Revelation of an American Hawk, about Myanmar

Robert Kaplan is an American hawk, a journalist pretending to be a politician/strategist, who knows absolutely nothing about strategy, but extremely 'patriotic' (or 'nationalistic', depending on your political stance). From his essay on "How we would fight China" I suspect he is a enthusiast of a board game called Risk. If he has read Sun Zi, I am pretty sure he has skipped the first 3 chapters for the lessons on tactics which he could begin to comprehend.

He is despised by the great American strategist Thomas Barnett, who often ridicules(1) Kaplan's lack of strategic insight. However, he has also gathered some fans, including some very intelligent bloggers who I have much respect for (and IMHO, understands the world and 'strategy' much better than whom they admire). Unfortunately, these bloggers had chosen their pseudonym from those of the most brutal British colonists, the British version of Pizarro, who had massacred thousands of disarmed Tibetans in their aggression to Tibet more than a century ago.

Anyway, back to Kaplan's new revelation, here are some quotes (the full article is replicated in cominganarch.com, plus the comment from adamu below), which offers a glimpse into the motivation behind the bickering between US and the Myanmar junta in aiding the victim

  • France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, has spoken of the possibility of an armed humanitarian intervention, and there is an increasing degree of chatter about the possibility of an American-led invasion of the Irrawaddy River Delta.
  • As it happens, American armed forces are now gathered in large numbers in Thailand for the annual multinational military exercise known as Cobra Gold. This means that Navy warships could pass from the Gulf of Thailand through the Strait of Malacca and north up the Bay of Bengal to the Irrawaddy Delta. It was a similar circumstance that had allowed for Navy intervention after the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004.
  • Because oceans are vast and even warships travel comparatively slowly, one should not underestimate the advantage that fate has once again handed us. For example, a carrier strike group, or even a smaller Marine-dominated expeditionary strike group headed by an amphibious ship, could get close to shore and ferry troops and supplies to the most devastated areas on land
  • In other words, this is militarily doable. The challenge is the politics, both internationally and inside Myanmar. Because one can never assume an operation will go smoothly, it is vital that the United States carry out such a mission only as part of a coalition including France, Australia and other Western powers. Of course, the approval of the United Nations Security Council would be best, but China — the junta’s best friend — would likely veto it.
  • And yet China — along with India, Thailand and, to a lesser extent, Singapore — has been put in a very uncomfortable diplomatic situation. China and India are invested in port enlargement and energy deals with Myanmar. Thailand’s democratic government has moved closer to the junta for the sake of logging and other business ventures. Singapore, a city-state that must get along with everybody in the region, is suspected of acting as a banker for the Burmese generals. All these countries quietly resent the ineffectual moral absolutes with which the United States, a half a world away, approaches Myanmar. Nonetheless, the disaster represents an opportunity for Washington. By just threatening intervention, the United States puts pressure on Beijing, New Delhi and Bangkok to, in turn, pressure the Burmese generals to open their country to a full-fledged foreign relief effort. We could do a lot of good merely by holding out the possibility of an invasion
  • About a third of Myanmar’s 47 million people are ethnic minorities, who have a troubled historical relationship with the dominant group, the Burmans. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the heroine of the democracy movement, is an ethnic Burman just like the generals, and her supporters are largely focused on the Burman homeland. Meanwhile, the Chins, Kachins, Karennis, Karens, Shans and other hill tribes have been fighting against the government. The real issue in Myanmar, should the regime fall, would be less about forging democracy than a compromise between the Burmans and the other ethnic groups.

The lives of the victim were never what came first to the mind of the American hawk, "opening their country" is what they insist, plus the Balkanisation/Yugoslavation afterwards, which made them only a little better than the bloody Myanmar junta.

to Kaplan's credit, he concluded his essay with the Iraq lesson, "but make no mistake, the very act of our invasion could land us with the responsibility for fixing Burma afterward"

(1) Thomas Barnett has this to say about Kaplan, "Kaplan offers no vision, no strategy, nothing beyond accurate descriptions of the current state of warfare inside the Gap. He is the global war on terror's best sideline reporter, but he's the wrong source to cite on how to run the entire franchise." "


master_of_americans said...

Free Monistan!

Anonymous said...

"to Kaplan's credit, he concluded his essay with the Iraq lesson, "but make no mistake, the very act of our invasion could land us with the responsibility for fixing Burma afterward"

One big reason why invading Burma is a horribly misconceived idea. Isn't one expensive quagmire enough? I'm not quite comfortable with Barack Obama, but among the three candidates, only he seems to understand that we can't "fix" countries or make them friendly to us by invading and occupying them.


Anonymous said...