Our Declaration of Independence proclaims a profound belief “that ALL people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life….” Well? Are they, or aren’t they? And if they are, why does it boggle the imagination that we would do something to save the lives of tens of thousands in a far away place just as we would to save the lives of a few—or just one next door?
Unfortunately, American foreign policy hasn’t always been motivated by what it should be: our serious commitment to this simple idea that all people matter equally. And yet, this is the principle which has made this country great and could serve to make our foreign policy equally great. This is a chance for us to do the right thing for no other reason than that it is the right thing—a chance to be truly proud of our ability to project force beyond our borders. Myanmar is a country with no strategic value whatsoever. It is nothing but a humanitarian opportunity, which may in fact give it the greatest strategic value of all. What will the slogan be this time: no war to deliver food in Burma?
We all know the United Nations will not act in time. Too many of the world’s governments fear putting their own oppressive sovereignty in jeopardy by setting a precedent like this. Let them rot in the guilt of their indecision. This is not tomorrow’s problem.
So what do I want? Only to force this discussion to take place and quickly. Besides, if my suspicions are correct, then real military action may be unnecessary. The mere threat of it may be sufficient to get them to relent. The Junta say they don’t want aid brought in because it will generate rebellion. Let’s change their calculus by threatening something worse than rebellion. Even paranoid fools would prefer the mere chance of insurrection over the guarantee of invasion. Thus my hope is that we’ll have to do nothing more than rattle our very loud sabers.
But if more is necessary, I submit two simple ideas. In principle, this is the best possible use of our military might. But in practice, I defer to the judgment of people far more informed about the particulars. Perhaps military action is impractical. Perhaps it jeopardizes the activities of NGOs already on the ground in small numbers. Perhaps the window of opportunity has already passed. Perhaps we’re just stretched too thin already. Or perhaps there’s just no good way to deliver food at gunpoint. As I say, these are questions for others to answer. But as for me, I would desperately hope that at the very least we would be willing to use our vast resources for the short time such an operation would likely last to at least have a chance at saving the lives of so many thousands of people. Lives which our most cherished documents affirm are supposed to matter as much as our own.
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