Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 20:13 | SYDNEY
Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 20:13 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: No easy Burma solutions


Sam Roggeveen


15 May 2008 14:01

Dallas writes:

Stephen Grenville's recent item on separating the offer of aid from the offer of aid experts, while on the surface a good way of quickly getting aid quickly to those in need, has some flaws. Firstly, the 'aid experts' are experts because this is what they do; they're organised and practised in swiftly delivering disaster relief across the world.  Military organisations cannot do this as well as these people can, including the ADF. They're not designed to do so. An example in Burma is the refusal of the regime to allow the entry of the teams whose job it is to erect temporary warehouses to keep aid items undercover until distribution. For the first few days, distribution officials were kept busy erecting the warehouses themselves.
Secondly, I would expect that, by distributing the aid itself, the regime is controlling who gets it and who does not, and in what quantities. This gives them even more power in a society where hunger and disease is rife.

In Stephen's defence, he was not arguing for the military to go in. He just suggested that giving basic supplies without any advice on how to use or distribute it is still better than doing nothing.

The broader debate about how we help the Burmese people continues, with much written in response to this Robert Kaplan op-ed, floating the idea that the US militarily occupy parts of Burma in order to distribute aid. American paleo-cons are alarmed by Kaplan's apparent indifference to the possibility of the US having to  nurse another failing state, and World Politics Review demands we face this possibility squarely.

In regard to the discussion we had yesterday about air dropping aid into Burma without the regime's permission, this op-ed argues it would be little more than an empty gesture.