May 17, 2009
In the ongoing discussion about United States’ policy towards Burma – and similar dictatorships, particularly North Korea – a number of commentators have used the words “regime change,” saying that the U.S. should not support such change. For readers who are unfamiliar with this phrase, it is important to recognize that it is rife with subtexts.
Regime change clearly signifies the end of the dictatorship in power, but its usage is intended to imply that such an event, or the United States’ involvement in bringing it about, is a negative. The idea of regime change is that one dictatorship will be replaced with another, and with U.S. support.
This is a purposeful misstatement of United States foreign policy (at least since the end of the Cold War). When Washington works to increase the pressure on the worst, most brutal and murderous governments of the world, the objective is to help the peoples suffering under such tyranny. The policy goal is freedom, followed by democracy and nation building. No one can argue with that. Some commentators, though, persist in labeling such a transition a regime change. Their reasons for doing so include that they are anti-American, or for the dictatorship in question, or both.
Anytime you read the words “regime change” in a political commentary, you should immediately be suspicious of the intentions of the writer. Indeed, even Iraq, the U.S. war there and which Dictator Watch opposed, because it was based on a lie about weapons of mass destruction instead of the goal to liberate the people from the oppression of Saddam Hussein, has, although with tremendous and unnecessary cost, given the Iraqis a taste of freedom. The transition in Iraq is not a regime change. The country has the beginnings of a democratic government, although some Iraqi groups, with assistance from Iran and Syria, are seeking to destroy it and reclaim dictatorial power.
Returning to Burma, and North Korea, U.S. policy should be grounded in a determination to help achieve freedom for these countries, as soon as possible, not a placid acceptance of a horrific status quo.
On another semantic note, some people express misgivings when the ethnic resistance groups of Burma refer to the military junta, the SPDC, as “the enemy.” For whatever reasons these people are unwilling to accept the true nature of Than Shwe and the other top generals.
What would you call someone who attacks your villages and rapes and murders your people? Your friend? Or who imprisons and seems bent on killing, slowly but surely, democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi?
Than Shwe and the SPDC are “THE ENEMY” of the people of Burma, of all the people, and peoples, of the country. When everyone in the pro-democracy movement accepts this, and acts accordingly, freedom will be much easier to achieve.
The simplest and least cost solution, of course, for the latter in both money and human lives, would be a well-placed predator drone or cruise missile, to decapitate the SPDC.
Is this truly such an unrealistic prospect? President Obama could sign an executive order designating the people of Burma friends and allies of the United States, and the SPDC its enemy, at which point quick and decisive action could be taken.
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