"Why isn't Burma on Bush's 'Axis of Evil' list?"
September 23, 2002 12:10 PM   Subscribe

"Why isn't Burma on Bush's 'Axis of Evil' list?" A fair question considering the threat to its neighbors from its drugs and weapons trades, its nuclear ambitions, and its continuing horrible treatment of its own people. And though Aung San Suu Kyi was released shortly after Kurlantzick's article was written, the junta still has not held substantive talks with her, but they have continued with their plans to build a nuclear reactor (perhaps they're looking for a promotion from the measly 'Axis of Occasionally Evil'.)
posted by homunculus (33 comments total)

 
"Why isn't Burma on Bush's 'Axis of Evil' list?"...
uh, no oil?...
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 12:27 PM on September 23, 2002


From the first link:

One reason is energy. Burma is awash in natural gas reserves, and foreign oil companies, which have extensive investments in the country, are not eager to see the status quo disrupted.
posted by Cyrano at 12:33 PM on September 23, 2002


Couldn't this thread have been called "the Horrible Truth About Burma," just for me?

Kidding aside, I've been trying not to spend too much time thinking about what the actual motivation is behind W's linking of Iraq, Iran, (strange bedfellows to be sure) and North Korea, while excluding disasters like Sierra Leone and Burma.
posted by mikrophon at 12:36 PM on September 23, 2002


What Sarong

Ha!
posted by mikrophon at 12:39 PM on September 23, 2002


Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought Burma is now known as Myanmar? Or are the names interchangeable?
posted by murmur at 12:51 PM on September 23, 2002


The axis of evil shtick is simple politicking: to make it simple, stupid (or vice-versa, if you wish). North Korea, Iran and Iraq are always in the press and have a bad connotation as it is-so why not play off of that to simplify the message for Joe American who otherwise wouldn't be able to wrap the whole notion of international relations being messy around his thick skull.

And before someone starts with the "only liberals make international relations sound difficult and confusing" stuff, just remember: if it were all so simple, we would have solved all of humanity's issues eons ago. It is not simple and never will be simple. Bush's fatal flaw, and our long-term issue as a nation will be this MTVification of international affairs. It isn't simple, it isn't easy, and we defeat ourselves by applying simplistic formulas to complex, overlapping issues.

End of rant.
posted by tgrundke at 12:53 PM on September 23, 2002


murmur: Myanmar, as I know it, was formerly Burma.
posted by Witty at 12:54 PM on September 23, 2002


I was about to say the same thing, murmur. It is officially Myanmar, but I suspect the writers figured Burma would be more recognizable to most readers. I would have thought they could just say "...Myanmar, formerly known as Burma," though.
posted by hippugeek at 12:55 PM on September 23, 2002


Joe American who otherwise wouldn't be able to wrap the whole notion of international relations being messy around his thick skull

I find your stereotype of "Joe American" to be rather simplistic and thick headed as well. You seem as willing to reduce the American psyche to broad, flat brushstrokes as you accuse this fictive Joe American of doing in regards to international affairs.

As for the topic at hand...

BURMA!

Sorry, I panicked.
posted by evanizer at 1:04 PM on September 23, 2002


Burma, or Mynamar--whatever...all in good time. One war at a time, please, lest we unbalence our budget!
posted by Postroad at 1:10 PM on September 23, 2002


Evanizer:

You're absolutely correct: In the realm of international relations, I *am* willing to reduce the American psyche down to flat brushstrokes. I do so because the vast majority of this country self-professes to not care or be interested in these affairs. As Chris Matthews found out a few nights ago doing a 'town hall' episode, the overwhelming majority of people in the auditorium were willing to solve problems with military force. But when asked about long-term international commitments, nobody could get it. Once again, the sound bite is great but the action necessary isn't so simple.

The majority of this country wants simple, clean, normative solutions to immensely complex issues. It just ain't gonna happen.
posted by tgrundke at 1:12 PM on September 23, 2002


murmur, et al: From the lead paragraph of the first link: "The World Health Organization contends Burma, which now calls itself Myanmar..."

It's a strange way of phrasing it, like a runaway daughter who joined a cult and changed her name to Morning Gardenia or something.
posted by SoftRain at 1:15 PM on September 23, 2002


tgrundke: If the average "Joe American" knew anything more than he did about foreign affairs and policy, and possible long term solutions to immensely complex issues, he wouldn't be average anymore.

People like you expect too much from your average American... which isn't fair.
posted by Witty at 1:25 PM on September 23, 2002


murmur et al.: "Myanma(r)" is the name favored by the junta that currently runs the place; when they finally wind up in the dustbin of history, the name will presumably revert to "Burma," as preferred by Aung San Suu Kyi and others. As one website puts it:

"A military junta, the State Peace and Development Council or SPDC, which has controlled the country since 1988 prefers that the country be called Myanmar. The National Democratic League, which won a landside victory in the last free elections in 1990, prefers to call the country Burma."

I personally don't see why English-speakers should give up their traditional names for countries (Burma/Myanmar), cities (Bombay/Mumbai), etc. just because some foreign government wants us to, but that's another issue.
posted by languagehat at 1:30 PM on September 23, 2002


the country formerly known as Burma?
with their new hit single "Purple Nuclear Rain"?
posted by blue_beetle at 1:40 PM on September 23, 2002


I personally don't see why English-speakers should give up their traditional names for countries (Burma/Myanmar), cities (Bombay/Mumbai), etc. just because some foreign government wants us to, but that's another issue.

languagehat: Those coutries, and cities were usually originally named by Western colonizers back when imperialism was all the rage. I can understand why the foreign governments would want to be able to name their own countries and capitals according to their own languages, and should be allowed that sovereignty.
posted by SoftRain at 1:59 PM on September 23, 2002


I found that to be an odd statement as well.
posted by Witty at 2:01 PM on September 23, 2002


another reason for Burma over Myanmar. Burma is easier to spell. :)
posted by RobbieFal at 2:04 PM on September 23, 2002


Why the flock did this thread degenerate into a "Burma - Myanmar" semantic discourse? Could it be that tgrundke is right on the mark?
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:15 PM on September 23, 2002


Is that your contribution Wulfy? I hardly call a thread with 19 posts (now 20) a degenerated thread. Let's hear your ins and outs on the whole Buranmar situation.
posted by Witty at 2:27 PM on September 23, 2002


A rather indelicate and unsupportable challenge, don't you think, Witty? How many of those 20 comments (8 of the last ten) dealt with what the nation is called, and how many with the question posed? My response to the question is simple: Bush family honor needs no revenge in Burma; it seems to in Iraq. tgrundke is (IMO) correct; many people want things boiled down into bite sized chunks. Attacking Iraq is A) a fight we believe we can win in short term (lets just disregard the fact that it will breed more terrorists) B) politically sexy for Bush, and C) profitable for the oil industry. There is no difference in rhetoric if you replace Iraq with Burma in most of the speeches from Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney, etal. The only difference is which campaign serves the desires of the Bush administration, and which serves a broader moral commitment. This administration is not about fighting for good over evil (as I've said before). Its about serving itself.
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:38 PM on September 23, 2002


I love the double-think required to use oil simultaneously as justification for one country to be ON the axis-of-evil list, and for another country to be OFF the axis-of-evil list.

SoftRain, it's all that imperialism at fault, isn't it? Ever stop to think that some of these countries have their own names for other countries? Is France imperialist for calling Germany "Allemagne" instead of "Deutschland"? (And what about our name?) Is Sweden screaming and hollering about imperialism because we don't call them Sverige (swear-ee-yay, sorta)? Should we say "Italy" or "Ee Tall Ya"?

The problem, unmentioned in this thread so far, between Burma and Myanmar is that either refers only to a specific ethnic group. It's some of that ethnic nationalism (q.v. India). Burma, at least, has some history behind it.
posted by dhartung at 2:44 PM on September 23, 2002


And by the way, challenging with little more thought than the juvenile bullshit of changing my name 'prolly' isn't such a good idea for one called "Witty".
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:46 PM on September 23, 2002


dhartung, it's not double-think when you consider details like this:

"Meanwhile, Vice President Cheney, himself an opponent of economic sanctions, probably isn't hot to draw attention to Burma. Halliburton, the petroleum and energy services company Cheney once ran, made extensive joint venture investments in Burma during the 1990s. According to court documents, the Burmese military used forced labor on a pipeline project in which Halliburton was involved."
posted by homunculus at 2:54 PM on September 23, 2002


On second thought, Halliburton's involvement with Saddam during the 90's certainly didn't prevent Iraq from becomming the senior member of the A of E, so maybe Cheney couldn't care less. Hmmm.

I took the question of "why not Burma?" as rhetorical. This, I think, is the most important point of that article:

"In short, Burma is a threat to our allies in the region, but not to us. In this way, Burma illustrates the weakest link in the emerging Bush doctrine. We demand that our allies support our actions against terrorists and regimes that threaten U.S. security. But if our allies need help countering threats that only endanger their security, we turn a blind eye.

"This is not a sustainable policy. If America hopes to maintain leadership of international security affairs without provoking more of an anti-U.S. backlash around the world, Washington must utilize its diplomatic, economic, and even military tools against slightly-less-evil states that threaten our close friends."

posted by homunculus at 3:09 PM on September 23, 2002


A rather indelicate and unsupportable challenge, don't you think, Witty?

Huh?

How many of those 20 comments (8 of the last ten) dealt with what the nation is called, and how many with the question posed?

What does it matter? Did you include your first post in that count? I admittedly don't know that much about Myanmar or Burma or whatever the eff it's called. That doesn't make me stupid or uneducated... ignorant, perhaps.

There is no difference in rhetoric if you replace Iraq with Burma in most of the speeches from Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney, etal. The only difference is which campaign serves the desires of the Bush administration, and which serves a broader moral commitment.

So what's the point? We should go after them too?

This administration is not about fighting for good over evil (as I've said before). Its about serving itself.

Oh... I get it now. Attacking Burma WOULD be an example of fighting evil and not self serving.

This idea, this argument of revenge you pose is a pretty weak one... and one that can only be assumed or rumored, not proven. It only pops out of people who are anti-Bush.

on preview: I apologize for twisting your name. But your insinuation that the people who are discussing the name changes and such as average Joe Americans was a tad insulting. The topic of "what is the country called" is relative and worth working out. Only one person can post at time. If this thread goes on to a hefty 70-80 posts, then I think the fact that the first few posts about the country's name isn't that big a deal. What you call degenerating, others might call a conversation, getting on the same page. Either contribute or don't.
posted by Witty at 3:13 PM on September 23, 2002


Witty:

I hope you were joking that "I am asking too much of the average American."

It is my sincerest desire that people elevate themselves above the mere 'average'. If this country insists on simplistic language and models to manage problems, it will continue to get *less* than average results. Nobody said it would be easy...

Thinking about it again, Witty, I believe you may be correct.
posted by tgrundke at 3:15 PM on September 23, 2002


Did you include your first post in that count?

Yes, I did.

We should go after them too?

No one mentioned a "them". And the question remains before us: why is Iraq a third of the "Axis of Evil", and Burma is not? Why are we prepared to invade Saddam (if we follow Bush's lastest tripe speech), but not prepared to attack the junta generals of Burma, or Mugabe, or N. Korea, or China? Where is our moral imperative to replace the leader of Iraq, but none such in Indonesia, or China? The answer should be obvious: GWBush wants Saddam's head on a plate for personal reasons. Saddam is, in the words of the US president, the target of our rightiousness. Yet no others. This is tunnel visioned personal vendetta. And I ask you, do you have to be anti-Bush to come to that conclusion, or just anti-war? I can (and god willing will) help to remove Bush from office in two years. That won't repair the damage he does between now and then. You claim my assertions as weak, but you offer no counter; I have to wonder why, when that was the point of this post?

But your insinuation that the people who are discussing the name changes and such as average Joe Americans was a tad insulting.

I apologize; I felt the comments degenerating into a semantic spat, and disregarding the point: why is Iraq worthy of us spending military resource and Burma is not? I meant no disrespect, save to those who would rather not face the question.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:32 PM on September 23, 2002


Where's the double-think about oil?

In one situation the supply is threatened and therefore the ruling junta (sorry) government want to protect there supply by getting rid of the threat (Saddam) and taking over the other fields in the region; especially Saudi.

In the other you have a compliant regime who don't kick up trouble and help you do business. Where's the economic sense in wasting money on smart bombs when you've already got the oil flowing and the money rolling in?

I don't expect ethical foreign policies (as if!) to be based on bombs or such. I think that a little more support for pro - democracy campaigners would be good (oh, and Fair Trade)

What about Tibet?
posted by lerrup at 3:37 PM on September 23, 2002


It is my sincerest desire that people elevate themselves above the mere 'average'.

Well, me too. But not everyone is going to be well versed on the state of affairs in Burma (hell, many of us aren't even sure what it's called). To expect that is unreasonable. If you hold a "town hall" meeting to get the average opinion of average Americans, then why be surprised at the result? Most farmers in rural Indiana, for instance, know a crapload about farming, and very little about Burma. Any question you pose to said average folk is either rhetorical or leading.

Wulfgar!:

A spat? ok.

I think the assertion that Bush is primarily basing his motives on vengeance is weak. I don't see it, I don't agree. He a dangerous guy, with dangerous ideas, and a dangerous reputation. He's been giving the finger to the rest of the world for years and Clinton participated in letting him. That's enough reason for me. If revenge has ANYthing to do with it, then fine. But I don't see it.

My response to "why not Burma"... I don't know. Maybe not now, but maybe later. Who knows. One thing at a time?
posted by Witty at 3:40 PM on September 23, 2002


He a dangerous guy, with dangerous ideas, and a dangerous reputation. He's been giving the finger to the rest of the world for years

you're right. we should stop bush now, before he gets out of control! he's got all the firepower in the world and (according to all the fucking whitehouse lawyers our tax dollars employ to find loopholes in our own laws) every right to use it however he feels necessary. yippie skippy! talk about a dangerous guy. he evens threatens to defy the UN, what nerve!

but back to the topic at hand... i think if bush actually follows through with his stupid plan then the rest of the world should gang up on us and attack us b/c they then all technically become targets as soon as we add them to the dreaded list. i wouldn't want another country telling me what i can and can't do and that they can invade whenever they feel a risk is present or that their lifestyle is being hampered.
posted by ggggarret at 4:37 PM on September 23, 2002


ggggarret: Haha! I knew someone was going to say that.
posted by Witty at 5:05 PM on September 23, 2002


He's been giving the finger to the rest of the world for years and Clinton participated in letting him.

That's absurd. The Clinton administration supported the U.N. inspection regime, which was put in place by the coalition led by the current president's father. When Iraq rejected inspections, the U.S., under Clinton, responded by bombing. In negotiations to return inspectors, the U.S. administration held Iraq to the highest possible standards, refusing to go along with compromises suggested by other Security Council members (notably Russia and France) that would have lifted sanctions in exchange for the return of inspectors.

If anyone's to blame for "letting" Sadaam continue to rule Iraq, it's the man who had a chance to take him out: George H.W. Bush.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:25 PM on September 23, 2002


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