Why did Burma's generals spurn foreign assistance when up to two million of its wretched people were in grave distress?
First, pride. The fiercely nationalistic, xenophobic regime running dirt-poor Burma rejects all foreign influences. Second, Burma's generals claim their 400,000-man army, known as the Tatmadaw, is able to provide all necessary relief. The presence of foreign aid workers would insult the army's honour, risk undermining its unquestioned authority and recall the colonial era. China had similar feelings. Besides, charged the Burmese, who was Washington to talk after New Orleans?
Yeah, he went there. In the second paragraph. At least he's predictable.
They also believe that western powers are determined to overthrow Burma's government and seize the nation's natural resources of timber, precious stones, gas and, potentially, oil.
Do 'They'? Or is our humble columnist engaging in a little projection?
The generals, however callous and brutal, are not far wrong. "Humanitarian intervention" may be coming to play the same role that "peacekeeping" did in recent years - a way for foreign powers to insert their influence into Third World regions under the guise of good works. Potentially oil-rich Darfur is the latest example.
Yep, I'm sure glad we secured access to all that sweet, sweet Darfur-ian oil. It should help at the pumps. And it'll be great to get all that ... something ... out of Haiti and Cyprus and the Golan Heights...
Burma is also wary of international aid organizations. Some, such as the Red Cross, are apolitical and perform splendid humanitarian work. But others have hidden agendas, such as trying to promote evangelical Christianity or left-wing government. Neither Burma nor China wants any part of these professional disaster chasers who use calamities to raise money.
Christian missionaries have stirred up rebellion among Burma's ethnic groups, particularly Baptist missionaries among the Karen.
... Unbelievable, that he gets paid to write this stuff.
Actually, there is a silver lining in that cloud. If foreign aid is just another imperialistic tool, then we can stop giving it! Imagine the boon that will be to the world's poor.
PS. Yes I am serious. In the last hundred years, all the cash and goodies the US has given out in foreign aid, all the UN and charitable organizations in Africa, who has been helped? Which countries have been raised out of poverty? There is something fundamentally wrong with the way we try to help people; it is not working, it never has worked, and the chance that it will start working is very small.
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