Havel on Burma

Vaclev Havel – someone who has obviously BTDT in dealing with opening societies – has a piece up at Comment is Free on Burma.

How many times and in how many places has this now happened? Worse, however, is the number of countries that find it convenient to avert their eyes and ears from the deathly silence with which this Asian country chooses to present itself to the outside world.

In Burma, the power of educated Buddhist monks – people who are unarmed and peace loving by their very nature – has risen up against the military regime. That monks are leading the protests is no great surprise to those who have taken a long-term interest in the situation in Burma.

An overwhelming number of Burma’s Buddhist monks have found it difficult to bear the central and regional governments’ efforts to corrupt their monastic orders, and to misuse the example of the monks’ self-restraint to increase the pressure on other believers. Of course, without universal and coordinated international political, economic, and media support for these brave monks, all development in Burma may quickly be put back nearly 20 years.

He goes on to excoriate the international diplomatic regime:

On a daily basis, at a great many international and scholarly conferences all over the world, we can hear learned debates about human rights and emotional proclamations in their defense. So how is it possible that the international community remains incapable of responding effectively to dissuade Burma’s military rulers from escalating the force that they have begun to unleash in Rangoon and its Buddhist temples?

For dozens of years, the international community has been arguing over how it should reform the United Nations so that it can better secure civic and human dignity in the face of conflicts such as those now taking place in Burma or Darfur, Sudan. It is not the innocent victims of repression who are losing their dignity, but rather the international community, whose failure to act means watching helplessly as the victims are consigned to their fate.

The world’s dictators, of course, know exactly what to make of the international community’s failure of will and inability to coordinate effective measures. How else can they explain it than as a complete confirmation of the status quo and of their own ability to act with impunity?

So we will stand by while diplomats sip tea and feel very, very bad about how things are going – here’s Australia’s former ambassador in Newsweek:

In 1988, faced with similar protests, the government killed an estimated 3,000 people as it reimposed control. Nineteen years later they’re still in power. If they use force again would they likely succeed again?
It could have the same result. Mind you, it’s quite often not mentioned that in 1988 there was chaos on the streets. There were a lot of cases where people took the law into their own hands, and some of the deaths were of police and soldiers being summarily executed. The regime argues they were restoring order. That’s not to disguise the fact that the troops had orders to fire, to kill, and they did. And today the troops are already deployed and ready to move whenever the order is given. It’s quite difficult to ensure that whatever action they take is going to end without [more] people dying. And that’s why I think that, given that this is all happening in slow time, there is an opportunity…maybe…to convince the military government that they ought to allow some kind of international visit.

The international diplomatic regime is badly broken and needs to be rebuilt.

19 thoughts on “Havel on Burma”

  1. Broken? It’s not broken. It seems to be fulfilling its primary purpose of keeping the people in power today in power tomorrow quite nicely.

  2. Broken? When was it ever ‘working’?

    Since when have hard-core leftists ever had a problem with colored people killing other colored people?

  3. _Since when have hard-core leftists ever had a problem with colored people killing other colored people?_

    Nothing like forgoing solidarity when you can choose to slur the opposition with nonsense! May I respond with “if only we had 50k troops to be deployed for Democracy!” or “if only we hadn’t told the UN to go bleep itself 5 years ago – and really, since – maybe we could advocate for action or greater change”?

    Seriously though, the only connection to Burma/Myanmar I had is a transplant in Thailand, who’s grandparents had moved there now 20-30 years ago. Sad story, and the only real mention I’ve heard for the past few years is through the Economist, about Suu Kyi.

    The international community is very, very badly broken. Bush the Elder, then Clinton, then W – we’ve done progressively less with each president, and I’m convinced the coming recession will hurt our ability to do any more. I’m hoping the next president can do (among other things) something about our reputation, internationally. I’m hoping the one after that will chose to abandon the UN aside from the security council, if reforms aren’t made.
    We cannot be leaders until we stop our torture (and rendition), it’ll be used as a club against us – most everything else is just noise.

  4. “Torture” and renditions are a concern only for the bleeding heart gentle souls; in reality most of the world only pretends to care (see China, Russia…).

    But I think that the West should not send troops to Burma – especially under some silly UN mandate. Let’s smuggle in weapons and give military advice to the opposition, instead.

  5. Check out the comment thread on Havel’s article, if you want to get a vivid understanding of Why Nobody Will Do Anything.

    Did you know that the existence of the Burmese junta is America’s — and Israel’s — fault? Well, neither did I! But the Guardian’s readers know it.

    As they also know that it’s America’s fault that nothing is being done about it. Because Burma has no oil, so the Zionist neocons don’t care about it. But, wait, Burma does have oil. So now it’s the Zioneocons’ fault because they used up 50K troops — good point, Comrade Dave! — on that Iraq war of choice. (Of course, we can only speculate what the commenters would say if Dubya announced tomorrow morning that “the international community”, i.e., the U.S., was intervening tomorrow morning. No doubt it’d be another evil Neojew “war of choice”.)

    Oh, and Vaclav Havel isn’t a heroic dissident, he’s a corrupt tool of U.S. imperial power. The Guardian’s stalwart commenters pointed that out too.

    And the oppression of the Palestinians by Israel completely supercedes the issue of Burma, anyway.

    I have to say, I’m grateful to the Internet and to people like Dave for giving me such a thorough understanding of just why the world’s politics is the way it is. I couldn’t have imagined this for myself if I hadn’t had it rubbed in my face. So, thanks guys.

  6. The idea that we can’t lead unless we don’t do “renditions” is amusing. In other words, by actually returning other countries’ citizens to their own country, and whatever consequences, we are thereby destroying our reputation among those countries …

    At the very least, that gets a “huh?” The “international community” won’t like us because we return people to their home countries? And they won’t like us if we keep them in Guantanamo Bay either of course. Its just silly. If there was a bad PR associated with renditions, one would think it would rationally be upon the destination nation that is supposed to be violating our standards of human rights.

  7. Robin, isn’t the issue more one of rendering foreign citizens to *other* nations that might be willing to torture them more than we would?

    If we send saudi suspects to saudi arabia, that seems quite appropriate and the saudis get to decide what to do with them. They might torture them, they might throw a banquet and give them trophies. Their citizens, their choice.

    If we send syrian suspects to syria, ditto. If we send canadian suspects to canada, fine.

    When we send canadian suspects to syria because we want them tortured and we’re too squeamish to do it ourselves as well as we trust the syrians to do it for us, that’s sick.

  8. _The idea that we can’t lead unless we don’t do “renditions” is amusing. In other words, by actually returning other countries’ citizens to their own country, and whatever consequences, we are thereby destroying our reputation among those countries_

    Robin, have you been paying attention? We’ve routinely turned over people to 3rd party states for torture and ghost imprisonment. Extraordinary rendition is just a fancy way to disambiguate it from Justice’s definition of rendition – and nowhere has it ever been claimed that we only turn people over to their “own” state.

    I think you’re confusing this with the fact that we have some bad people (since they are not terrorists to us, yet) in Guantanamo, who if we release them, they’ll end being imprisoned or worse by their home state.

  9. Funny, I went to Comment is Free and it has a mix of people correctly pointing out China’s gain of oil and naval bases, France’s financial gain, and China’s and Russia’s history of supporting corrupt regimes – in addition to the normal Comment anti-Israel/anti-US trolls.

    _I couldn’t have imagined this for myself if I hadn’t had it rubbed in my face._
    Something hit a nerve Erich? Here’s a hint that might make life easier for you – if you don’t want people’s opinions, don’t read blogs and especially avoid the comments. Unless you’re being held as a political dissident, no one is rubbing anything in your face.

  10. Dave, you are not getting my point which I may not be explaining well.

    Few countries in the world have the same human rights standards or criminal justice standards of the United States. As one example, even Britain allows longer periods of detention of suspects without charge than the United States, and the new Prime Minister was proposing lengthening that period recently. France reportedly has more people being held without charge currently than there are in Guantanamo Bay. And it goes downhill from there. Given that, I find it a puzzling and illogical argument that rendition lowers our reputation in the world especially in comparison to actually holding people which is equally condemned.

    I find it irrational to condemn the United States for the fact that a detainee’s home country has such poor standards. If people don’t like, for example, that we return someone to Egypt after failing to get what we want, and Egypt abuses them, then they should be spending their efforts improving Egypt.

    I’ve long ago grown tired of outfits like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International spending disproportionate amounts of time condemning the least serious offenders that just happen to be the US and Israel.

  11. _Given that, I find it a puzzling and illogical argument that rendition lowers our reputation in the world especially in comparison to actually holding people which is equally condemned.
    I find it irrational to condemn the United States for the fact that a detainee’s home country has such poor standards._

    Robin, you’re combining two things – of which, neither is all that good.
    “This story in the NY Times “:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/10/world/europe/10resettle.html is similar to what you are saying – men held in Guantanamo Bay who really should not have been there. “This story in the Washington Post”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/31/AR2007083101463.html is similar (written by someone from HRW, so expect a slant). Most of the time these stories have a quote along the lines of “you know, you shouldn’t ship someone somewhere they will be tortured”.
    If we are returning people who will face torture, there is it more likely to raise, lower, or keep our reputation neutral? If another country – say, Iran – did this, would we condemn it?

    Now, what you are talking about – returning people – is quite different of what I brought up initially, and what really gives us a black mark. This includes “other activities”:http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1546119,00.html , such as this German citizen shipped to Syria for torture. Or “Maher Arar”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maher_Arar, who was Syrian born and held dual Canadian-Syrian citizenship. There’s a reason they didn’t send him to Canada. Check out “Khalid El-Masri”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khalid_El-Masri – as sad as it is, his story is almost comical.

    _I’ve long ago grown tired of outfits like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International spending disproportionate amounts of time condemning the least serious offenders that just happen to be the US and Israel._
    I think Senator Moynihan stated something around this – they can’t go into North Korea, so they can’t complain about it. I normally discount what they say about Israel, and I think I remember something where they said something along the lines of ‘well, democracies should act better, so it’s ok’.

  12. “If we are returning people who will face torture, there is it more likely to raise, lower, or keep our reputation neutral? If another country – say, Iran – did this, would we condemn it?”

    Umm, Iran tends to cut out the middleman when it comes to torture and execution. Oddly enough, that fact doesn’t keep its President from being swooned over by certain confused souls….

    But seriously, I’m always amused by the concern the Progressive Left has for our reputation considering how little anyone else’s reputation matters to them. As long as the country is resisting American (and/or Israeli) Hegemony, who gives a real rat’s ass about what they do to their own oppressed classes? Death squads in Gaza? Well, we know who’s to blame for that, don’t we? Burma falling into chaos? Obviously a result of America’s policy of rendition.

    I too am worried about America’s reputation. Personally, I wish certain countries would have second thoughts about ticking us off by sending weapons across the border into Iraq. That’s a real reputation issue, and it doesn’t bode well for our ability to keep our allies (or ourselves) out of danger.

    But I guess thoughts like that make me an imperialistic barbarian; glad I could reinforce your sense of moral superiority.

  13. “Something hit a nerve Erich? Here’s a hint that might make life easier for you – if you don’t want people’s opinions, don’t read blogs and especially avoid the comments.”

    Oh, sure, Dave. I should just ignore the preponderance of commenters on that thread for whose addled benefit we’ll continue to do crap-all about Darfur, Burma, etc. etc. etc., because they’d rather blame Amerikkka and Israel for the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

    Admittedly, just because I ignore the phenomenon won’t make it actually stop existing, but, hey! it’ll feel good! Or, at least, it’ll make you feel good!

    If I’m, like, a complete and voluntary Leftotard.

    Sigh.

    I did indeed see that a few brave individuals made the points you cite; what I also noticed, however, is that they were noticeably in a minority, heavily outnumbered by people who seemed to think that the one evildoer who really needed thwacking was that nefarious imperialist, Vaclav Havel. Since I’m old enough to remember just why Havel became famous in the first place, this … somewhat dampened my hopes for Burma. Which had not been soaring in the first place.

  14. Erich Schwarz, I suggest that the next time someone tries to guilt trip you with “only America has the power”, or the next time someone tries to re-frame actual or potential attacks on America as though the real issue was America’s reaction given its overwhelming power, I suggest you bring to mind what you’ve learned.

    America is not nearly as powerful as those who fear and hate its power dream, not is it as powerful as those who advocate use of its power for humanitarian and world-liberating crusades presuppose when they start to plan their fantastic projects.

    A lot of the time, America is paralyzed, America is powerless. You saw why.

    And even when America can act to some extent, America is hobbled, it has to fight hopping on one leg and with one hand tied behind its back, so that it had better stay out of fights (or get out of them) or its self-crippled, self-hate-polluted efforts will result in exhaustion and in time defeat.

    You’re not guilty of not doing what what you can’t do. And what America can do about the Union of Myanmar, and most other problems, is nothing.

    So go surfing, or rock-climbing, or whatever is good where you are, and let it all go. The rabid America-haters won’t alter their character or activities while you’re away.

  15. _America is not nearly as powerful as those who fear and hate its power dream, …._

    I noticed that I agree with this post straight down the line.

    Except for this one line. Those who fate and fear the American power dream are mostly themselves not that powerful either.

  16. “Oh, sure, Dave. I should just ignore the preponderance of commenters on that thread for whose addled benefit we’ll continue to do crap-all about Darfur, Burma, etc. etc. etc., because they’d rather blame Amerikkka and Israel for the Second Law of Thermodynamics.”
    My comment was specifically in response to your “rubbing it in your face” comment.

    But honestly, yes – ignore most of them. I do it on the boards I frequent, and I think most people do as well. Ignoring the 10% of the angry Left (blame Israel for all the ails of the Middle East, impeach GWB, etc.) and the 10% on the angry Right (nuke Mecca, imprison all Muslims, Clinton is the Devil,etc.) is not the worst thing in the world. And in the off chance that people do believe this and are not just trolling, what good will it do? They’ll still hate Israel, or want to turn Iran to a glass parking lot in the morning.
    Appealing to these people with rational ideas, or devolving into insults like Libtards, GWHitler – doesn’t do anything, and the only ones it will impress are already on LGF, DailyKos or are Freepers doing it themselves.

  17. _America is not nearly as powerful as those who fear and hate its power dream, not is it as powerful as those who advocate use of its power for humanitarian and world-liberating crusades presuppose when they start to plan their fantastic projects._
    _A lot of the time, America is paralyzed, America is powerless. You saw why._
    I’m not sure if this is tinged with sarcasm or not. I’ll go with not? But sure, I’ll agree. Without a unifying event to make us blister- Pearl Harbor, 9/11 – our focus will break.
    Bush the Elder with Somalia(yes, he started it), Clinton with Kosovo, Bush the Younger with Iraq. Each of these would lead to a significant break with what was being fought, because these were started voluntarily without creating national will. There’s no reason to believe this wouldn’t happen in the future, right?

    _And what America can do about the Union of Myanmar, and most other problems, is nothing._
    Sadly, yes. Sure, we could assassinate the top 10 leaders of Myanmar, and likely create enormous amount of bad will. Anything more direct, without full UN support, would likely lead to a confrontation with China, direct or indirect. And we’re not exactly prepped for that right now.
    Darfur will be similar, if the President Hillary/Obama goes in – we won’t have a national will behind it, and it will be pushed as distracting from the war on terror – at best.

    Which goes back to AL’s comment and my agreement.
    “The international diplomatic regime is badly broken and needs to be rebuilt.”

  18. David Blue:

    America is not nearly as powerful as those who fear and hate its power dream, nor is it as powerful as those who advocate use of its power for humanitarian and world-liberating crusades presuppose when they start to plan their fantastic projects.

    A lot of the time, America is paralyzed, America is powerless. You saw why.

    #18 from Dave:

    “I’m not sure if this is tinged with sarcasm or not. I’ll go with not?”

    It’s not sarcastic. It’s my opinion.

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