That's why it's time to consider a more serious option: invading Burma. Some observers, including former USAID director Andrew Natsios, have called on the US to unilaterally begin air drops to the Burmese people regardless of what the junta says. The Bush Administration has so far rejected the idea — "I can't imagine us going in without the permission of the Myanmar government," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday — but it's not without precedent: as Natsios pointed out to the Wall Street Journal, the US has facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid without the host government's consent in places like Bosnia and Sudan.He goes on to describe the pitfalls, which are many, but asks a good question. Is it?
Before going further it's likely we'll see partisan political parallels being made between this event and Katrina if Bush fails to act, or parallels between our lack of military action compared to our foray into Iraq. Some already have (read the comments).
But as the Time article points out, China has "some influence" over the Burmese junta, just as they do with the government of Sudan (Darfur). China will not get bad PR if they don't act, but we don't expect them to act benevolently. Yet despite our reaction to the pacific tsunami the narrative remains intact that Bush squandered America's worldwide reputation by knocking out a couple of tyrannical governments following a heinous terrorist attack. Reality has taken a holiday these past few years.
My take on military engagement is that it should only be done to protect America's national security interests. If Burma were a threat to US security or to our allies that's a starting point to consider military action but with China involved it's not so simple. Look what happened in Somalia. Besides, any president must be very careful in setting such a precedent by using military force without the permission of the host country.
Maybe not the best analogy, but imagine for a second what might happen in such a widespread disaster here. Let's say the dreaded east coast or west coast tsuanmis ever occur as some have predicted. Or perhaps the Yellowstone volcano decides to pop off. Would any US administration allow Chinese or Russian or Iranian troops to land in association with a recovery effort? Imagine them interspersed with our own military amidst civil unrest in the streets. If our government was overwhelmed yet refused aid would that allow a UN-backed attack on Washington to take out the government via foreign forces?
None of this is comforting to the innocent villagers left to dangle in the breeze in Myanmar, of course. Like almost everything these days it's a sticky problem with no clear-cut answer. As these events continue to occur around the world the stage will be set for someone to step up and offer the visionary, hopeful solution, and this entity will be elevated to hero status should things get done. From where, and whom?