Vigilante said...

I'm in agreement with Cunningham's findings as to what Bush has cost America. But as to "pre-Bush capabilities,

"What Hu Jintao's foreign policy needs is what pre-Bush America once claimed to possess in spades, a willingness to engage in humanitarian intervention not because it can be commercially profitable or even politically advantageous but simply because it is the right thing to do. China's deaf ear to people crying out for help is the mirror image of the US telling people what they need to do; both extremes overlook the genuine possibility of outreach to the downtrodden, the bullied and disenfranchised."

I am wondering if Cunningham has in mind regime change for Burma? Is that what he has in mind when he uses the words, "engage in humanitarian intervention"?

Anand said...

America, China, India, Japan, Thailand, and the EU need to work together in lockstep to help the Burmese achieve their freedom.

Malaysia and Indonesia can also contribute.

No single country, whether China or the US or India can solve this problem.

As bk has said, there might be more suspicion of China inside Burma than suspicion of America. But this suspicion would be enormously reduced if China worked in lockstep with the other great powers.

jm hanes is right that America has more credibility than some in the west postulate, but that credibility is enormously enhanced by working closely with other great powers.

What is needed is a joint combined strategy, and building the public support in many countries needed to sustain it.

It would be more useful to focus on this than berate China and the US.

Burma is a black mark on the world. And its freedom would be a breath of inspiration and hope, much as 1989 in Eastern Europe. We can all use a little more inspiration and hope.

Anonymous said...

Sure, it would be nice if the Chinese government promoted workers revolution in Burma/Myanmar, but that's hardly to be expected of Stalinists. After all, they didn't even defend Sukharno, let alone the China-friendly Communist Party of Indonesia, in 1965 against the U.S. supported military coup. On the other hand, were they to intervene, it's not hard to imagine the howls from the American right about the growing Chinese menace.

janinsanfran said...

In San Francisco, local Burmese call for a boycott of the Chinese Olympics. Don't imagine they are going to get much support, but I do suspect they reflect the understanding of most Burmese about where the power in the situation resides.

Aaisha said...

Danik Phone Plaza

We are a Standard mobile phones distributor , We deal with all kinds of mobile phones and laptops which are Brand New Sealed and Unlocked also comes with their complete accessories. They also comes with their 1year international warranty., They are available at a very cheaper rate and affordable price . We ship via FedEx Express (2days delivery}.


If interested : Contact us via Email :

Apple Iphone 8GB.. $300

Sidekick phones:
Sidekick 3 ....USD$140
Sidekick ID.....USD$140

O2 XdPhones
O2 Xda Atom.............$300
O2 Xda Atom ExecP...$310
O2 Xda Stealth..........$320

Nokia Phones
Nokia 6125 ....$150
Nokia 6136 ....$160
Nokia 6265i .....$140
Nokia 6282 ......$17
Nokia 8800 .....$175
Nokia 770 .....$165
Nokia 8801 .....$180
Nokia E50 ......$130
Nokia E61i...$200
Nokia E70 .....$150
Nokia N70 .....$155
Nokia N71 .....$165
Nokia N72....$175
Nokia N80 .....$190
Nokia N90 ....$190
Nokia N91 .....$200
Nokia N92 ....$220
Nokia N93 .....$220
Nokia N93i...$250
Nokia N77......$270
Nokia N95 .....$300
Nokia N76.....$240
Nokia N75 ....$250
Nokia 8800 Sirocco Edition ..$250

Acer Ferrari 3200 - Mobile Athlon 64 2800+ ...$450
Acer Ferrari 3400LMi Notebook ...$500
Acer Ferrari 3000LMi - Athlon XP-M...$480
Acer Ferrari 3200LMi - Mobile Athlon..$650
Apple Powerbook G4 1.67ghz Drive Bluetooth 17"Screen..$650
Apple PowerBook G4 - PPC G4 1.5..$600
Apple Powerbook G4 1.5ghz ...$500
Apple iBook G4 - PPC G4 ..$500
Apple iBook Notebook M8861LL/A ..$320
Apple iBook Notebook 14.1"...$390

TOM TOM GO 500 $130
TOM TOM GO 510 $195
TOM TOM GO 700 $200
TOM TOM GO 910 $250
TOM TOM GO 300 $180

Apple iPod 30GB (Video) New! -- $105.95
Apple iPod 60GB (Video) New! -- $125.95
Apple iPod Nano 2GB New! -- $85.95
Apple iPod Nano 4GB New! -- $90.95
Apple iPod Shuffle 512 MB -- 68.95
Apple iPod Shuffle 1 GB -- $80.95
Apple iPod Mini 4 GB -- $85.95
Apple iPod Mini 6 GB -- $100.95
Apple iPod Photo 30 GB -- $115.95
Apple iPod U2 SE 20 GB -- $120.95
Apple iPod Photo 60 GB -- $25.95
Apple iPod 20 GB -- $100.95
Apple ipod 80 GB -- $135.95

Motorola A388C......$170
Motorola A760.......$250
Motorola A768.......$260
Motorola A768i......$200
Motorola A780.......$290
Motorola C550.......$90
Motorola C650.......$100
Motorola E365.......$100
Motorola E398.......$120
Motorola E680.......$240
Motorola RAZR V3....$270
Motorola V220.......$170
Motorola V303.......$100
Motorola V400.......$150
Motorola V500.......$150
Motorola V501.......$200
Motorola V525.......$150
Motorola V600 (OEM) w/ Bluetooth Headset..$260
Motorola V600 OEM...180 USD Motorola V690.....$170
Motorola V750.....$180
Motorola V80......$200
Motorola V80 with Bluetooth...$260
Motorola V872.....$200
Motorola V878....$180
Motorola V300....$150

Eten Phones:
ETen G500.............$240
Eten M500 .............$200
ETen Glofiish X500 .....$230
ETen M700 Glofiish.....$240
ETen E-Ten M600 .......$220

Vertu Signature Standard Platinum=$500
Vertu Signature Duo Stainless Steel=$430
Vertu Signature Standard White Gold=$520
Vertu Signature Standard Yellow Gold=$540
Vertu Ascent Pink - Special Editionfiltered==$450

Ben Q Phones:
BenQ Siemens-EF81 .....$200
BenQ AL26 ..........$190
BenQ-Siemens P51 .......$230
BenQ-Siemens SL91..... $280
Siemens SL75 BenQ ....$210
Benq Siemens Ef71 ......$190
BenQ-Siemens S88 .....$175
Benq Siemens E71 ......$180
Siemens BenQ SXG75 ....$185
BenQ-Siemens S81 .....$150
Benq Siemens Ef91 .....$220
BenQ-Siemens CL71...$180
BenQ-Siemens P51....$230
Siemens SL75 BenQ....$210

If interested : Contact us via Email :

Anonymous said...

free roulette systems
roulette strategies
free roulette
how to play roulette
tips for roulette
online roulette
roulette strategy
roulette system
how to win at roulette
casino roulette
play roulette online
horse racing
horse racing tips
horse racing betting
horse racing software
american horse racing systems
horse racing software systems
horse racing systems
horse racing picks
horse racing online
bootleg movie download
watch movies online
online bootleg movie downloads
downloadable movies
divx full movies download
online movies
download full version movies
download movies
pirated movies

laptop battery said...


wow gold said...

In fact wow gold, the results wow gold are quite a buy wow gold surprise; according buy wow gold to a study cheap wow goldby the University cheap wow gold of Delaware, wow power leveling most wow power leveling hardcore players power levelingare actually power levelingfemale. This wow goldnew high was reachedbuy wow gold following the cheap wow goldof the Lich KingTM.