On May 3, Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar, one of the poorest nations on the planet. With a 12-15 foot tidal wave following it and winds around 150 miles per hour, devastation was the only result. Current Red Cross estimates of the dead range from 68,883 to 127,999. Up to 2.5 million people have been displaced. Obscenely high food prices were forced even higher by the destruction of the rice crops. And, as is always the case in such scenarios, sanitation and medical concerns mean that what happens in the ensuing weeks could easily wind up making the event itself seem like only the preamble. What is the world doing to help? Everything it can … which is to say virtually nothing at all.
Because, you see, Myanmar is ruled by a group of petty tyrants who care more about their own paranoid fears than about the lives of millions of their people. And as international aid shipments are seized or sit because they have so far kept their borders mostly closed to outsiders, we have to ask ourselves a very serious question: Just how many lives have to be at stake before it’s no longer possible to hide behind the flimsy excuse that we are honoring the emaciated abstraction of national sovereignty?
This is more than just some theoretical question political science grad students might debate over darts and micro-brews, and we enable a grave evil if we let it remain merely that. This is real people’s lives hanging in the balance in a situation where hours, let alone days, matter. And if I have one regret at this moment, it is only that I did not write this column yesterday … or the day before that.
I confess that I don’t know whether we should invade Myanmar. But that’s only because the particular facts of the military scenario, the location of the people, and the likely cost in human life and materiel are well beyond the scope of my knowledge. But I want my President to make one of two statements. I either want him to explain to the rest of America why the facts of the situation justify using military force, or to explain why they do not. Because when considered as a theoretical question without the input of such details, this case is beyond obvious.
When your next door neighbor swears at his children, feeds them French Fries and cake, and allows them to watch Tyra on TV, you pray for him and swallow the bitter pill of parental authority. But when a tornado hits his home and you can hear his children screaming for help as he sits on his lawn telling you to mind your own business, you wouldn’t wait for the sheriff to arrive. How else would you live with yourself at night?