Friday, May 31, 2013

Rational Calculations Department

My Two Cents on Burma

"Attacks on Muslims in Myanmar" — nice of the Times to op-ed this. They are mistaken, though, in their invoking of the tired old bugbear of "old hatreds" (typically, when it comes to genocide, as in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, the favored variation is "ancient hatreds").


One of the biggest obstacles to accurate understanding, and therefore effective prevention, of genocide is the failure to see it as a political phenomenon, i.e., a calculated decision on the part of a sector of society for the purpose of gaining (or regaining) power. The fact that "police and security officials," as the Times editorial board notes, "have been accused of failing to prevent attacks on minorities or being complicit in them," as well as the fact that the Rohingya Muslims are not the only minority who have been targeted — the Kachin, Karen, and Shan peoples have all been on the receiving end of violence and human rights violations by the Burmese government — should make it obvious that the country's rulers see a benefit in doing so.

If it's true that sanctions didn't help, it's also true that praising president Thein Sein for his progress on reforms while making no mention of the continuing massacres he's carrying out (described by Human Rights Watch last month as crimes against humanity), as Obama did last week when he welcomed him at the White House, is nothing but shameful and helps no one except the regime and the companies it does business with.