The “Moral Right” to Invade Burma?

by Sean Hackbarth

Yesterday, Donald Douglas wrote,

I’d suggest, further, however, that besides the Time piece, I’m seeing very little advocacy for the robust exertion of American military capability in South Asian to stem the humanitarian crisis (more on that here)

Yet, if there was ever a time for bipartisanship in foreign policy, regime change in Myanmar should be it.

Conservative “realists” argued against intervention in the Balkans, and now “liberal internationalists” argue for a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq. At some point partisan bickering needs to stop. American leadership is a force for good, and that’s a more powerful thing than victory in the next election.

Douglas links to Ace who claims, “There’s no doubt that we have the moral right to invade Burma.”

Ace isn’t being precise on who the “we” is. If “we” are concerned people who believe the present military government of Burma has failed its people and should be overthrown I’ll agree, but if he thinks the U.S. government has a “right” he has to offer more reasons than hundreds of thousands of people dying due to a corrupt state.

The role the United States government first and foremost is to protect the rights of her citizens. All military interventions have to be looked that through that lens. Despite the cries of the conspiratorial far Left the U.S. doesn’t go off invading other countries for the sake of invading them. Afghanistan was invaded to topple the Taliban who gave aid and comfort to America’s enemies al Qaeda. Iraq was invaded because at the time Saddam Hussein was believed to have WMDs that could easily be passed onto terrorists.

Making a case for invading Burma has to go beyond simply helping people. Humanitarianism isn’t a good enough reason to rally the public. We need cold-hearted national interest reasons. That’s why action in Rwanda and Darfur hasn’t happened and why I wasn’t convinced bombing Serbia was a good idea.

Government can certainly do more than individuals. Individuals don’t have stockpiles of guns and tanks or the airplanes and ships needed to get them to Burma freedom fighters. Heck, few people even know if there are organized groups in Burma willing to accept such gifts. (I wouldn’t be too shocked if the U.S. military or CIA didn’t know either.) That’s a collective action problem.

Anyone following the coverage and doesn’t feel outraged has no heart. The military junta has put more effort in running a constitutional referendum than getting international help into Burma. If any regime deserves to be uprooted it’s those military thugs. Yet it’s not the place for the U.S. government to invade unless a national interest claim can be made.

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