The aftermath of last week’s horrendous Cyclone Nargis in Burma (officially Myanmar) has turned into the most serious humanitarian crisis since the 2004 Asian tsunami. So far, there have been an estimated 100,000 deaths with more dying each day, and more than 1 million people are homeless. Left unaided, the situation could send the death toll as high as that from the genocide in Darfur.
The biggest problem with the situation is that the escalating death toll is preventable. Through the endless regulations imposed by the Burmese government, international relief planes, boats and workers have been halted from delivering their supplies, food donations have been seized and funding has been refused. If Burmese authorities loosened their grip on their international support policies, millions in need could be helped.
What is so strange about the situation is that the military-run country, the largest nation in Southeast Asia, originally stated it would accept outside relief. However, its frustrating position on foreign relations led officials to say that the aid was unnecessary, and that they were capable of addressing the crisis themselves. The large amounts of offered support and monetary pledges have been left to slowly trickle into the state, preventing effective aid operations from commencing.
If Burma continues to stop a larger impact from foreign governments and non-profits, the already terrible situation will inevitably get worse. Under this assumption, many aid workers and diplomats have begun to contemplate an invasion of Burma.
According to TIME Magazine’s article “Is It Time to Invade Burma?” the Bush administration has rejected the idea thus far and I originally agreed with their decision. However, as the the death toll continues to climb, and as aid workers have extreme difficulty getting supplies and funding to those in need, the more an invasion seems like a plausible idea. The United States and other world leaders have delivered aid without governmental consent before, most recently into Sudan, and bypassing Burma’s ruling junta would be the most effective step in assisting the Burmese people.
Most Americans, especially right now, probably cringe at the thought of another invasion spearheaded by the United States. Maybe I am wrong, but when I consider a Burmese invasion, I think of big relief planes dropping necessary supplies from far overhead. But can it be that simple? And would it really help?
As the idea garners more support, maybe the United States, or other countries, should consider implementing the forceful relief.
Referencing the TIME article, the United States has only allocated a little more than $3 million to assist in the Burmese crisis, roughly $897 million less than what it pledged during the 2004 tsunami. While I agree that we should limit our funding until a more progressive form of relief is put into operation, the backup of more promised support could help convince the junta to open the floodgates for international aid.
Invasion or not, Burma is in desperate need of help. The aftermath of the cyclone, coupled with the poor health and social services of the Burmese government, is creating a whole new humanitarian crisis that has nothing to do but escalate. By stopping it now, more deaths can be prevented and the Burmese people can begin to rebuild their broken country.
Taylor Moore is a journalism senior and a current events columnist for the Mustang Daily.