Monday, May 12, 2008

Myanmar Relief - Western Altruism Lacking?

I'm astonished at how the West seems to be playing games with the Myanmar government on the disaster relief issue. Anyone else feel the same way? When the tsunami struck most of Southeast Asia, we had an immediate jump to support the nations. In particular, nations like Thailand (long time American allies) were quick to get aid... no matter how corrupt local officials are in those nations (and, yes, they certainly ARE corrupt). Ditto for Sri Lanka... extreme corruption. Since these nations operate under the "guise" of democracy, or at least have "friendships" with Western nations, the US and others were very quick to pump in the aid.

Before going any farther, I do have to say that Burma/Myanmar has a deplorable regime. Something needs to be done about it. The point is, however, many other nations who openly receive our aid cannot account for where the aid goes, and STILL receive it. We send billions of dollars of "foreign aid" and disaster assistance to shady African and South American governments. The thing is, very often, we are either sending to "friendly" governments, or we are trying to curry favor.

So what's with the hold-up for Burma? Why let food aid rot on the docks? Yes, we all understand they don't want our people in there distributing the aid. Why would they? Like any relatively closed nation, they are afraid that they would be spied on - in particular with nations who don't consider them as allies. Still, wouldn't it be a kind gesture - to help break the ice - if the West were to say, "we will provide assistance". We say we fear that the government will use the aid to control it's population. Wouldn't they be committing political suicide if they withhold the most basic human necessity? Starving people would topple the regime quickly... Even military regimes have to fear their people - perhaps even more so.

To truly reach out to dying and suffering peoples of the world, we should not hold ideology, or religion, or race, or nationality stand in our way. We should show our Western piety and altruism, and deliver the goods. An act of kindness would certainly wake people up - even in that closed government... Maybe we need to rethink our "conditional" aid...

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